NASA’s experimental X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) that aims to reduce the sonic boom caused by commercial supersonic flight to just a thump will be launched later this year.

On Wednesday, NASA released two pictures on its Instagram handle of its latest experimental aircraft during a recent sonic boom test inside a wind tunnel. “Using a photographic process called ‘schlieren’, it shows the flow of air around a scale aircraft model, as well as the shock waves and their positions.

NASA Aero engineers have been testing the QueSST technology to make quiet supersonic flight a reality, letting future travellers get to their destinations faster, it said. According to NASA, the latest technology would help in revoking the ban on commercial supersonic flight over land. A sonic boom occurs when the shock waves from an object travelling through the air faster than the speed of sound join before reaching the ground.

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The ban on commercial supersonic flight over land was imposed as sonic booms can generate about 110 decibels of sound energy like that of an explosion. John Wolter, lead researcher on the X-59 sonic boom wind tunnel test, said, “With the X-59, we want to demonstrate that we can reduce the annoying sonic booms to something much quieter, referred to as ‘sonic thumps’.

“The goal is to provide noise and community response data to regulators, which could result in new rules for overland supersonic flight. The test proved that we don’t just have quieter aircraft design, but that we also have the accurate tools needed to predict the noise of future aircraft.”

The aeroplane will travel to Tokyo in March for additional wind tunnel verification testing with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Boeing, NASA added.

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