Aerion Supersonic is taking a significant step toward reaching the preliminary design review (PDR) milestone in 2021 for its Mach 1.4 AS2 business jet with the launch of high-speed wind tunnel testing this month. Conducted in conjunction with the French Office of National Aerospace Research, Onera, in Modane, France, the wind-tunnel tests will subject the aircraft design to more than three times the speed of sound, Aerion said. Testing will be used to evaluate high-speed performance, loads, stability, and control at both transonic and supersonic velocities. Resulting data will be used toward the completion of PDR.
In addition, Aerion has completed modeling of the AS2 design through the use of aerodynamic optimization tools developed by its subsidiary, Aerion Technologies, in Palo Alto, California. These tools involved thousands of data points to refine the aerodynamic shape to a high level of fidelity and detail, the company said. Combining the use of this modeling with wind-tunnel testing will negate the need for a demonstrator aircraft in the early stages of the development cycle, Aerion added, saying it will accelerate the program to the final stages of validation.
“Our Aerion Technologies design optimization process is built from a combination of NASA-developed analysis, CFD software, commercial tools, and our own internal framework to be highly scalable,” said Aerion Technologies executive v-p Alex Egeler. “This flexible framework allows us to simulate millions of parametric design scenarios in the cloud and determine robust solutions—all in the virtual world at a speed previously unseen in business jet development.”
This computer modeling sets the stage for the wind-tunnel testing, Aerion added.
“While the onset of increasingly sophisticated computer modeling technology has greatly enhanced aerospace design, wind-tunnel testing remains a key component in the development cycle,” said Robert Lewis, Aerion director of system test and evaluation. “Certain aspects of aircraft design remain difficult to fully model virtually and still require validation through wind-tunnel testing. We are working with the world’s best wind-tunnel model builders and the global leaders in wind-tunnel technology to validate our virtual findings and ensure the AS2 design exceeds expectations.”
And, as it proceeds on design, Aerion has retained Shift5 to develop a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity for the AS2.
"Aerion is setting new standards in the aerospace community on cyber monitoring and advanced security of onboard electronics, something we see as a standard feature in years to come. Shift5 is thrilled to collaborate with Aerion on the cyber resiliency of their primary aviation platform, the AS2, and continue to build better data and security products to protect transportation," said Michael Weigand, president of Shift5.
Shift5, which provides security technology for platforms such as aircraft, trains, and tanks, said the protection will be beyond anything deployed into the commercial aviation market to date. The program will take into account unique qualities associated with the AS2 to safeguard the avionics and other onboard networks and provide onboard monitoring.
"Cybersecurity has shifted dramatically in recent years to become a fundamental consideration and it is a core, integrated factor in development of the AS2,” said Aerion chairman, president, and CEO Tom Vice. “We look forward to collaborating with Shift5 to further enhance the cyber resiliency of our future aircraft."
Once reaching PDR next year, Aerion plans to begin production in 2023, with first flight following in 2025 and entry into service later in the decade. Plans call for the manufacture of 300 of the supersonic jets in the first decade of production, which will take place at Aerion’s new headquarters in Melbourne, Florida.