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Shock Wave Basics
This page will cover the basic types of shock waves that a rocket will experience in flight. Subsequent web pages will outline methods of calculating the atmospheric changes that occur as air passes through these shock waves (see page 2). This topic is much more complex than the space on this page will allow, so the information presented here will be brief. If you have questions on these topics, please contact an ASA aerodynamicist. The two main types of shock waves produced by a supersonic body are Normal Shocks and Oblique Shocks. These two types are produced by the same phenomena, but the shape of the supersonic object dictates which type of shock wave is experienced. - Norm al Shock W av es - O blique Shock W av es An Oblique Shock is a sharp edged shock wave A Normal Shock is created by a blunt body in supersonic flow. The same body in a subsonic flow produces waves of sound that propagate ahead of the body, basically “warning” the approaching air stream of the approaching body. These sound waves cause the molecules in the air stream to begin to diverge around the body well in advance of the actual body. When the object is traveling supersonically, however, these sound waves cannot outrun the object, and they pile up a short distance in front of the object. This stacking of sound waves is a Normal shock wave, and it serves to instantaneously force the air to change direction around the body. This effect is also referred to as a Bow Shock, and is shown in the figure depicting a supersonic bullet. below, The next figure shows the companion of oblique shocks, the Expansion Fan. The expansion fan is essentially an infinite number of Mach Waves, and has the opposite effects of an oblique shock. When the airflow is turned around a corner, the temperature, pressure, and density fall as the Mach number rises. that is formed when supersonic flow is turned on itself. These shocks are weaker than Normal Shocks, and although the temperature, pressure, density, and air stream velocity are reduced across the shock similar to the Normal Shock, the air stream behind the shock is not necessarily subsonic. The Mach number behind the Oblique shock is calculated from the upstream Mach number, defined by the angle at which the flow is tuned. The figure below shows a typical oblique shock formed by a sharp angle.

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the air flow downstream of the shock (and therefore seen by the bullet) is always subsonic. as discussed to the right. Oblique Shocks in Blue. The calculations used determine these air properties may be found on Page 2. A Normal Shock. is generally a special case of a common Oblique Shock that typically occurs on supersonic airplanes and rockets. Normal Shocks in red and The figure below shows oblique shocks that originate as a bow shock due to a blunted nose. The following figure is a simple example of the shock waves and expansion fans that a rocket will experience during flight. pressure. Normal shocks and Oblique shocks can be found on the same object when a sharp-edged object also has a blunt surface. The examples below show combined shocks. though. www. and they dictate the air properties down the length of the vehicle. These two typical shock waves formations are experienced in series on supersonic airplanes and rockets. and density dramatically rise as its velocity falls.4/28/13 Aerodynamics Mach number rises. In comparison.asa-houston.htm 2/3 . In the case of the Normal Shock. its temperature. As a unit of air passes through the Normal shock wave. this figure is an example of a bow shock in front of a pitot tube on a nose cone.org/technical/aerodynamics. This can be beneficial (lower velocity airflow) and detrimental (compounding temperature rises). Note that each successive body structure on the rocket experiences dynamic forces in the wake of the previous shock wave.

htm 3/3 . This page summarized the basic design issues that ASA has been working through for the design of our space vehicle. M ach Relationship · Reentry I ssues for O ur Space Flights · Ultra-High Altitude Rocket Recov ery · T he Aerody nam ics v s. Structure T radeoff C onta ct Us www. Mach relationship that defines the aerodynamic efficiency and performance of a supersonic vehicle.org/technical/aerodynamics.asa-houston.4/28/13 Aerodynamics Now that the basic shock formations have been discussed. the equations used to calculate air properties can be covered. Future topics for this page include: · Aerody nam ics of the T LV-7 · Shock W av e Analy sis · T he CD v s. The follow-up presentation to this one will outline the CD vs. These equations and their use can be found on Page 2.

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