NASA's dreams of quiet supersonic jet closer to fruition


NASA's dreams of quiet supersonic jet closer to fruition

A series of tests featuring the Sonic Booms in Atmospheric Turbulence flights (SonicBAT) will be conducted by researchers from Langley Research Center in Virginia and NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.

Ground-level disturbances like cracked plaster and shattered windows have kept supersonic travel nearly off-limits since 1973, when the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned its use.

That may be changing.

It is hoped the new design will drastically reduce the level of noise coming from the plane. The agency has a budget of almost $400 million to complete the project over the next five years. The organization plans to hand out the knowledge from its tests to private manufacturers, some of whom (such as Boom Technology) already have plans for supersonic passenger jets. The final design stops the sounds waves from the jet from merging the shape and pattern that creates the glass shattering sonic boom.

The tests will begin August 21, and the teams hope to collect data from 33 sonic booms, Armstrong Flight Research Center public affairs officer Matt Kamlet told Florida Today. The waves instead are kept dispersed which results in a more palatable hum sounds. The plane's advent in the 1970s helped lead Congress to pass the overland ban in the first place; its takeoffs and landings generated hundreds of noise complaints and wouldn't come close to meeting today's regulations. The agency announced a year ago it was working on the design of the aircraft with Lockheed Martin. The fourth major obstacle may be Washington, because the language of the 1973 ban will require the FAA or Congress to explicitly undo it even if technology renders it obsolete.

Still, if everything goes as planned, NASA will test the demo plane over as many as six communities beginning in 2022, Coen says. "We've got a lot of support in NASA and the administration and in Congress for making this happen".

The new NASA-built Concorde will still have the supersonic speeds of the original but will be significantly quieter.

Different engineering firms can now bid for the chance to make and test a model of the groundbreaking aircraft.