Project Phoenix achieves milestone, delivers capability upgrade to existing AEDC facilities

  • Published
  • By Jill Pickett

The renovation of J-5 at Arnold Air Force Base from a large rocket motor test facility to a large-scale, clean air, variable Mach, hypersonic test facility, known as Project Phoenix, recently reached another milestone with the installation of a large, high-pressure air, or HPA, bottle farm.

“This is the first of many new capabilities Project Phoenix will bring to Arnold Engineering Development Complex in support of the National Defense Strategy,” said Elijah Minter, Central Test and Evaluation Investment Program Hypersonics Portfolio manager and project director. “The project has been funded by the Central Test and Evaluation Investment Program since 2017. Project Phoenix is the first large-scale capability addition to AEDC in many years and is something the team is very proud to be a part of.”

In combination with an existing bottle farm at the Aerodynamics and Propulsion Test Unit at Arnold AFB, the new bottle farm will allow test engineers to achieve test conditions for durations representative of actual flight profiles at the J-5 facility.

“The new bottle farm more than doubles the Arnold storage capacity of the existing HPA distribution network and is the largest single volume of HPA on base,” said Chris Rogers, Hypersonic Test Capability Improvement lead engineer.

The bottle farm consists of 288 pressure vessels and will be integrated into the existing HPA distribution network at Arnold AFB that supports a variety of test cells. Once connected to the rest of the base next year, the added HPA capacity will allow multiple facilities with varying HPA requirements to test concurrently and increase test productivity.

“The new HPA bottle farm will be the first system to be delivered by Project Phoenix to AEDC for base utilization,” Rogers said. “It is the culmination of three years of design and installation efforts by multiple contractors working together to successfully execute the project.”

The bottle farm is part of Block 1 of 3 of Project Phoenix. At the completion of each block, the AEDC Hypersonic Systems Test Branch will have access to a new test capability.

Block 1 will deliver a fully-operational clean-air test facility that can generate Mach 6 conditions for mission-duration runtimes. A model inject system with variable angle of attack and angle of sideslip is another component of Block 1.

“In the coming months, Project Phoenix onsite activities will really start to ramp up as the large, specialized components necessary for Block 1 complete fabrication and are delivered to AEDC for installation at J-5,” Rogers said.

Block 2 will add a variable Mach nozzle to the facility. Block 3 will incorporate a more capable heater system into the facility to boost true-temperature Mach capability from Mach 6 to Mach 7.5. The final result being a facility that will provide significant advancements in data quality, programmatic and technical risk reduction, and decreased cost and schedule per data point for the hypersonic systems development community.