SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY - NASA to test 'quiet' supersonic flights

Cristina Cross
July 5, 2018

A quiet supsersonic aircraft that could change how we view travel is one step closer to being a reality.

The accompanying NASA press release - spotted by LiveScience - notes that this is easier said than done, though, partly thanks to the physics of sonic booms themselves. It's a fluid dynamics thing: When an aircraft traveling through the air - the fluid - moves at increasingly fast speeds, the molecules of air at its nose get increasingly compressed.

The space agency has announced that it will conduct public tests of its quiet supersonic technologies around Galveston, Texas, in November. Sonic booms were one of the reasons why the first supersonic commercial jetliner- the Concorde was not really able to maintain its top cruising speeds over land. Since the Concorde's retirement, many innovators have sought a follow-up approach.

Creating a supersonic aircraft that doesn't produce sonic booms would be a game-changer for aviation.

Shockwave focuses directly on the plane under a very strong, focused pair of Sonic Boom.

Until now, NASA says the plane had simply been called the X-plane and that it has a shape that prevents the shockwaves to come together, which is what produces that dreaded booming sound.

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Japan Airlines invested $10 million into Boom Technologies, a Denver-based start-up that also hopes to revive supersonic air travel in the next decade. Boom strives to have their design up on the market by 2023. However, you won't be seeing the X-59 to fly anytime soon.

During the tests, the F/A-18 Hornet will dive through the air, making louds sonic booms over the Gulf of Mexico and quieter booms over the coastal city of Galveston.

"With the X-59, you're still going to have multiple shockwaves because of the wings on the aircraft that create lift and the volume of the plane", Ed Haering, a NASA aerospace engineer at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, said in the statement.

"Instead of getting a loud boom-boom, you're going to get at least two quiet thump-thump sounds, if you even hear them at all", Haering said. Clues again to keep the sky back to the F/A-18 makes rolls where it relates and does the screw through Mac 1.

Why it matters: The results will help verify whether these thumps are quiet enough to avoid disturbing residential areas, and establish a testing process for the X-59.

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