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Published on June 18, 2024
San Antonio Advances in Aerospace with Groundbreaking $34M Hypersonic Research FacilitySource: Google Street View

San Antonio is bolstering its status in the high-tech aerospace sector with the groundbreaking of a new $34 million facility focused on hypersonic systems, these systems are capable of flight at speeds five times greater than the speed of sound, a capability that enhances their stealth and utility in modern military operations. According to a report by the San Antonio Report, the Center for Accelerating Materials and Processes (CAMP) at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is aimed at expediting the development of these advanced propulsion systems.

The CAMP facility spans 36,600 square feet and its construction is a strategic move, aligning with the Department of Defense's prioritization of hypersonics in the face of international advancements made by adversaries such as Russia and China. In an interview with the San Antonio Report, U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales highlighted the importance of hypersonics in national defense, stating “But it doesn’t just happen in a silo — it happens with the research, it happens with the dedication, and it happens with the tools,” Barron Bichon, director of the materials engineering department and project lead at SwRI, echoed the sentiment, underscoring the costly and complex nature of developing these systems but asserting their crucial role in national security. Construction is set to commence shortly, with completion expected within the year, and it is hoped that about 25 new employees will join the efforts at CAMP.

The initiative represents a collaborative thrust to sharpen the United States' edge in high-speed propulsion research and development. Noteworthy is a $17 million contract awarded to SwRI from the Air Force Research Laboratory based in Ohio, though details on the specifics of the contract remain undisclosed, as Bichon and a spokeswoman declined to elaborate in statements obtained by the San Antonio Report. One of CAMP's inaugural tasks will involve the acquisition and setup of manufacturing process testing equipment, indicating a serious commitment to technological advancement in this area.

Fueling the enterprise further is the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Manufacturing Science and Technology Program, under which SwRI engineers will demonstrate how CAMP can reduce both the production times and costs associated with manufacturing hypersonic systems. Emphasized by Adam Hamilton, the president and CEO of SwRI, is the intention for CAMP and similar projects to place San Antonio firmly on the map for key technological developments, as stated in a statement obtained by the San Antonio Report. These developments align with SwRI's longstanding mission "from deep sea to deep space," and reflect broader efforts including expanding the institute's facilities such as a planned 4-story office building and a prospective pharmaceutical research facility.

The establishment and growth of such facilities not only promise to solidify scientific and technological capabilities but also serve as a nod to the economic and intellectual expansion within San Antonio and beyond, establishing a foothold for future endeavors in aerospace and defense innovation. SwRI, a staple of the San Antonio community since its foundation in 1947, continues to evolve as evident in the extensive planning for improved campus infrastructure and its first expansion project in Warner Robins, Georgia, valued at $18.5 million and grounded in defense and intelligence R&D as reported by the San Antonio Report.