Acoustic theory of sonic boom propagation in an inhomogeneous atmosphere

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute


The thesis develops the acoustic theory of the propagation of the shook waves produced by an aircraft in supersonic flight through an atmosphere in which the speed of sound decreases linearly with altitude. The problem is first studied in terms of the geometry of the rays along which the shock wave travels away from its point of origin and into the surrounding atmosphere. The equation of the rays is derived and certain important properties of the rays are discussed. It is shown how these results lead to a systematic graphical procedure for determining the location of the shock wave of a maneuvering aircraft. The theory is then considered in terms of the geometry of the "wave fronts" which represent the instantaneous positions of the individual disturbances created along the flight path. The shape of a wave front and its growth with time are determined. From this the equations for the envelope of a one-parameter family of wave fronts are obtained. The envelope equations are solved in parametric form and several examples are worked out which show some effects of flight maneuvers upon shock wave propagation.