Commercial Supersonic Jet Undergoes NASA Vetting
Kyle Maxey posted on March 06, 2017 |
A new airframe design might take the boom out of supersonic flight.
A nine-percent scale model of the

A nine-percent scale model of the "low boom" supersonic jet that NASA and Lockheed hope can bring supersonic commercial flight back to the public. (Image courtesy of NASA.)

Since the grounding of the Concorde, supersonic commercial air travel has been noticeably absent. Gone are the days when a transatlantic trip could be undertaken in the time it takes to have a luxurious nap.

But a new joint effort between Lockheed Martin and NASA is attempting bring back an improved version of supersonic commercial flight.

At NASA’s Glenn Research Center, engineers have begun testing a new supersonic aircraft design utilizing Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST). With a nine-percent scale model of the craft, researchers will use the 8’ x 6’ supersonic wind tunnel to test the airframe of as it passes from Mach 0.3 to Mach 1.6 (approximately 150 to 950 mph), speeds that are critical to the function of a supersonic design.

“We’ll be measuring the lift, drag and side forces on the model at different angles of attack to verify that it performs as expected,” said aerospace engineer Ray Castner, who leads propulsion testing for NASA’s QueSST effort. “We also want to make sure the air flows smoothly into the engine under all operating conditions.”

One of the central questions being researched in the QueSST study is whether or not a supersonic aircraft can be designed to eliminate the sonic booms associated with breaking the sound barrier.

According to some research, there are ways to reduce the sonic impact of passing the Mach 1.0 threshold so that the public might not even notice when a supersonic jet breaks the sound barrier. With this new model, Lockheed and NASA are looking to find out if these theories are correct.

“Our unique aircraft design is shaped to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight, dramatically reducing the aircraft’s loudness,” said Peter Iosifidis, QueSST program manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. “Our design reduces the airplane’s noise signature to more of a ‘heartbeat’ instead of the traditional sonic boom that’s associated with current supersonic aircraft in flight today.”

Ove the next 8-weeks, NASA’s wind tunnel tests will provide clues as to whether a “low-boom” supersonic jet can be built. If successful NASA is expecting to move forward with further wind tunnel tests and the eventual construction of a flight demonstrator around 2020.

So, while the Concorde has been put to rest, supersonic commercial flight might be resuming sooner than expected.

Is Supersonic Commercial Air Travel Making a Comeback? Follow the link to find out.

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