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Facing the Heat Barrier: A History of Hypersonics
by T.A. Heppenheimer
Publisher: NASA Historical Series, NASA. History Division

Office of External Relations, Washington, D.C.

Web Site:
Binding:  Hardcover Height:




Pages:  336 No. Photos:

Mr. Heppenheimer's good overview history of American Hypersonic research and flight, complements Richard Hallion's three-volume series, The Hypersonic Revolution. The author introduces a number of relatively unknown American exotic propulsion concepts and airframes that would negotiate the hypersonic flight regime, through the atmosphere and enter low-earth orbit, but also describes a number of propulsion systems and exotic metals and materials that would allow sustained flight in this dangerous flight regime. The author did not mention that American post-WWII high speed and hypersonic military projects were greatly influenced by a number of German wind tunnels generating a large data-base of high-supersonic research up to Mach 4.4, and brief photographed forays into the Mach 8-9 region at Peenemunde.

Indeed, the huge nearly completed hypersonic Kochel Mach 10 tunnel was dismantled under Navy supervision and shipped to the United States where it operated for decades. There is a lack of recognition for Bell Aircraft Corporation's pioneering research and studies in skip-glide and orbital hypersonic bombardment vehicles throughout the 1950s that included construction of advanced thermal cooling systems and exotic metals applications for USAF strategic weapons systems. This in no way denigrates the author's work, however. Bell's work is a little known but integral part of American hypersonic history.

The author gives a good account of Lockheed, Republic, Boeing, NASA and other hypersonic propulsion systems and such projects as NASP and follow-on orbital vehicles. Heppenheimer's book is a nice addition into the exotic and generally misunderstood realm of hypersonic flight

Dave Stern


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