PHYSX Pegasus Hypersonic Experiments
Two Pegasus® Hypersonic Experiment (PHYSX) gloves were manufactured for the program -- one that flew aboard the
Pegasus booster rocket and one earmarked for thermal ground tests. Both gloves were made of nickel-plated steel.
The experiment, which flew successfully on October 22, 1998, consisted of a smooth, information-gathering "glove" installed on the first-stage wing of the Pegasus Space Launch Vehicle, which reaches speeds of Mach 8 and altitudes of 200,000 feet. Instrumentation on the glove gathered more than 90 seconds of hypersonic temperature, pressure, and airflow data after the Pegasus booster was launched from an Orbital Sciences Corporation, Dulles, Virginia, L-1011 aircraft. The glove was bonded to the right wing and wrapped from the under side of wing, over the leading edge and onto the upper side, although it did not cover the wing completely.
The experiment gathered information about how the air flows over the Pegasus wing. Scientists are particularly interested in
the transition of air from smooth (laminar) to turbulent flow. The goal of the experiment was to discover when the airflow over
the wing becomes turbulent and why.
The ground-test glove was mounted on a plywood and fiberglass structure for a series of ground tests that concluded May 30, 1996. The glove was painted a flat black to maximize heat absorption. During the tests, engineers precooled the glove and
heated it in the NASA Dryden Flight Loads Laboratory, simulating the heat the glove would experience during its first-stage flight profile. The tests revealed that the glove was hardy enough to survive the intense heat it would experience while traveling at
eight times the speed of sound.
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