Résumé : The hypersonic laminar to turbulent transition problem above Mach 10 is addressed experimentally in the short duration VKI Longshot gun tunnel. Reentry conditions are partially duplicated in terms of Mach and Reynolds numbers. Pure nitrogen is used as a test gas with flow enthalpies sufficiently low to avoid its dissociation, thus approaching a perfect gas behavior. The stabilizing effects of Mach number and nosetip bluntness on the development of natural boundary layer disturbances are evaluated over a 7 degrees half-angle conical geometry without angle of attack.

Emphasis is initially placed on the flow characterization of the Longshot wind tunnel where these experiments are performed. Free-stream static pressure diagnostics are implemented in order to complete existing stagnation point pressure and heat flux measurements on a hemispherical probe. An alternative method used to determine accurate free-stream flow conditions is then derived following a rigorous theoretical approach coupled to the VKI Mutation thermo-chemical library. Resulting sensitivities of free-stream quantities to the experimental inputs are determined and the corresponding uncertainties are quantified and discussed. The benefits of this different approach are underlined, revealing the severe weaknesses of traditional methods based on the measurement of reservoir conditions and the following assumptions of an isentropic and adiabatic flow through the nozzle. The operational map of the Longshot wind tunnel is redefined accordingly. The practical limits associated with the onset of nitrogen flow condensation under non-equilibrium conditions are also accounted for.

Boundary layer transition experiments are then performed in this environment with free-stream Mach numbers ranging between 10-12. Instrumentation along the 800mm long conical model includes flush-mounted thermocouples and fast-response pressure sensors. Transition locations on sharp cones compare favorably with engineering correlations. A strong stabilizing effect of nosetip bluntness is reported and no transition reversal regime is observed for Re_RN<120000. Wavelet analysis of wall pressure traces denote the presence of inviscid instabilities belonging to Mack's second mode. An excellent agreement with Linear Stability Theory results is obtained from which the N-factor of the Longshot wind tunnel in these conditions is inferred. A novel Schlieren technique using a short duration laser light source is developed, allowing for high-quality flow visualization of the boundary layer disturbances. Comparisons of these measurement techniques between each other are finally reported, providing a detailed view of the transition process above Mach 10.