Electric Arcs to Quiet Jets

Engineers look for new ways to dull the roar around airports

3 min read

4 August 2004--Talk to people who live or work near an airport, and they will likely complain about the noise. Property prices in areas in the flight paths of busy airports like London's Heathrow reflect the fact that people don't like living near high-decibel noise. In recent years, civic authorities have clamped down on aircraft noise. British authorities, for example, have mandated that noise levels near Heathrow cannot increase from current levels. With more people flying every day, and more-powerful aircraft engines, this means that tomorrow's planes have to be quieter. Engineers are trying both radical airplane redesigns and innovative but less ambitious adjustments to jet engines to meet the demand.

"Noise is a prime design variable," when it comes to designing new engines and new aircraft, said Professor Edward Greitzer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, who is an authority on engine noise. He and colleagues at MIT are collaborating with researchers Cambridge University, England, on the Silent Aircraft Initiative, an ambitious project launched last year to take a fresh look at aircraft design.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

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