You won’t have to wonder what NASA’s quiet supersonic technology sounds like in person — if you live in the right part of Texas, that is. The administration plans to conduct a series of public tests around the coastal city of Galveston in November. The F/A-18 Hornet aircraft at the heart of the tests will perform dive maneuvers that produce louder sonic booms out at sea, while quieter sonic “thumps” will take place over Galveston proper. After that, “at least” 500 local volunteers will provide feedback on what they heard, while audio sensors will provide more definitive noise readings.
Officials hope the Hornet tests will gauge the sonic boom levels that everyday residents deem acceptable. That, in turn, will help NASA’s X-59 supersonic jet team verify their noise level theories while they’re still constructing the aircraft. Just don’t expect to see the X-59 itself flying overhead any time soon — the X-59 isn’t expected to start flight testing until 2021, and community overflights won’t happen until 2023. Think of the Galveston test as more of a peek at the future of air travel rather than a sign that more supersonic flights are right around the corner.
If you want a preview, skip to the 43-second mark in the video below for a regular boom, and 2:34 for the quieter thumps.