Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Jonathan T. Black, PhD


This research effort furthers the Air Force’s study of reusable launch vehicles and hypersonic airfoils by conducting a hypersonic flight test using the US Air Force Academy’s FalconLAUNCH VIII sounding rocket. In this study, two experimental fin tips were designed and attached to the sounding rocket in place of two stabilizer fins in order to collect data throughout the rocket’s hypersonic flight profile. The desire to research, study, and test experimental fin tips was driven by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Future responsive Access to Space Technologies (FAST) program and their desire to include vertical stabilizers on the wing tips of reusable launch vehicles (RLVs). In this research study, finite element models of the experimental fin tips were developed and used to predict the flight data collected by the strain and temperature gages attached to the test specimen. The results of these flight prediction tests showed that the test specimen will undergo the greatest deflection and strain during the acceleration of the rocket. Maximum deflection and strain gage readings were obtained at a speed of Mach 2.5 at an altitude of 9k feet. Ultimately, the payload will undergo a maximum deflection of 0.6 inches at the fin tip and a maximum strain gage reading of 0.00122 on the main wing section of the payload.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number