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Award Winners for Supersonic Inlet Design Announced
October 3, 2011

The NASA shuttle program has ended, but the agency’s work in advancing aeronautics and space research continues. University of Virginia (U.Va.) aerospace engineers are being recognized for their significant role in this new era for NASA. They are conducting research that will allow aircraft to fly quietly at supersonic speeds.

A collaborative research team involving the University of Virginia, University of Illinois, Rolls-Royce, Gulfstream Aerospace and NASA was recently announced as the winner of the NASA Group Achievement Award for the Large-Scale Low-Boom (LSLB) Inlet Model Design and Test.

The group’s technology will one day by used to allow aircraft to fly across the country at supersonic speeds, meaning that a plane trip from New York to Los Angeles would be reduced from six hours to three hours.

Currently, commercial aircraft are not permitted to travel faster than Mach 1 over land. This is due to noise from the sonic boom created at higher speeds. An aircraft designed to reduce the sonic boom heard on the ground, and a change in federal law, would allow for travel at well over Mach 1.

The inlet design employed novel vortex generators for flow control and was led by Eric Loth, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. The multi-institutional project also resulted in eight invited papers at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Applied Aerodynamics Conference, held in July.

The team was honored for its significant contributions to the supersonics project’s technical challenges of cruise efficiency and sonic-boom reduction. It was also commended for the innovative design, engineering and manufacturing efforts that enabled the successful on-schedule completion of the testing of the LSLB inlet.

The $2 million research project was conducted over the past three and half years and included experimental research at the University of Illinois, and simulations at the University of Virginia. The model was designed by Gulfstream, and the bulk of the testing occurred at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Rolls-Royce engineers provided input throughout the project.

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