Without the boom: NASA testing ‘quiet’ supersonic flights

NASA plans to publicly test its quiet supersonic technology this year

A quiet supsersonic aircraft that could change how we view travel is one step closer to being a reality. But NASA has been developing the supersonic plane for years in pursuit of technology that would enable affordable supersonic transportation without the loud sonic booms that come with it.

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.

Creating a supersonic aircraft that doesn't produce sonic booms would be a game-changer for aviation.

In the past, the Anglo-French-designed Concorde's jet was taken out of service in 2003 due to disruptive sound waves.

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

Japan Airlines invested $10 million into Boom Technologies, a Denver-based start-up that also hopes to revive supersonic air travel in the next decade.

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The move is part of the space agency's plan to help develop the X-59, a quieter technological vehicle being produced by Nasa's supersonic jet team.

The X-59 is scheduled for delivery by the end of 2021. "But the airplane's shape is carefully tailored such that those shockwaves do not combine", said Ed Haering, an aerospace engineer at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center.

To counter this noise problem, the space agency has been hard at work since 2016 in building the X-59, an aeroplane that can fly over Mach 1 or break the sound barrier, but not produce any loud, booming sounds.

"For everyone working on this important project, this is great news and we're thrilled with the designation", Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, said in the NASA statement. "While construction continues on the X-59, we can use that diving maneuver to generate quiet sonic thumps over a specific area".

NASA says that it will continue to carry out testing flights over other USA towns in order to gather more ground information; this of course will happen only after Lockheed Martin is able to properly construct the aircraft and NASA is able to establish the proper noise credentials.

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