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Fluid Dynamics Of Sonic Booms From Supersonic Aircraft

As companies push a return to supersonic flight, CFD is helping to find ways to reduce the noise impact.

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The return to supersonic flight is amongst the hottest topics in aviation today, as several companies (Boom Supersonic and Aerion, among others) are actively developing new supersonic commercial airliners targeted to enter in service in the coming years. In this context, a quiet flight over land is one of the major challenges to ensure the regulatory compliance of such airliners. Several research centers and companies are building demonstrators to show large sonic boom reductions with smarter designs of all the parts of the aircraft.

The nature of the sonic boom is associated with shockwaves that are longitudinal waves generated by an object that travels faster than the speed of sound. Such shockwaves caused by large supersonic aircraft are perceived by people on the ground as a sound similar to an explosion or thunder. Exposure to aircraft noise is known to be linked to health issues, such as disturbance of sleep, developmental delays in children, obesity, and cardiovascular problems.

Recent research proves that it is possible to mitigate the sonic boom issue via a careful shaping of the vehicle geometry. The idea behind the low-boom supersonic aircraft concepts is the minimization of the amplitude of longitudinal sound waves also called N-waves. One of the most cutting-edge supersonic aircraft concepts, Lockheed Martin’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (X-59 QueSST) X-plane, is set to take-off for its maiden flight in 2021. One of the mission goals is to provide comprehensive statistical data to regulatory authorities in order to introduce changes enabling supersonic airliners flight over land.

The use of CFD in the field of supersonic aeronautics significantly cuts the time to market and associated development costs. Sonic Boom Prediction Workshops organized by NASA aim at assessment of the sonic boom prediction methods reliability. The near-field pressure signatures prediction with CFD is perhaps its key component. Every subsequent workshop features cases with lower noise signatures, thus bringing new challenges for CFD codes. Cadence is active in this field and was involved in the CFD investigation of a sonic boom and aerodynamic prediction of NASA Concept 25D Powered supersonic aircraft developed in the framework of recent research work.

Read all about this sonic boom prediction case here.



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