Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Aerospace Engineering Sciences

First Advisor

Ryan Starkey

Second Advisor

Brian Argrow

Third Advisor

Kenneth Jansen

Fourth Advisor

Kenneth Jansen

Fifth Advisor

Vasilyev Oleg


Commercial supersonic travel has strong business potential; however, in order for the Federal Aviation Administration to lift its ban on supersonic flight overland, designers must reduce aircraft sonic boom strength to an acceptable level. An efficient methodology and associated tools for designing aircraft for minimized sonic booms are presented. The computer-based preliminary design tool, RapidF, based on modified linear theory, enables quick assessment of an aircraft's sonic boom with run times less than 30 seconds on a desktop computer. A unique feature of RapidF is that it tracks where on the aircraft each segment of the of the sonic boom came from, enabling precise modifications, speeding the design process. Sonic booms from RapidF are compared to flight test data, showing that it is capability of predicting a sonic boom duration, overpressure, and interior shock locations. After the preliminary design is complete, scaled flight tests should be conducted to validate the low boom design. When conducting such tests, it is insufficient to just scale the length; thus, equations to scale the weight and propagation distance are derived. Using RapidF, a conceptual supersonic business jet design is presented that uses F-function lobe balancing to create a frozen sonic boom using lifting surfaces. The leading shock is reduced from 1.4 to 0.83 psf, and the trailing shock from 1.2 to 0.87 psf, 41% and 28% reductions respectfully. By changing the incidence angle of the surfaces, different sonic boom shapes can be created, and allowing the lobes to be re-balanced for new flight conditions. Computational fluid dynamics is conducted to validate the sonic boom predictions. Off-design analysis is presented that varies weight, altitude, Mach number, and propagation angle, demonstrating that lobe-balance is robust. Finally, the Perceived Level of Loudness metric is analyzed, resulting in a modified design that incorporates other boom minimization techniques to further reduce the sonic boom.