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Commercial Supersonic Technology Project Leads Way for X-59 Demo

By Matt Kamlet, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, and Sasha Ellis, NASA Langley Research Center

July 25, 2018 - Building on decades of research and dating back to a time before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, NASA continues to lead technological advances for supersonic, or faster-than-sound, flight. Among the agency’s significant projects and programs, the Commercial Supersonic Technology (CST) Project remains at the forefront for the future of aviation.

The CST Project is the principal effort that sees supersonic technologies culminated and tested in flight, including the use of advanced camera filters that capture how the shockwaves of supersonic aircraft travel. This has also involved the development of technology and techniques necessary for future community response studies for NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft.

The community response element of the CST Project will be a critical objective for X-59’s low-boom flight demonstration, which will demonstrate the ability to fly faster than the speed of sound without creating the loud sonic boom that is heard along the entire supersonic flight path. By 2023, NASA intends to fly the X-59 over select U.S. communities to demonstrate the ability to fly supersonic but reduce that sonic boom to a quieter “thump.” If this sound is quiet enough, the door may soon be open to supersonic flight over land for all air passengers to enjoy.

NASA is also studying techniques to accurately gather data on the community’s perception of future quiet sonic thumps. In November 2018, NASA teams will deploy to Galveston, Texas, using a NASA F/A-18 Hornet to survey the community for the Quiet Supersonic Flights 2018 campaign, or QSF18.

The F/A-18 will perform a series of unique supersonic dive maneuvers off the coast of Galveston, which will produce a sound similar to the future quiet thump of the X-59. Meanwhile, as many as 500 volunteer residents of Galveston will provide feedback to NASA about what they thought about the sonic thump, giving NASA engineers the tools necessary to confirm the best technique for gathering data that accurately represents the community.

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