Modeling and control of scramjet-powered hypersonic vehicles: Challenges, trends, & tradeoffs

Armando Rodriguez, Jeffrey J. Dickeson, Oguzhan Cifdaloz, Robert McCullen, Jose Benavides, Srikanth Sridharan, Atul Kelkar, Jerald M. Vogel, Don Soloway

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

169 Scopus citations


In this paper, we provide an overview of scramjet-powered hypersonic vehicle modeling and control challenges. Such vehicles are characterized by unstable non-minimum phase dynamics with significant coupling and low thrust or FER (normalized fuel equivalency ratio) margins. Recent trends in hypersonic vehicle research is summarized. To illustrate control system design issues and tradeoffs, a generic nonlinear 3DOF longitudinal dynamics model capturing aero-elastic-propulsive interactions for wedge-shaped vehicle is used. The model is analyzed over a broad range of hypersonic flight conditions (i.e. operating points). The paper highlights how vehicle level-flight static (trim) and dynamic properties change over the trimmable air-breathing corridor (- Mach 4.75-12.6, 70-115 kft). Particular attention is paid to thermal choking constraints imposed on control system design as a direct consequence of having a finite FER margin. The dependence of FER margin on altitude, Mach, and the bow flow turning angle is discussed. The latter depends on Mach, altitude, angle-of-attack (AOA), and forebody flexing. It is (briefly) discussed how FER margin can be estimated on the basis of Mach, altitude, and AOA if a flexing upper bound is assumed. The implication of this state-dependent nonlinear FER margin constraint as well as that of the right half plane (RHP) zero, associated with the elevator-flight path angle (FPA) map, on control system bandwidth (BW) and FPA tracking are discussed. It is argued that while the non-minimum phase zero limits the achievable closed loop FPA BW, FER coupling into FPA can be used to address this. This, however, is limited by FER margin limits and may impose constraints on the size of the FPA (and velocity) commands that can be followed. This is particularly important because the vehicle is inherently unstable which implies a closed loop system (with a finite downward gain margin) that can become destabilized if driven sufficiently deep into control saturation. A consequence of this is that designers must take note of the fact that FPA commands which are sufficiently large and/or rapid may be impossible to follow with the desired level of fidelity. This is quantified within the paper. Speed command following issues are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAIAA Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference and Exhibit
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc.
ISBN (Print)9781563479458
StatePublished - 2008

Publication series

NameAIAA Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference and Exhibit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Control and Systems Engineering


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