In November 2018, NASA will publicly test a "silent supersonic technology" flights. While there are a few companies now working on building aircraft that can cut air travel time further, NASA's approach is to cut out the noise, especially the sonic boom that comes from aircraft that exceed the speed of sound.
The most recent age of commercial supersonic air travel began in 1976 with the Concorde, an aircraft operated by British Airways and Air France.
From November, the United States space agency will use supersonic F/A-18 Hornet jets over Galveston to mimic the sonic profile of the X-59 while a group of around 500 residents document the noise levels. NASA says Galveston is the best choice for testing because of its location near the Gulf of Mexico. Supersonic flight over land was banned in the United States because they generated characteristic loud sonic booms, that could sometimes damage buildings.
A sonic boom is the loud thunder-like sound that happens because of shock waves that are created when an object travelling through the atmosphere travels faster than the speed of sound. This plane will be shaped so that supersonic shockwaves do not coalesce together to form loud sonic booms, the disruptive sounds that led to the government banning supersonic flight over the United States in 1973, NASA reported.
This experimental project was formerly called X-plane (like in Star Wars) or "Low-Flight Flight Demonstrator".
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Why it matters: The results will help verify whether these thumps are quiet enough to avoid disturbing residential areas, and establish a testing process for the X-59. But the airplane's shape is carefully tailored such that the shockwaves do not combine.
"This is why the F/A-18 is so important to us as a tool", Haering said.
"With the X-59 you're still going to have multiple shockwaves because of the wings on the aircraft that create lift and the volume of the plane. While construction continues on the X-59, we can use the diving maneuver to generate quiet sonic thumps over a specific area".