Thursday, October 21, 2021

PRC Hypersonic Missiles, FOBS, and Qian Xuesen

There is a deep connection between the images above and below. Qian Xuesen proposed the boost glide trajectory while still at Caltech.

Background on recent PRC test of FOBS/glider hypersonic missile/vehicle. More from Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall. Detailed report on PRC hypersonic systems development. Reuters: Rocket failure mars U.S. hypersonic weapon test (10/21/21)

The situation today is radically different from when Qian first returned to China. In a decade or two China may have ~10x as many highly able scientists and engineers as the US, comparable to the entire world (ex-China) combined [1]. Already the depth of human capital in PRC is apparent to anyone closely watching their rate of progress (first derivative) in space (Mars/lunar lander, space station, LEO), advanced weapons systems (stealth jets, radar, missiles, jet engines), AI/ML, alternative energy, materials science, nuclear energy, fundamental and applied physics, consumer electronics, drones, advanced manufacturing, robotics, etc. etc. The development of a broad infrastructure base for advanced manufacturing and R&D also contributes to this progress, of course.

[1] It is trivial to obtain this ~10x estimate: PRC population is ~4x US population, a larger fraction of PRC students pursue STEM degrees, and a larger proportion of PRC students reach elite levels of math proficiency, e.g., PISA Level 6.

"It was the stupidest thing this country ever did," former Navy Secretary Dan Kimball later said, according to Aviation Week. "He was no more a Communist than I was, and we forced him to go." ... 
Qian Xuesen, a former Caltech rocket scientist who helped establish the Jet Propulsion Laboratory before being deported in 1955 on suspicion of being a Communist and who became known as the father of China's space and missile programs, has died. He was 98. ... 
Qian, a Chinese-born aeronautical engineer educated at Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was a protege of Caltech's eminent professor Theodore von Karman, who recognized him as an outstanding mathematician and "undisputed genius."

Below, a documentary on Qian and a movie-length biopic (English subtitles).

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