Supersonic Booms being tested in Texas

Supersonic Booms being tested in Texas

NASA wants to build a Fighter Jet without any Supersonic Booms and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics has the contract for that.

As indicated by its name, a Supersonic Boom is the sound that is produced when an object, in the air, travels faster than the speed of sound. The amount of sound energy generated is quite substantial as it seems like an explosion or a thunderclap to a human ear. The advancement of technology allowed the scientists to come with supersonic aircraft but the sound produced by them was too loud for the general public as supersonic flights over land got banned by the authorities. Having said that, NASA may have found a solution to this problem as they announced that a supersonic military jet will fly through the skies of Texas in November. They claimed that only a ‘Quiet’ sonic boom will be heard by the observers.

They will be testing an F/A-18 Hornet aircraft to determine the impact of ordinary sonic booms. The basic purpose of this experiment is to find the critical point after which people start getting irritated by the earsplitting noise. The F/A-18 Hornet aircraft will fly quietly over the city of Galveston while it will make plenty of noise during its journey over the Gulf of Mexico. In order to know about the feelings of the people of both the places, NASA has appointed about 500 local volunteers who will extract information from the general public. Similarly, audio sensors will be used to measure the intensity of sound at both locations. Alexandra Loubeau, the Team Lead for Sonic Boom Community Response Research of NASA, told the world about that as she said,

We’ll never know exactly what everyone heard. We won’t have a noise monitor on their shoulder inside their home but we’d like to at least have an estimate of the range of noise levels that they actually heard.”

The ultimate goal of the space agency is to build a jet which will be totally free from these booms but this information will prove extremely useful until that is done. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company was assigned the responsibility to come up with a solution as a $247.5 million contract was awarded to them from NASA. The name given to this quiet supersonic plane is ‘X-59 QueSST’. According to reports of NASA, it is expected to make its first flight in the later parts of 2021. Researchers believe that the flight tests, like the one planned by the end of this year, will provide critical information that may help lift all kinds of bans on supersonic flights.

The shape of the aircraft is its secret as supersonic shock waves will not be able to combine with each other. Ed Haering, an Aerospace Engineer at the Armstrong Flight Research Center of NASA, explained that by saying,

With the X-59, you’re still going to have multiple shock waves because of the wings on the aircraft that create lift and [because of] the volume of the plane. But the airplane’s shape is carefully tailored such that those shock waves do not combine. If the tests go as planned, 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.”

There is a huge potential that we get a profitable market of commercial supersonic air travel if new laws are made with regards to these supersonic flights. However, none of that seems possible in near future and that is the reason why NASA wants to rely on ventures like the one F/A-18 Hornet will make in November. According to scientists, the feedback on the F/A-18 flight tests holds immense significance as it will offer a strong base for noise measurements and data analysis for the ultimate flights of QueSST. This voluntary response will also help the researchers to design better survey questions in the future. As NASA has no plans of making community overflights with X-59 before 2023, it is quite clear what it is focusing on. Haering talked about that in the following words:

This is why the F/A-18 is so important to us as a tool. While construction continues on the X-59, we can use that diving maneuver to generate quiet sonic thumps over a specific area.”

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