Following a series of research flights last year, NASA engineers in 2012 poured over information they gathered from residents near Edwards Air Force Base in California to see how well they did in generating sonic booms with NASA's F/A-18 jet that could barely be heard on the ground. The Waveforms and Sonic boom Perception and Response, or WSPR, project gathered data from a select group of more than 100 volunteers. A final report on the study is due soon.
Another phase of this research began in 2012 with the Farfield Investigation of No Boom Threshold, or FaINT. Using NASA's F/A-18 supersonic jet, project researchers will try to better understand what's happening at the very edge of the sonic boom, or just beyond.
SPACE TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM SHARPEN S CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGIESWith a new set of Space Technology Roadmaps as a guide, NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist and the Space Technology Program continued to make great strides in creating the new knowledge and capabilities needed for NASA's current and future missions in 2012. NASA's Space Technology Program is innovating, developing, testing, and flying technology for use in NASA's future missions and by the greater aerospace community. With more than 800 projects under way, many of which are partnering with universities and industry, the program continues to meet milestones and advance NASA's technology capabilities. This year, NASA's Space Technology Program launched and successfully demonstrated a hypersonic inflatable reentry vehicle, proving that inflatable heat shields are viable for safely slowing large-mass payloads during their fiery entry through planetary atmospheres, like those of Earth or Mars. NASA continues to invest in and create new enabling robotic technologies that aid in future exploration while also having applications here one Earth, potentially helping paraplegics walk and aiding in other medical rehabilitation efforts. Investments in improved woven thermal protection systems also made strides this year using commercially available 3-D weaving techniques, reducing life cycle costs and allowing for sustainable and scalable space missions.