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Fri, Dec 09, 2011

NASA Explores Sonic Boom Tolerance

Edwards AFB Residents Volunteer To Be Guinea Pigs

Generally speaking, it's against the law to make supersonic flights over populated areas, where the resulting sonic booms annoy residents and, in severe cases, can break windows. But NASA and the aviation industry are studying technology that will reduce the impact of sonic booms, which could one day clear the way for supersonic coast-to-coast airline flights.

NASA reports its Dryden Flight Research Center recently completed the latest quiet sonic boom research study at Edwards Air Force Base. The Waveforms and Sonic boom Perception and Response project, or WSPR, gathered data from more than 100 residents of the base, who volunteered to provide their individual attitudes toward sonic booms produced by aircraft in supersonic flight over Edwards.

One of the instruments used in the project is called SNOOPI (pictured), short for Supersonic Notification of OverPressure Instrumentation. (The acronym is a play on words. The device is enclosed in a commercial doghouse.) SNOOPI records local sonic booms by date, time and intensity, 24/7. Participants used a standard questionnaire to provide information every time they heard any sonic boom while at home.

The research is interesting, but it seems reasonable to ask whether results obtained from people who choose to live at an air force base will be representative of, say, Santa Monica. Edwards AFB is probably one of only a few places where a sonic boom causes residents to exclaim, "cool!"



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