Sonic booms aren't just cheesy ranged weapons that Guile from Street Fighter uses to defend his epic flat-top. They're the result of an aircraft breaking the sound barrier. And they can be loud enough to deafen E. Honda.
The nerve-rattling noise factor has restricted much supersonic travel to the world's oceans, limiting intercontinental flight to sub-Mach speeds. But a series of experiments being conducted by NASA are aimed at enabling a new generation of supersonic crafts that can dampen or even eliminate sonic booms.
NASA aerospace engineer Ed Haering today answered reader questions about "what it's like to try to tame a sonic boom," and included images of an F-15B prototype (left) modified with the awesome-looking Unicorn-like "Quiet Spike."
The retractable, 24-foot-long spike is mounted to the nose of the aircraft and creates three smaller shockwaves that travel all the way to the ground in parallel instead of building up to a sonic boom. That configuration greatly reduces noise when the aircraft goes Mach 1, or about 760 mph, the speed of sound at sea level. … Read more