Before NASA’s new X-59 supersonic jet can break the sound barrier, scientists had to record equivalent sonic booms to use for reference.
Test pilots with NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center took to the skies above the Southern California desert near Edwards Air Force Base of the United States Air Force to generate “tumps” expected to be the X-59 supersonic jet “Quesst ” to produce. Unlike a typical thunderous sonic boom, the sound of the X-59 breaking the sound barrier is expected to sound like a car door slamming as heard from inside.
To simulate this sound, NASA test pilots flew the agency’s F-15D Eagle and F/A-18 Hornet support aircraft over a system of microphones installed at 10 ground stations spread over 30 miles (48.3 kilometers) of desert. By performing inverted (upside down) dives, the jets were able to produce a “softer” sonic boom compared to those expected to be produced by the X-59, according to NASA.
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NASA’s F/A-18 and F-15 jets are commonly used as chase planes, meaning they provide a way to monitor research flights of aircraft and other vehicles from the air. Both aircraft feature two-seat cockpits, allowing a pilot and a photographer or videographer to fly on board.
These recent tests using the agency’s “Fighter” jets were the third phase of what NASA calls the “Carpet Determination in Total Dimension,” or “CarpetDIEM” flights.
CarpetDIEM is designed to validate upgraded ground recording systems; the agency says a “loud and soft” sonic boom was produced and recorded to verify these recording systems that NASA will use during X-59 testing.
In addition to the microphone ground stations, scientists at the Armstrong Flight Research Center installed three weather towers and a sonic anemometer (which measures wind speed and direction) to collect weather and atmospheric data that can be correlated with the recordings of sonic booms. the F- could. 15D and F/A-19 produced.
NASA’s test plan will involve flying the X-59 over several US cities to gather data on the quieter boom, or “thump,” it makes when it breaks the sound barrier. The agency also wants to know how the public feels and responds to the craft, according to a statement.
If all goes according to plan, NASA will take the data it collects during its X-59 test campaign to the Federal Aviation Administration and international regulators to amend current regulations prohibiting supersonic travel above ground. . The agency says supersonic overland flight could not only enable faster commercial travel, but also shorten response times for medical emergencies and speed up shipping.
One of the ways the X-59 is able to break the sound barrier without generating a deafening sonic boom is through its unique geometry. The steep, elongated section of the jet is 38 feet (11.5 meters) long, and the entire aircraft comes in at 99.7 feet (30 m) long.
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The long, duck-bill-like nose also means that pilots won’t be able to see out of the front of the aircraft – in fact, there isn’t even a forward windscreen. Instead, the X-59 uses a forward-facing closed-circuit camera and augmented reality display called the External Vision System, or XVS.
The X-59 is designed to reach a speed of Mach 1.4, or 925 mph (1489 kph) while flying at an altitude of 55,000 feet (16,764 m) and is powered by a single engine built by General Electric Aviation.