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NASA advances toward major milestone in aviation

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has successfully tested an advanced air-to-air photographic technology in flight, capturing the first-ever images of the interaction of shockwaves from two supersonic aircraft in flight.

TheNewsGuru (TNG) reports NASA, established in 1958, is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

The study of how shockwaves interact with each other, as well as with the exhaust plume of an aircraft, has been a topic of interest among researchers.

When aircraft fly faster than the speed of sound, shockwaves travel away from the vehicle, and are heard on the ground as a sonic boom.

NASA captured the images of the interaction of shockwaves from two supersonic aircraft in flight during the fourth phase of Air-to-Air Background Oriented Schlieren flights, or AirBOS, which took place at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.

The flight series saw successful testing of an upgraded imaging system capable of capturing high-quality images of shockwaves, rapid pressure changes which are produced when an aircraft flies faster than the speed of sound, or supersonic.

Shockwaves produced by aircraft merge together as they travel through the atmosphere and are responsible for what is heard on the ground as a sonic boom.

The system will be used to capture data crucial to confirming the design of the agency’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, or X-59 QueSST, which will fly supersonic, but will produce shockwaves in such a way that, instead of a loud sonic boom, only a quiet rumble may be heard.

Keep Naira clean

The ability to fly supersonic without a sonic boom may one day result in lifting current restrictions on supersonic flight over land.

The images were captured from a NASA B-200 King Air, using an upgraded camera system to increase image quality.

In order to capture these images, the King Air, flying a pattern around 30,000 feet, had to arrive in a precise position as the pair of T-38s passed at supersonic speeds approximately 2,000 feet below.

Meanwhile, the cameras, able to record for a total of three seconds, had to begin recording at the exact moment the supersonic T-38s came into frame.

The data from the AirBOS flights will continue to undergo analysis, helping NASA refine the techniques for these tests to improve data further, with future flights potentially taking place at higher altitudes.

These efforts will help advance knowledge of the characteristics of shockwaves as NASA progresses toward quiet supersonic research flights with the X-59, and closer toward a major milestone in aviation.

 

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