Researching the Environmental Effects of a Supersonic Passenger Jet
National Aeronautics andSpace Administration
Hampton, Virginia 23681-0001
NASA’s High-Speed Research Program
gram, an international team of scientists developedglobal atmospheric computer models to predict theimpact of various engine exhausts on stratosphericozone. In addition, a converted military spy planecalled the ER-2, along with ground-launched bal-loons, was used to make measurements in the strato-sphere. The ER-2 was also used to measure engineexhausts from the Concorde supersonic transport.Current predictions using these computer modelsshow almost no impact on stratospheric ozone by afleet of 500 High-Speed Civil Transports (HSCTs)whose engine combustors produce ultra-low levels of NO
. Designing these cleaner engines has alsoproven feasible. Laboratory tests of advanced com-bustion techniques have been very successful inimproving fuel efficiency, along with reducing ozone-destroying emissions from the engine exhausts.
Minimizing Jet Noise
Any future supersonic airliner will operate from
A Supersonic Passenger Jet for the Future
With air travel expected to double in the next fiveto 10 years, NASA and its industry partners havebeen working on a concept for an environmentally-friendly supersonic passenger jet. This jet would fly300 passengers at more than 1,500 miles per hour(twice the speed of sound) across the Pacific orAtlantic oceans –– all in less than half the time of modern jets. Ticket prices would be about 20 percentabove comparable, slower flights.Work to make this jet a reality began in 1990 withPhase 1 of the NASA High-Speed Research (HSR)program. The HSR program, now in Phase 2, issupported by a team of U.S. aerospace companies. Apossible market for about 500 of these jets betweenthe turn of the century and 2015 may mean more than$200 billion in sales, creating a positive balance of trade, and a potential of 140,000 new jobs in theUnited States.
Ozone Destruction in the Atmosphere
n the early 1970s, the most publicized environ-mental concern about a future fleet of supersonictransports was the possible destruction of ozone inthe Earth’s upper atmosphere due to pollutants in the jets’ engine exhausts. The ozone layer protects life onEarth from the Sun’s ultraviolet rays by absorbingthose rays. In the process, the ozone molecules arebroken apart into individual oxygen molecules. In theabsence of other chemicals, the oxygen moleculessoon reunite to form more ozone molecules. If certainchemicals (oxides of Nitrogen – NO
) are present,however, this ozone rejuvenation process can bedelayed or eliminated.To address the possibility of ozone destruction,the HSR Atmospheric Effects of StratosphericAircraft program was formed. As part of this pro-
The ER-2, a converted military spy plane, mademeasurements in the stratosphere to predict the impact of engine exhausts on ozone, and to measure engine exhausts from the Concorde.