The wave rider design was evolved from a concept of a winged re-entry vehicle. The concept of the wave rider was developed by Terence Nonweiler, a scientist at the Queen’s University, Belfast in the 1950’s. However, his calculations were erroneous because he assumed a 2-D flow as seen from the side in order to ease his calculations and eliminate “spillage” from his equations. The wave rider was originally designed to be an atmospheric reentry vehicle for space travel. It was to be mounted on the Blue Streak missile.
In the 1960’s, the wave rider concept was improved upon and was examined for its suitability to be a Mach 6 airliner. Nonweiler moved to Glasgow University and joined ASTRA. He started ASTRA’s interest in wave riders. The work on the Blue Streak missile program was cancelled because the missile was considered obsolete by the time. However, at least one wave rider was tested on a Blue Steel missile, and many more were tested in the wind tunnel at NASA’s Ames Research Center.
In the 1970’s, the wave rider was incorporated into a two stage reusable spacecraft with the 121 foot long first stage was the designed as a classical wave rider. However, not many other developments were created until the 1980’s.
In the 1980’s, the wave rider concept was improved from the inaccurate 2-D design into a more accurate 3-D design. The ‘Aero-gravity-assist’ trajectory, which involves the craft dipping into the upper atmosphere at ultra high Mach numbers, was also created. This trajectory greatly increased the possible speed of the wave rider. On November, engineers will be launching their scamjet, which will be the first accomplished flight yet.
Two scientists who made major contributions to the development of the waverider concept are Terence Nonweiler and Dr. Rasmssen. Terence Nonweiler created the waverider concept in 1951 when he thought of using the wings of a waverider for atmospheric re-entry vehicles. He came up with the geometric shape of the wings. He used 2-D equations to calculate the lift of a craft.
Rasmussen started the Waverider interest by publishing an article about “new 3-D flow solution-derived underside shape”; this was an improvement of Nonweiler’s 2-D designs. Rasmussen took the idea of cone-shaped shock-surfaces for optimum lifting abilities.
Our waverider concept will reduce the time spent flying to any point on the planet and will drastically reduce the cost of travel to and from space. A major advantage of a waverider vehicle is that it has the highest performance characteristics of any supersonic or hypersonic vehicle shape. Unlike the Space Shuttle, the waverider would be completely reusable and would take off and land horizontally, just like a typical airplane. Thus, modern airports used today for travel around the nation and the world could be expanded to orbit, the moon, and potentially, other planets. Since a waverider vehicle does not need to use stored oxygen until it reaches speeds in excess of Mach 14, the amount of usable payload would be increased over a rocket or the shuttle and would be a much more cost effective means of placing satellites in orbit or sending crews or tourists to the space station.
By creating a waverider vehicle, vast amounts of possibilities open up to us. We will be able to minimize the money put into repairing space shuttles after touchdown. It will be possible to travel across the world in a speed never done before. There would not be any excessive work in fixing satellites due to this waverider. People will be able to see a view of our planet in a way they have never seen before. They will see the stars and other planes in a new light; the average citizen will no longer be envious of astronauts and will be able to share in their fortune of gazing down at our planet and the stars above. The military will be able to deploy troops and armaments to any location on the globe as soon as they are needed. The military will also be able to use waverider vehicles for reconnaissance immediately, whenever and wherever a disturbance may occur worldwide.
Because a waverider is designed using a known flowfield, the flowfield can be tailored to generate a shockwave that will produce a minimal sonic boom at the surface, potentially allowing over land supersonic travel. Because the shape of the waverider does not affect the flowfield, it also has the most efficient compression surface for the inlet to the engines. This will contribute to the lift of the engines and the efficiency of the engines. The leading edge of the waverider must be sharp. This causes some benefits and some headaches. The thin leading edge must be made of a strong material that is capable of withstanding high heating. However, because it is sharp, the heating is less right at the leading edge than it would be for a blunt leading edge vehicle such as the space shuttle. Also, because the shock is attached to the leading edge, it is more efficient than a blunt leading edge that generates a detached shock wave.
The biggest disadvantage to a waverider vehicle comes from the fact that its is so efficient. Because of its low drag shape, it would take quite a distance to stop the vehicle after it lands, thus potentially requiring a loner runway.