The Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK) has successfully established and tested India’s first Hypervelocity Expansion Tunnel Test Facility, a major achievement that puts India amongst only a handful of countries with this advanced hypersonic testing capability.
The facility, named S2, is capable of generating flight speeds between 3-10 km/s, simulating the hypersonic conditions encountered during atmospheric entry of vehicles, asteroid entry, scramjet flights, and ballistic missiles. This makes it a valuable test facility for ongoing missions of ISRO and DRDO including Gaganyaan, RLV, and hypersonic cruise missiles.
The S2, nicknamed 'Jigarthanda', is a 24-meter-long facility located at IIT Kanpur’s Hypersonic Experimental Aerodynamics Laboratory (HEAL) within the Department of Aerospace Engineering. The S2 was indigenously designed and developed over a period of three years with funding and support from the Aeronautical Research and Development Board (ARDB), the Department of Science and Technology (DST), and IIT Kanpur.
Commenting on this, Prof. S. Ganesh, Director, IIT Kanpur, said, "The successful establishment of S2, India's first hypervelocity expansion tunnel test facility, marks a historic milestone for IIT Kanpur and for India's scientific capabilities. I congratulate Prof. Sugarno and his team for their exemplary work in designing and fabricating the hypersonic research infrastructure. S2 will empower India's space and defence organizations with domestic hypersonic testing capabilities for critical projects and missions."
Prof. Mohammed Ibrahim Sugarno, Associate Professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Centre for Lasers & Photonics at IIT Kanpur said, "Building S2 has been extremely challenging, requiring in-depth knowledge of physics and precision engineering. The most crucial and challenging aspect was perfecting the 'free piston driver' system, which requires firing a piston at high pressure between 20-35 atmospheres down a 6.5 m. compression tube at speeds of 150-200 m/s, and bringing it to a complete stop or 'soft landing' at the end.”
“However, with our expertise, we were able to overcome this. Our team is proud to have designed, built, and tested this one-of-a-kind facility, cementing India's position in the elite global hypersonic research community,” he added.
Prof. Tarun Gupta, Dean, Research and Development, IIT Kanpur, said, “S2 highlights IIT Kanpur's research excellence, positioning the institute at the forefront of innovative research and opening doors to groundbreaking advancements in aerospace technology. I am pleased to acknowledge the crucial support received from ARDB and DST.”
Prof. G. M. Kamath, Head, Department of Aerospace Engineering, IIT Kanpur, said, “With S2, we advance our research horizons, inspiring a new generation of aerospace enthusiasts and fostering innovation and exploration in this exciting field. Being the first in India to develop such a facility enables us to set a new benchmark for hypervelocity research in India and beyond.”
S2 represents a tremendous achievement for IIT Kanpur and a major capacity boost for India's space and defence sectors. With sophisticated hypervelocity testing capabilities now available domestically, India is better positioned to develop advanced hypersonic technologies and systems.