Nasa to conduct new supersonic flight tests to reduce sonic booms


Nasa has teamed up with Space Florida and the Langley Research Centre in Virginia, US, to conduct a new round of supersonic flight tests designed to reduce sonic booms.

Forming the second part of the Sonic Booms in Atmospheric Turbulence (SonicBAT II) programme, the tests are expected to begin this month.

The first round of SonicBAT tests was conducted at Edwards Air Force Base in California last year.

As part of the proposed tests, Nasa’s F-18 jets will take-off from the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at Kennedy Space Centre and fly at supersonic speeds two to four times a day over ten days.

The agency's ground-based researchers will measure the effects of low-altitude turbulence on sonic booms.

“For the upcoming tests, F-18 jets will fly offshore from Daytona at about 41,000ft."

Nasa Kennedy Space Centre Spaceport integration and services flight operations representative John Graves said: “For the upcoming tests, F-18 jets will fly offshore from Daytona at about 41,000ft.

“They will fly south, diving down below to around 32,000ft, and accelerating to supersonic speeds to create a sonic boom that will reach the ground where the test equipment is located.”

Nasa will also operate a small motorised glider that can fly with its engine off positioned above the 14,000ft level to measure sonic booms above the turbulent layer, while microphone sensors will be installed on the ground.

The agency aims to use the results to develop improved tools and technologies for designing future ‘low-boom’ aircraft that reduces or almost eliminates the noise.

In addition, Nasa and Lockheed Martin have recently completed the preliminary design of the Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) aircraft.

The partnership studied the shape and position of aircraft components, along with the propulsion system to determine the factors that contribute to an aircraft’s sonic boom.


Image: Microphone array positioned strategically along the ground at Edwards Air Force Base, California, to collect sound signatures from sonic booms created by a Nasa F-18 flight. Photo: courtesy of Nasa/Lauren Hughes.