Postprint version. Published in Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, Volume 38, January 1, 2006, pages 129-157. Copyright © 2006 Annual Reviews. This article has been accepted for publication by Annual Reviews in a revised form. The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev.fluid.38.050304.092041.
The challenges in understanding hypersonic flight are discussed and critical hypersonic aerothermodynamics issues are reviewed. The ability of current analytical methods, numerical methods, ground testing capabilities, and flight testing approaches to predict hypersonic flow are evaluated. The areas where aerothermodynamic shortcomings restrict our ability to design and analyze hypersonic vehicles are discussed, and prospects for future capabilities are reviewed. Considerable work still needs to be done before our understanding of hypersonic flow will allow for the accurate prediction of vehicle flight characteristics throughout the flight envelope from launch to orbital insertion.