The primary challenge with supersonic flight remains the mitigation of the sonic boom to levels that will be acceptable to humans on the ground. As industry progresses towards realizing a commercial supersonic aircraft, the push from regulators to reduce noise levels has intensified. Innovators at NASA Langley Research Center have developed a system for predicting sonic boom propagation of supersonic aircraft. The sBOOMTraj tool enables efficient computation and mitigation of sonic boom loudness across the entire duration of a flight mission.
To meet this need, sBOOMTraj was developed to predict and mitigate sonic boom levels without resorting to less accurate shock theory or other numerical post-processing techniques. The software incorporates atmospheric and terrestrial effects as well as functionality to handle aircraft trajectories and maneuvers.
The sBOOMTraj tool can predict ground signatures in the presence of atmospheric wind profiles and can even handle non-standard atmospheres in which users provide temperature, wind, and relative or specific humidity distributions. Furthermore, sBOOMTraj can predict off-track signatures, ground intersection location with respect to the aircraft location, the time taken for the pressure disturbance to reach the ground, lateral cutoff locations, and focus boom locations. The software has the ability to easily interface with other standalone tools to predict the magnitude of focus, post-focus, and evanescent booms and also has the ability to handle different kinds of input waveforms used in design exercises.
The sBOOMTraj tool could be extremely useful in supersonic aircraft operations as it can predict where sonic booms hit the ground in addition to providing the magnitude of sonic boom loudness levels using physics-based simulations. Using this tool, pilots may be able to steer supersonic aircraft away from populated areas while also allowing real-time adjustments to their flight trajectories, allowing tradeoffs associated with sonic boom performance and acceptability. The predicted sonic boom loudness contours during supersonic flight may also be used in supersonic aircraft design and development including certification of aircraft under future regulations that may be imposed.
sBOOMTraj can potentially aid in supersonic aircraft operations with its integration in a cockpit interactive application that can provide feedback to the pilot on sonic boom impingement areas on the ground with real-time atmospheric and terrain updates. It has the potential to support both aircraft design and operations, which is extremely rare.