Aaron Erb Awarded NASA Pathways Internship to Work on Quiet Supersonic Aircraft

Illustration of NASA’s planned Low Boom Flight Demonstration aircraft developed under its Commercial Supersonic Technology (CST) program. (Picture courtesy of NASA).

Aaron Erb, a Ph.D. student in aerospace engineering at Missouri S&T, has recently been awarded a prestigious Pathways Internship with the Vehicle Analysis Branch of the NASA Langley Research Center. Through the Pathways Internship, Aaron will complete a minimum of 640 hours as a member of the research team at NASA while working on a research project towards his graduate degree, with an opportunity to be hired full-time after the completion of his Ph.D.

Aaron’s research under this internship focuses on the verification, validation, and uncertainty quantification of turbulence models used in the numerical modeling of supersonic and hypersonic flows, which is conducted under NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology (CST) project. In particular, Aaron’s research will aim to improve the prediction capability of computational fluid dynamics tools used in the analysis and design of next generation low-boom supersonic aircraft being developed by NASA and Lockheed Martin under the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) program. The goal of this program is to achieve successful design and flight demonstration of a supersonic civil transport with a significantly reduced sonic boom (noise) signature. The sonic boom is the result of the shock waves created by aircraft that fly at supersonic or hypersonic speeds. To date, the Concorde remains as the most famous example of a supersonic civil transport which was operational until 2003. It was allowed to fly at supersonic speeds only over the ocean due to the sonic boom problem, which significantly restricted its usage.       

“With a reduced sonic boom signature, the next generation supersonic passenger aircraft will be certified to fly over land at speeds greater than the speed of sound, which will be a significant achievement for high speed air transportation” says Dr. Serhat Hosder, associate professor of aerospace engineering at Missouri S&T and Aaron’s Ph.D. advisor. Besides the prediction and mitigation of sonic boom for supersonic aircraft, Aaron’s research will also focus on the validation and improvement of turbulence models used in the design of hypersonic vehicles that fly at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound.