These are the first air-to-air images of the phenomenon, and it was possible thanks to a brand new approach developed by the agency to study supersonic flow in real conditions.
NASA says the ultimate objective of the test is to use AirBOS to study air waves generated by the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft, a joint NASA-Lockheed Martin undertaking that scientists hope will find a way for jets to fly faster than the speed of sound but without the sonic boom, which also creates drag inhibiting further speed increases. The trailing jet is about 30 feet behind and 10 feet below the leading jet.
"What's interesting is, if you look at the rear T-38, you see these shocks kind of interact in a curve", said Neal Smith, research engineer with AerospaceComputing Inc. working in the fluid mechanics laboratory at Ames.
NASA employed a pair of T-38 aircraft from the US Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base as they flew mere metres apart. Documenting their burst through the sound barrier from such a close vantage point will help NASA accrue more data on supersonic shock waves than ever before, which is a pressing matter given the potential resurrection of supersonic passenger travel.
L.V. Anderson is Digg's managing editor. NASA hopes its research will inform plans for its quiet supersonic plane, the X-59 QueSST, which is slated for test flights in 2022.
Two T-38 aircrafts flying in formation at supersonic speeds producing shockwaves that are typically heard on the ground as a sonic boom
Sonic booms can be a noteworthy annoyance, equipped for surprising individuals on the ground as well as causing harm - like broke windows - and this has prompted solid limitations on supersonic trip over land in wards like the United States. In fact, even NASA researchers are mesmerized by the results.
"I am ecstatic about how these images turned out", NASA scientist J.T. Heineck said. The photograph shows details of shockwaves that happen when an aircraft flies at supersonic speeds.
A NASA B-200 King Air plane carried the camera system as the T-38s flew below it at supersonic speeds.
"Just looking at the data for the first time, I think things worked out better than we had imagined". However, the AirBOS 4 flights used an updated version of the schlieren systems, which captured triple the amount of data they were able to capture previously.
Their camera was improved from previous models and included a wider field of view with the ability to collect 1,400 frames per second. "That is a very big step". But if the quieter technology employed by the X-59 proves viable, it could help bring supersonic airliners back from extinction.