Hypersonics Trifecta: Purdue receives its largest economic development investment, hosts Hypersonic Summit 2.0, launches HGTC national consortium

Over the course of one week in Summer 2021, Purdue University scored a trifecta in hypersonics, establishing an epicenter of aerospace engineering in the United States.
Conceptual Image of the Hypersonic Ground Test Center (HGTC)
Conceptual Image of the Hypersonic Ground Test Center (HGTC)


Rolls-Royce, an aerospace engine manufacturing giant, announced on Aug. 2 that it would expand its current footprint at Purdue with an expanded and enhanced partnership. The company plans to incorporate new test facilities at the Aerospace District to develop high-altitude and hybrid-electric engines to power the next generation of U.S. military aircraft. Rolls-Royce West Lafayette will be developed through an investment from Purdue Research Foundation, Purdue University and Rolls-Royce North America.

The partnership is a major win for the national security and technology pillar of Purdue’s Next Moves, announced by President Mitch Daniels and Purdue trustees in April. This is the largest economic development project for West Lafayette and the largest single research award in Purdue history.

Tom Bell, chairman and CEO of Rolls-Royce North America, said the company prides itself in supporting the U.S. military and commercial customers. “This reflects yet another major investment in Indiana, and we are also planning significant upgrades to test facilities at our Indianapolis manufacturing campus, which has benefited from a recently completed $600 million modernization program to grow advanced manufacturing and technology capability.”

Hypersonics Summit 2.0

Hypersonics Summit 2.0, a joint effort between Purdue University, Purdue Research Foundation, Nine Twelve Institute and the National Defense Industry Association, was held Aug. 9 and 10. All major industry leaders in hypersonics, as well as government and academia partners, were present at the first major in-person conference on the Purdue campus since March 2020.

Presenting keynote addresses were: General David D. Thompson, vice chief of space operations, U.S. Space Force; Dr. Gillian Bussey, Joint Hypersonics Transition Office in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense; and the Honorable Daniel S. Goldin, the longest-serving NASA administrator.

The summit commenced as Purdue rapidly emerges as a hub for hypersonic capabilities research. With a large interdisciplinary team of hypersonic experts, the University brings depth and breadth in basic and applied research for the design and testing of advanced hypersonic systems. Purdue is currently home to the Boeing/AFOSR Mach 6 quiet tunnel and is developing the world’s first Mach 8 quiet tunnel under contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory. This wind tunnel will reside in a new hypersonics research and development facility that also will house a one-of-a-kind Northrop Grumman-donated reflected shock/expansion tunnel and advanced manufacturing facilities.

HGTC National Consortium

On Aug. 9, Daniels, together with Gov. Eric Holcomb and U.S. Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, announced that a first-of-its-kind facility in the U.S. to test hypersonic technologies will be constructed to support the independent, nonprofit consortium defined by industry members and hosted at Purdue.  

The Hypersonic Ground Test Center (HGTC) is a national consortium that will allow industry partners to test their hypersonic technologies, with a centrally shared utility that supports multiple test cells and laboratories. The new nonprofit consortium of national defense industry partners will manage the capital and operational costs. Rolls-Royce North America is a founding member of the HGTC consortium, and seven other industry members have signed up.

“At Purdue, we’re committed to research at the very frontiers of science, especially when it can contribute to the national security of Americans,” Daniels said. “Becoming home to the nation’s premier hypersonics facilities can make such a contribution, while providing enormous new opportunities for our researchers, aspiring entrepreneurs, and job-seeking graduates.”

Holcomb said the HGTC is another example of how the state of Indiana and industry succeed together. "Creating this first-in-the-nation center is possible because we have industry partners that aren't just on the cutting edge but are reinventing where the edge is. Couple that with the many thriving communities in Tippecanoe County, and a gushing pipeline of top talent at Purdue including researchers, students and graduates prepared to make the next giant leaps in both aerospace and hypersonic innovation. It’s because of days like today that our economy remains strong and Indiana reigns as one of the best places in the world to do business.”

Young said: “The transformational technologies being developed and tested at Purdue will help America win the 21st century. Not only will these ideas create the jobs of tomorrow, they will ensure that the American military remains the strongest and most advanced fighting force in the world.”

Mung Chiang, executive vice president of Purdue University and John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering, described the “summer hypersonic trifecta” as a pivotal moment in establishing Purdue as the epicenter of hypersonic research, development and testing in the U.S. “Our faculty and students attracted high-caliber private sector leaders to invest at Purdue, creating jobs and knowledge together while advancing national security by advancing technologies.”


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