Science & Technology

USU Researchers Build Innovative Design Software for Aerospace Industry

By Sydney Dahle |

Video by Taylor Emerson, Digital Journalist, University Marketing & Communications

The AeroLab at Utah State University is changing the way engineers design aeronautical vehicles with new, optimized design software built from scratch.

Not only does this new software speed up the design phase for supersonic and hypersonic vehicles, but it will allow industry and military to efficiently produce and analyze designs in the preliminary stages.

The Aerolab, led by Doug Hunsaker, a professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, specializes in creating software for aeronautical vehicle design. This new, innovative software allows users to input a rough design to see how it would hypothetically perform during flight. Through aerodynamic theory and equations, it can predict aircraft properties in flight such as lift, drag and even surface temperatures.

“The software, designed for assisting in preliminary stages of aircraft design, will streamline and speed up the design process,” Hunsaker said. “By having the ability to predict aircraft properties earlier in the design phase, aircraft developers can more rapidly iterate on futuristic designs before moving to higher fidelity software for fine tuning.

Aircraft are designed for specific optimal cruising speeds. Most commercial aircraft currently fly at high subsonic speeds, or just below the speed of sound. Supersonic vehicles, typically used by the military, can travel between two and five times the speed of sound. Spacecraft can enter the earth’s atmosphere during their descent phase at hypersonic speeds, typically around 25 times the speed of sound.

“We are entering a new phase of aeronautical development where we are heavily prioritizing hypersonic and supersonic vehicles," said Benjamin Ford, a graduate student in the AeroLab. "By going back to the basic physics of the problem, we can decide how to capture the most relevant physics of the problem without sacrificing computational time.”

Aerospace companies are already in the process of developing aircraft for faster commercial flight. The ability to fly just two times the speed of sound will make a significant difference in travel times around the globe. With innovative software like this, faster flight might be closer than we think.


Sydney Dahle
Public Relations Specialist
College of Engineering


Doug Hunsaker
Associate Professor
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


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