Aerothermal / Aero-Optic Evaluation Center


LENS Aerothermal/Aero-Optic and Propulsion Ground Test Facilities

The cornerstone of CUBRC’s experimental research and testing capability are the Large Energy National Shock (LENS) “tunnel” facilities. LENS is comprised of four separate test tunnels, along with their associated instrumentation and data recording and analysis capabilities. These facilities have been built on over 50 years of experience in creating and refining the performance of both shock and expansion tunnels. These world-class facilities represent a unique national resource used to solve many of the most challenging problems associated with the flight of high-speed vehicles traveling through both Earth and planetary atmospheres. Each individual LENS tunnel was designed and constructed by CUBRC to focus on the major supersonic and hypersonic flow regimes where aero-thermal, aero-optical and propulsion research and testing are required to develop advanced high-speed aerospace systems.

CUBRC’S Capability to Design, Fabricate and Evaluate the Performance of Supersonic and Hypersonic Vehicles

CUBRC has a highly skilled staff to design and construct and instrument the models and test equipment employed in the LENS test facilities. The design staff has a full complement of design and analysis tools at their disposal to ensure the highest degree of accuracy and quality for hardware and model design work. Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software capabilities include Siemens NX (Unigraphics), AutoCAD, Mechanical Desktop, and Inventor. Structural finite element capability features a full suite of ANSYS tools. Complementing our design capabilities is our ability to run structural/vibrational analysis to guarantee quality and safety prior to fabrication and installation of hardware. Most of the models and components for the tunnels are fabricated in house. Our machine shop comprises a group of highly skilled craft specialists in a fully equipped machine shop. Our experienced personnel create precision products in accordance with the exacting requirements of our customers. We use state of the art CNC lathes and mills to machine model and tunnel components to the highest quality standards. Inspection equipment is calibrated to standards traceable to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and all materials, parts, and assemblies are inspected to rigid commercial and government specifications.

The construction, installation and calibration of the instrumentation used in our models are performed by specialists with combined experience totals of over 100 years. All of the high frequency thin-film heat transfer instrumentation we employ in our models is constructed, calibrated and installed in house. We employ high frequency piezoelectric and piezoresistive pressure transducers. Our force balances are designed and constructed in house using piezoresistive strain gages and piezoelectric strain gages and piezoelectric load cells. We have highly developed suites non-intrusive instrumentation to evaluate the aero-optic characteristics of seeker heads as well as instrumentation to obtain spectrographic and radiation measurements of the flowfield both ahead and in the shock layer of hypervelocity reentry vehicles.


CUBRC has designed, constructed and operates four of the world’s most advanced ground test facilities capable of replicating both supersonic and hypersonic flight conditions at velocities from 2,000 ft/sec to 35,000 ft/sec depending on the scale of the application flight vehicle.
CUBRC Aeronautics at a Glance

LENS Ground Facilities

  • LENS 48-inch Mach 6 to 18 Shock Tunnel

    LENS 48-inch was the first-ever commercial shock tunnel in the world. LENS 48-inch was first used in the late 1950’s to play a major role in the development testing of NASA’s Gemini and Apollo space capsules; and continued to...

  • LENS I Mach 6 to 22 High Energy Shock Tunnel

    The LENS I facility can be operated from Mach 6 to 22, and up to velocities of 12,000 ft/sec. This tunnel became operational in 1992 with the major objective of supporting the design and construction of advanced interceptor...


  • LENS II Mach 2 to 12 High Reynolds Number Shock/Ludweig Tunnel

    LENS II is designed to operate at Mach numbers from 2 to 12 where it duplicates flight velocities from 3,000 to 9000 ft/sec at altitudes down to 3000 ft and became operational in 1998. The large scale of this facility allows CUBRC to...


  • LENS XX Expansion Tunnel for Velocities from 2,000 to 35,000 ft/sec

    The LENS XX Expansion Tunnel was designed and constructed by CUBRC to provide a research and testing capability to investigate real gas, shock layer chemistry, viscous interaction and ablation effects on the performance...

  • CUBRC's Advanced Gas Dynamic Computational Modeling and Simulation Capabilities

    CUBRC’s Aeroscience group has developed an integrated approach to research and testing that couples our state of the art hypervelocity large-scale ground test facilities with the most modern Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)...

  • CUBRC Publications

    Shock Wave/Turbulent Boundary Layer (SWTBL) Study Presented at AIAA Aviation 2014...Shock Wave / Laminar Boundary Layer Interaction with Real-gas Effects Presented at AIAA Aviation 2014...