Cutting-edge aerospace technology research is being conducted at the Butte AeroTec Facility in Butte, Mont., thanks to a new partnership between the Montana Aerospace Development Association (MADA) and scientists with the Muroran Institute of Technology (MIT) in Japan.
Dave Micheletti, UTRS Vice President of Aerospace and Energy Operations and a researcher at MADA, said that he is excited for the opportunity to design, build, and test a small hybrid rocket motor, as well as collaborate with MIT.
In Japan, which is about the size of Montana and holds a third of the United States’ population, it is a real challenge to find a facility in which to conduct high-tech aerospace tests. However, the Butte facility is a perfect match because it has the wide open spaces necessary for testing.
Aerospace technology research is often conducted using wind tunnels. Terry Spath, a MADA researcher, said that has certain disadvantages because researchers have to account for the walls of the tunnel changing wind flows. They can use modeling to account for those effects, but the best data come from testing on a track where the equipment can be pushed through the open air. Japan’s MIT has a “high speed test sled” that conducts such tests.
Down the road, MADA could explore building tracks for testing. Micheletti said they would explore two sets of tracks, including one that is over 1,000 feet long, which is optimal for certain types of tests. In the short term, MADA will not be hiring additional researchers to conduct the project; however, Micheletti said down the road that may be necessary.