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Student intern researches supersonic flight at NASA

Release Date: January 11, 2013

campbell_spt.jpgMechanical engineering major Stephanie Campbell fulfilled a childhood ambition over the summer when she interned at NASA’s Glenn Research Center through the NASA Aeronautics Scholarship Program. She and her colleagues worked on a problem that has gone unsolved since the dawn of supersonic flight.

Supersonic flight was achieved in 1947, but because of the very loud supersonic boom, it was banned over land in the United States. Engineers have found ways to reduce the decibel level, but NASA has to determine if the proposed designs are safe for transcontinental flights.

When a plane is under stress, reduced mass flow in the redesigned air inlets can create a potentially dangerous phenomenon known as buzz. Campbell used computational fluid dynamics to model the effect of buzz through a process called meshing, which involves the analysis of millions of volume elements to map out the flow under certain conditions.