NASA invests in studies to help make commercial supersonic planes a reality

A rendering of the Lockheed Martin future supersonic advanced concept featuring two engines under the wings and one on top of the fuselage - image courtesy of Lockheed Martin and NASA.
A rendering of the Lockheed Martin future supersonic advanced concept featuring two engines under the wings and one on top of the fuselage - image courtesy of Lockheed Martin and NASA.

NASA is set to continue its long running investment in the future of aviation after announcing funding for eight research projects.

The space agency will invest $2.3m in the eight studies selected by NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project for research that may help overcome the remaining barriers to commercial supersonic planes.

The research will be conducted by eight university and industry bodies, and will address sonic booms and high-altitude emissions from supersonic planes.

NASA awarded Rockwell Collins $698,000 for a two year study on a ‘sonic boom display’ that shows pilots how the noise created by the aircraft’s speed is being perceived on the ground.

Minnesota-based Honeywell was awarded $686,000 for a two year study that will evaluate a pilot interface for mitigating sonic boom noise.

For its two year project – Quiet Nozzle Concepts for Low Boom Aircraft, the University of California was awarded $575,000.

Other studies to be awarded funding included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Global Environmental Impact of Supersonic Cruise Aircraft in the Stratosphere ($1.2m over two years), Wyle Laboratories research into The Influence of Turbulence on Shaped Sonic Booms ($1.2m over two years), and Applied Physical Sciences study of Waveforms and Sonic Boom Perception and Response Risk Reduction ($337,000 for one year)

By funding the research projects, NASA hopes to solve the conundrum of how to validate commercial supersonic planes.

The US currently prohibits supersonic flight by commercial aircraft because of the sonic boom, while the European Union bans aircraft that create a sonic boom that can be heard on the ground.

NASA officials have long believed the key to the future of commercial supersonic travel is developing new aircraft which muffle the booms created by exceeding the speed of sound.

Now the challenge is proving the low-boom technology works aided by the new research projects NASA has funded.