Thanks to NASA, the su­per­sonic pas­sen­ger jet might be com­ing back.

HWM (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - by Alvin Soon

NASA su­per­sonic plane

Su­per­sonic pas­sen­ger jets were in­cred­i­ble. While pas­sen­ger planes to­day have cruis­ing speeds of 926 km/h, su­per­sonic pas­sen­ger jets could fly at twice the speed of sound (up to 2,180 km/h), cut­ting travel time dra­mat­i­cally.

How­ever, break­ing the sound bar­rier un­leashed a fright­ful sonic boom that could shat­ter win­dows and rum­ble build­ings over pop­u­lated ar­eas. That, and a whole list of other prob­lems like high costs, is why no su­per­sonic pas­sen­ger jets have flown since 2003.

NASA (Na­tional Aero­nau­tics and Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion), how­ever, may have found a way to build a plane that pro­duces a quiet sonic ‘bump’ in­stead of a sonic boom. Work­ing to­gether with Lock­heed Martin, NASA sim­u­lated how dif­fer­ent air­craft shapes cre­ate dif­fer­ent su­per­sonic shock waves, and they dis­cov­ered a plane de­sign that pre­vents sound waves from merg­ing into the loud pat­tern of a sonic boom. A small-scale model of the de­sign has al­ready been suc­cess­fully tested in a wind tun­nel, so the de­sign ap­pears to be sound.

NASA is tar­get­ing sound lev­els of 60 to 65 dBa, which is as loud as a good con­ver­sa­tion, and is now tak­ing bids to build a pi­loted, sin­gle-en­gine pro­to­type plane. The tech­nol­ogy is still decades away, with the first flight tests as far as 2022. But NASA plans to share the tech­nol­ogy from the tests with U.S. plane man­u­fac­tur­ers, so we could see the re­turn of su­per­sonic pas­sen­ger planes in our life­times – mi­nus the boom.

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