Comparisons of the development of flow over a cylinder with a 20° cone nose and a cylinder with an ogive nose, which represent typical heat-shield configurations are studied using CFD and experiments at transonic Mach numbers. The Cp plots are studied to locate expansion or separation. Experiments are carried out at M = 0.8, 0.9, 0.95 and 1.1 and Re ≈ 2.45 × 106. Computations are carried out using the commercial package, FLUENT 6.3. Inadequate spatial resolution of pressure ports in experiments as well as limitations of the CFD tool result in some differences in experimental and CFD results. © Published under licence by IOP Publishing Ltd.