Aerodynamics of Supersonic Aircraft – Essay Example

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The paper "Aerodynamics of Supersonic Aircraft" is an outstanding example of an essay on engineering and construction. The following paper aims at the discussion of the aerodynamics of a supersonic aircraft. It will include the theory of supersonic flight, the effect of the shock wave, the sonic boom, and supersonic wing designs. The Theory of Supersonic Flight When an aircraft is in flight or flying, there are four forces involved including life, thrust, weight, and drag. Supersonic flight is one of the four forces. Basically, there exist four systems of flight including the subsonic, transonic, supersonic, and hypersonic (May 2015).

An object or aircraft that is in supersonic flight is flying at speeds higher than that of sound. This means that supersonic aircraft fly faster than the speed of sound. According to May, (2015) the speed of sound is approximately 1,236 kilometers per hour (768 miles per hour) at sea level. Supersonic speeds are measured or described by Mach numbers. A Mach number is defined as the ratio of the speed of the airplane to the speed of sound (May 2015).

This means that any flight that is higher than Mach 1 is considered supersonic. One of the common objects that undergo supersonic flight is a bullet. As illustrated in Figure 1, a bullet fired from a firearm travels 1.5 times faster than the speed of sound. Moreover, common military aircraft can also fly at supersonic speeds. According to May, (2015) the Concorde is also the most popular passenger aircraft to fly about twice the speed of sound. Figure 1: Bulletin Supersonic Flight (May 2015). For an aircraft to reach supersonic speeds it requires greater thrust to help push it through the additional drag that is within the transonic region.

For instance, U.S military jets are powered by rockets that add increased thrust greater than common airplanes (see Figure 2). This allows the aircraft to break the sound speed barrier enabling the aircraft to fly at speeds greater than that of sound. Therefore, only powerful aircraft in terms of thrust can be able to fly at supersonic speeds. Figure 2: U. S Military Hornet aircraft flying at supersonic speeds (May 2015). Shock Wave A shock wave is simply air that is pushed aside with great force as objects fly in the air.

According to Anderson, (n. d), a shock wave is an irreversible process triggered by thermal and viscosity conduction effects inside the shock wave. When aircraft are flying at supersonic speeds, the air is molecules around the aircraft are pushed aside in a cone-shaped design (see Figure 3). The shock wave is also the displacement of air molecules as the aircraft flies in air (Gibbs, 2014). As the air is dispersed, it forms a cone of pressed air that moves outward and backward in all directions.

The air moves in a manner that it extends all the way to the ground. The force used to displace air molecules causes the shock wave. Moreover, as seen in Figure 3, all aircraft produce shock waves in the form of a cone at the nose and tailor at the front and back.  

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