Published: Thu, July 05, 2018
Sci-tech | By Brandy Patterson

Why a Fighter Jet Is Testing 'Quiet' Supersonic Booms Over Texas

Why a Fighter Jet Is Testing 'Quiet' Supersonic Booms Over Texas

NASA has been working on improving air travel for over four decades now and numerous flight designs, airport and runway innovations, and engine and control systems can be traced back to NASA research. While there are a few companies now working on building aircraft that can cut air travel time further, NASA's approach is to cut out the noise, especially the sonic boom that comes from aircraft that exceed the speed of sound. The tests will aim to determine just how loud NASA's new "quiet" supersonic technology really is, and compare it to the sounds of a traditional sonic boom.

Some background: Supersonic travel over land has been banned in the U.S. since 1973, owing to the huge noise produced when a plane breaks the sound barrier.

"Once fully tested and pronounced safe to fly within the National Airspace, the X-59 in late 2022 will begin making supersonic flights over select communities to measure residents' reactions to any noise they might hear", NASA explains of future tests.

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NASA will use supersonic F/A-18 Hornet jets over Galveston to copy the sonic profile of the X-59.

"This is why the F/A-18 is so important to us as a tool", Haering said.

The agency has recruited around 500 volunteers for the tests, who will subsequently submit their feedback on the noise levels they experienced via a website NASA has set up.

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NASA's team leader for sonic boom community response research at Langley, Alexandra Loubeau, said, "We never know what everyone has heard".

Earlier this year, NASA awarded a $247.5-million contract to Lockheed Martin to build a quiet supersonic plane called the X-59 QueSST.

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. That's because new supersonic planes are being developed that can revolutionize commercial flights, and NASA wants to find out if the noise levels those supersonic aircraft put out will be off-putting to people on the ground. Well, the "X-59" part is a nod back to American X-plane history, which kicked off with the world's first supersonic plane, the Bell X-1, famously piloted by Chuck Yeager in 1947 when it broke the speed of sound. A normal sonic double boom happens at 0:43, and a low boom occurs at 2:34 when the plane performs a special dive maneuver.

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