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NASA Focusing On Reducing Strength Of Sonic Booms

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Lockheed Martin's SR-71 Blackbird is seen from the rear September 3, 2012 at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. (credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GettyImages)

Lockheed Martin’s SR-71 Blackbird is seen from the rear September 3, 2012 at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. (credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GettyImages)

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (CBS Tampa) – NASA is currently focusing on reducing the strength of sonic booms, and researching new designs for supersonic aircrafts.

Sonic boom is the sound associated with shock waves created by an object traveling through the air faster than the speed of sound. They are affected by many factors, including the shape of the object, and where the object is located.

The Federal Aviation Administration does not have a specific level of loudness for a sonic boom. The sound depends on the distance between the observer and the object producing the sonic boom.

“Engine installation is a critical part of achieving an overall low boom design,” Peter Coen, manager of NASA’s High Speed Project, said in a statement obtained by Space.com. “If we mount the engines in a conventional manner, we need to carefully tailor the shape of the wing to diffuse the shock waves. If we mount the engines above the wing, the shock wave can be directed upward and not affect the ground signature. However, such installations may have performance penalties.

Designs are set apart by how components are arranged. Boeing’s design has two engines mounted beneath a delta wing, and a third engine on top of the aircraft. The Lockheed Martin has swept-back wings, with two engines on top of each other.

NASA is testing the designs by placing models of the aircraft in a wind tunnel, and studying how the air flows around them, according to Space.com.

“Capturing this flow rate is important because it directly impacts a supersonic aircraft’s thrust performance in flight, as well as cruise efficiency,” Coen told Space.com.

The research is being overseen by NASA’s High Speed Project.

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