While aerospace engineers have made significant progress in their understanding of supersonic flight, one significant challenge remains: the loud sonic boom. NASA and its aviation partners have been researching ways to identify a loudness level that is acceptable to both the FAA and the public, and to reduce the noise created by supersonic aircraft. NASA has been exploring “low-boom” aircraft designs and other strategies that show promise for reducing sonic boom levels.
NASA’s recent focus on supersonic research testing began in 2010 as part of a project to capture boom-relevant data from supersonic scale models built by Boeing and Lockheed. Engineers first designed full-sized aircraft on their computers, and then scaled down the designs to build wind tunnel models that exhibit the same flight characteristics during testing as do their full-size counterparts in actual flight. The scale models were then sent to NASA wind tunnel facilities at the Ames and Glenn Research Centers. The data are being used to validate the computer-based design tools for continued use in future low-boom aircraft design research.