Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
These groundbreaking photos of Air Force jets creating supersonic shockwaves are trippy as hell
NASA is celebrating the fact that it recently photographed the interaction of shockwaves from two supersonic aircrafts in flight for the first time by sharing the fascinating images.
The U.S. space agency says that this accomplishment was 10 years in the making, and that it represents a significant milestone for its Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. The images featured at the top of this post were made during recent Air-to-Air Background Oriented Schlieren flights at a base in Edwards, California.
These flights reportedly saw the successful testing of an upgraded system that makes high-quality images of shockwaves possible. NASA says that shockwaves happen when "aircraft merge together as they travel through the atmosphere and are responsible for what is heard on the ground as a sonic boom."
"We never dreamt that it would be this clear, this beautiful," J.T. Heineck, NASA physical scientist at the Ames Research Center, said in a news release. "I am ecstatic about how these images turned out.
"With this upgraded system, we have, by an order of magnitude, improved both the speed and quality of our imagery from previous research.
During the tests featured in these images, the space agency says it used two T-38 U.S. Air Force jets flying in formation at supersonic speeds about 30 feet from each other. The T-38 flying behind is said to be about 10 feet lower than the one in the lead.
"With exceptional clarity, the flow of the shockwaves from both aircraft is seen, and for the first time, the interaction of the shocks can be seen in flight," NASA writes.
This work is part of NASA's efforts to make the commercialization of supersonic travel possible. Supersonic flights are typically not allowed over land, so results from the space agency's series of tests will recommend new standards to replace existing restrictions.
As for what these tests could lead to that matters to the general public, the goal "is to eventually accommodate jets that can fly from New York to Los Angeles in two hours."
In regards to the upgrading imaging system that captured the photos at the top of this page, the space agency says it will be used to capture "crucial data" to confirm the design of its $247.5 million X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane.
"What's interesting is, if you look at the rear T-38, you see these shocks kind of interact in a curve," Neal Smith, a research engineer with Aerospace Computing at the NASA Ames center, said in the release.
"This is because the trailing T-38 is flying in the wake of the leading aircraft, so the shocks are going to be shaped differently. This data is really going to help us advance our understanding of how these shocks interact."
NASA awarded Lockheed Martin a $247.5 million contract to build its experimental X-Plane back in April 2018. Once the plane is fully tested and deemed safe to fly in the National Airspace, it will begin making "supersonic flights over select communities to measure residents' reactions" in 2022.
The X-plane's design is based on a Lockheed Martin preliminary design, which will make an aircraft 94 feet long with a wingspan of 29.5 feet and weigh in at 32,300 pounds with a full tank of fuel.
Once complete and ready for flight, the space agency says the plane will cruise at an altitude of 55,000 feet at 940 mph, and that its top speed will be a projected 990 mph with one pilot in the cockpit.
"The data from the AirBOS (Air-to-Air Background Oriented Schlieren) flights will continue to undergo analysis, helping NASA refine the techniques for these tests to improve data further, with future flights potentially taking place at higher altitudes," NASA writes.
"These efforts will help advance knowledge of the characteristics of shockwaves as NASA progresses toward quiet supersonic research flights with the X-59, and closer toward a major milestone in aviation."
©2019 MLive.com, Walker, Mich. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
WATCH NEXT: The U-2 At The Edge Of Space
The United States sent Navy and Coast Guard ships through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, the military said, as the United States increases the frequency of movement through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China.
The voyage risks further raising tensions with China but will likely be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from Washington amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election did not find that any U.S. or Trump campaign officials knowingly conspired with Russia, according to details released on Sunday.
Attorney General William Barr sent a summary of conclusions from the report to congressional leaders and the media on Sunday afternoon. Mueller concluded his investigation on Friday after nearly two years, turning in a report to the top U.S. law enforcement officer.
Read Barr's letter to congressional leaders below:
This is a developing story and will be updated with new information as it becomes available.
The Department of Defense on Saturday identified the two soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan's Kunduz Province on Friday as an explosive ordnance disposal tech and a Green Beret.
CARACAS (Reuters) - Two Russian air force planes landed in Venezuela's main airport on Saturday carrying a Russian defense official and nearly 100 troops, according to a local journalist, amid strengthening ties between Caracas and Moscow.
A flight-tracking website showed that two planes left from a Russian military airport bound for Caracas on Friday, and another flight-tracking site showed that one plane left Caracas on Sunday.
If the Marine Corps is serious about getting ready to take on a near-peer enemy like China in the future, then it's time to fold its 13-year-old special operations command and apply those resources elsewhere.
At least that's the argument one retired Marine officer made this week while presenting ways the service can better prepare for large-scale naval operations – and it's causing quite a stir in the Marine Corps special operations community.