A program called Sonic Booms in Atmospheric Turbulence (SonicBAT II) is bringing together NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Space Florida, Armstrong Flight Research Center, and Langley Research Center.
Starting this month, the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) will launch NASA F-18 jets at supersonic speeds. Researchers safely on the ground will be collecting important data, measuring the effects of low-altitude turbulence on sonic booms.
SonicBAT takes an interesting approach to study the inner workings of sonic booms. The project calls upon military aircraft to produce those loud thunderous sounds in order to help engineers build future (and much more quiet) supersonic designs.
“We’re hoping we can eventually lower sonic booms to a low rumble,” says John Graves of NASA Flight Operations in Kennedy’s Spaceport Integration and Services. “The goal is to eventually accommodate jets that can fly from New York to Los Angeles in two hours.”
Sonic booms usually occur when a flying vehicle flies faster than the speed of sound. According to NASA, that’s about 767 mph. Loud sounds like these create shock waves, which are quick changes in pressure happening at supersonic speed levels. When trying to achieve supersonic passenger air travel, shock waves can cause customer disturbances and intermittently lead to property damage at low-altitude flights.
“For the upcoming tests, F-18 jets will fly offshore from Daytona at about 41,000 feet,” says Graves. “They will fly south, diving down below to around 32,000 feet and accelerating to supersonic speeds to create a sonic boom that will reach the ground where the test equipment is located.”
A small glider will collect data and measure sonic boom levels. It’ll fly above 14,000 feet to study the turbulent layer. Additionally, microphone sensors will be placed south and north of the launch site.
Ultimately, NASA is advancing towards future, “low-boom” aircraft, including its next project, the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense