CLEVELAND – 16 Feb 11
USRP Intern Flies Toward a Quieter Tomorrow
By: Heather L. Ogletree
Living near an airport is not quiet to say the least, and due to the amount of noise caused by air traffic, regulations are in place to restrict the amount of noise pollution allowed over commercial airspace.
Now imagine being able to take a commercial flight that takes off from Los Angeles and arrives in New York 3 hours later, versus the 5 hours it currently takes to travel between the two hubs. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Yet, to arrive in New York in 3 hours, a plane would have to travel at speeds of 800 mph, 40 miles over the sound barrier, and once an aircraft breaks the sound barrier, it does not comply with the aforementioned noise restrictions, making it against the law. Therefore, until technology is developed to mitigate this residual effect, advancements in the commercial air travel industry will continue to remain stagnant.
When Robert Reger of the University of Florida accepted his NASA Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP) internship, he was no stranger to the sonic boom; he had already been working on a sonic boom mitigation project led by Dr. Gecheng Zha at the University of Miami. Then in August of 2010, Reger traveled to Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, to work with USRP Mentor Stefanie Hirt on a 15-week project entitled “Large-Scale Low-Boom Inlet Research.”
According to Hirt, “Research is needed to enable the reduction of sonic boom for supersonic cruise over land.”
This has been an on-going endeavor at Glenn, which proved to be a challenge for Reger at first. He said, “I jumped into the project at a very advanced stage. Small scale testing and design has been going on with this model for years with the same team and I had to come in and understand everything in just a few weeks.”
However, Reger enjoyed the testing process. “The best part of testing was that it was very group oriented and interactive; everyone was always discussing what we were seeing and decisions were made quickly and efficiently,” he explained. On top of that, some of the tests Reger witnessed were conducted in Glenn’s state-of-the-art 8 by 6 ft. supersonic wind tunnel.
This project has far reaching implications if a way is found to mitigate the effects of sonic boom during flight. Reger noted, “With populations growing continually, we not only need to move people from place to place faster, but we also need to do it in a way that decreases the area that is impacted by aircraft noise.”
Before interning with USRP, Reger also completed internships with Northrop Grumman and the Pentagon for the Department of Defense. When he graduates next year, Reger plans to attend graduate school for aerodynamics or aero-acoustics and hopes to one day come back to NASA as a researcher.
After working with Hirt through USRP, Reger advises future interns to “Work Hard! The harder you work during the internship the more you will get out of it.”