NASA plans quiet supersonic flight tests over Texas

NASA has revealed plans to conduct 'quiet supersonic' flight tests over Galveston, Texas, in coming days. The tests will involve a pair of F18 jets that'll fly over the city this upcoming November. During the test, these jets will break the sound barrier up to eight times per day while people on the ground listen. The agency ultimately plans to survey hundreds of residents to get data on how they perceive the noise levels.

The information comes from local news source Houston Public Media, which reports that NASA's plans aren't about testing the technology itself, but rather finding out how the noise produced is perceived by people on the ground. Ahead of the tests, the space agency will select 500 people who will listen for the flights and, later on, provide information to NASA.

The tests will operate for several days during November; during that time, NASA will also have noise sensors in the city to gather raw data on the noise level. The residents' responses to the survey will be compared with the noise levels detected by the noise sensors, the combination ultimately helping NASA develop future technology that won't be disruptive to nearby populations.

Quiet supersonic technology is being developed by Lockheed Martin in partnership with NASA, and it aims to "reduce a sonic boom to a gentle thump," according to the company. Lockheed Martin's website explains that its Skunk Works was chosen to design, build and finally test the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator, which will be used to "collect community response data on the acceptability of the quiet sonic boom generated" by the technology.

As it stands, supersonic travel over land is banned by existing regulations. NASA intends to set to an acceptable supersonic noise standard that will pave the way for eliminating those regulations. Once the technology is authorized for use over land, a new type of air travel will be made possible, reducing the amount of time it takes to reach a destination.

SOURCE: Houston Public Media