NASA closes in on first test flight of its ‘quiet’ supersonic jet

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta January 27, 2022
Updated 2022/01/27 at 2:24 PM

NASA has conducted wind tunnel tests on a scaled-down model of its “quiet” supersonic jet in an attempt to one day make supersonic flights over communities a reality. Currently, supersonic flights over communities are prohibited as the loud sonic boom can be disruptive. Sonic booms produce a lot of sound energy, around 110 decibels. NASA is trying to validate its boom-reduction technology and boom prediction capabilities to make supersonic flights quieter and allow future travelers to reach their destinations faster. This test, conducted inside an 8-foot by 6-foot “supersonic wind tunnel,” was just the first of the scaled-down model and more detailed testing will take place later this year.

In an Instagram update, the agency shared two images of the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) experimental aircraft.

“Silent supersonic flight? We are working on it,” the agency said. The full-scale aircraft, dubbed the “son of Concorde,” is being built by NASA and Lockheed Martin. NASA is gearing up for the maiden full-scale test flight of the X-59 this year.

NASA said the first image showed the model aircraft, measuring about 30 centimeters in length, during a sonic boom test inside a wind tunnel at the Glenn Research Center in Ohio. It was captured by a photographic process called “schlieren”, which shows the flow of air around a scale model aircraft, as well as the shock waves and their positions.

John Wolter, Principal Investigator of the X-59 Sonic Boom Wind Tunnel Test, he said that with the X-59, they wanted to show that they could turn those nasty sonic booms into what he called “sonic bangs,” which are substantially quieter. Wolter added that the test demonstrated that they not only had quieter aircraft designs, but also had the right technologies needed to estimate future aircraft noise.

Aeronautical researchers are trying to mitigate the effects of a sonic boom by replacing it with a soft “thud.” In March, the aircraft will travel to Japan for further testing with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Boeing.

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