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NASA fabricates network cables for supersonic flight testing tech

Written by Wed 25 Nov 2020

QueSST community testing flights could pave the way for commercial supersonic flight over land

NASA is building network cables that transfer data during supersonic flight as part of a project to demonstrate the possibility of flying quietly at faster-than-sound speeds.

The space agency has developed new technology for its experimental Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane (QueSST), that it claimed reduces loud sonic booms typically heard below aircraft flying at supersonic speeds to a noise similar to a car closing at distance.

Before X-59 jets through the atmosphere, NASA must validate the plane’s acoustic signature through tests. The space agency has coined another acronym for the group at Armstrong Flight Research Center in California developing the tools and techniques to execute these tests – SCHAMROQ – short for Schlieren, Airborne Measurements, and Range Operations for QueSST.

Among these tools is a device that evaluates the characteristics of the X-59’s shockwaves while in flight, a schlieren photography technique that visualizes the X-59’s shockwaves as they distort light through a camera, and navigation software that allows pilots to fly accurately during testing.

All of this technology will be placed on a NASA F-15 research aircraft which will follow the X-59 in the sky during flight tests to collect data. Which is where the custom cables come in – NASA needed to fabricate a network switch and cables that could support a network for the technology onboard the NASA F-15 during the supersonic flight tests.

When Covid impacted its fabrication capabilities, the Armstrong Center contacted the Kennedy Center at the eleventh-hour to build the networking technology the project needed to stay on track.

“We have this big effort to instrument and put all the research systems into the F-15 that allows it to fly all of these technologies,” said Matthew Moholt, deputy project manager for SCHAMROQ.

“As the pandemic hit, it was right in the peak of getting instrumentation wiring put through it so that all of our instrumentation systems could get put in, and our electronic fabrication shop was impacted by that,” he said, adding that the Kenned Center identified onsite subcontractors capable of fabricating and designing the cables.

QueSST community testing flights will soon commence and data will be presented to U.S. and international regulators to help craft new noise-based rules that may enable commercial supersonic flight over land.

Written by Wed 25 Nov 2020


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