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Current Affairs

NASA for first time captures air-to-air images of supersonic shockwaves

Date: 09 March 2019 Tags: Space

NASA Scientists for first time have captured unprecedented colourised composite air-to-air images of interaction of shockwaves (sonic booms) produced from two supersonic aircrafts. These pictures will give boost to research in the aviation sector.

Key Findings

  • These images were captured during 4th phase of Air-to-Air Background Oriented Schlieren flights (AirBOS) which took place at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in US.
  • They were captured using upgraded advanced, high-speed camera capable of capturing high-quality images of shockwaves (rapid pressure changes) which are produced when aircraft flies in supersonic mode (faster than speed of sound).
  • In this case, this advanced camera had photographed two supersonic T-38 jets that had flown just 30 feet apart below another plane.
  • Application: These images will be used to capture data crucial to confirming design of NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane.

Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) aircraft

  • It is initial design stage of planned Low Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD)experimental airplane, otherwise known as an X-plane.
  • It is the first in a series of ‘X-planes’ in NASA's New Aviation Horizons initiative. Its preliminary test was completed in June 2017.
  • It can fly at supersonic speeds without producing disruptive sonic boom associated with supersonic flights of the present day. Instead of sonic boom it will produce soft “thump”

Drawbacks of sonic booms

At present, supersonic commercial planes are not considered due to problem of sonic booms produced by them. Sonic booms can be major nuisance, capable of not just startling people on ground but also causing damage — like shattered windows.