60 years. TsAGI – to Universe: T-117 hypersonic wind tunnel
15 April 2021
Year 1962. The space era of mankind has just started, the first astronaut is being honored all over the world, and the superpowers are racing to conquer near-earth space.
At this time, the specialists from the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute named after Professor N.E. Zhukovsky are actively working in the interests of space exploration: they are laying the research and technological groundwork in this area. The Institute is building the T-117, a new hypersonic wind tunnel (WT). This is a large WT designed for large Mach numbers. It allows scientists to determine the aerodynamic characteristics of aircraft, including missiles, with sufficient accuracy for practical purposes.
The creation of the T-117 hypersonic wind tunnel at TsAGI began with the corresponding decree of the USSR Council of Ministers, issued in March 1962. In the new wind tunnel, the maximum Mach number should have increased significantly in comparison with the existing facilities, and approached M = 20. This could have been ensured by the transition from the use of an ohmic air heater to an electric arc heater, which, in turn, meant a radical change and complication of many systems enabling the test facility operation.
The scientific rationale of the WT main parameters and its test capabilities was established by TsAGI scientists V. Sychev and V. Neiland. The wind tunnel aerodynamic configuration development, as well as design engineering of the facility and its numerous systems, was carried out by a large TsAGI team, headed by A. Ivanov, G. Suchkov, L. Kopp et al.
General management of the T-117 research and development work was carried out by a distinguished TsAGI expert in the field of applied gas dynamics, design and construction of experimental equipment for testing aircraft and spacecraft components, Professor E. L. Bedrzycki, Ph.D.
The construction of the building and engineering works were completed in 1974. The first run-up of the wind tunnel at full capacity took place in 1975. In 1988, it was equipped with an additional mechanism that quickly introduces the model into the flow from the thermostatic chamber. In subsequent years, the modernization of the T-117 components and assemblies was regularly carried out. The biggest achievement in this regard was the renewal of the air cooling system, one of the most complex wind tunnel components. The work was completed in April 2014.
Over the years of the T-117 operation, dozens of models of various spacecraft developed in our country and abroad were tested in it: Bor, Buran, Baikal, Angara, Federation, as well as Hotol, Hermes and others. TsAGI scientists conducted a number of important fundamental studies in it.