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Undergraduate Studies Of Supersonic Transport Development

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Aerospace Technical Session

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1295.1 - 15.1295.14



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Paper Authors

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Narayanan Komerath Georgia Institute of Technology

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


1. Abstract

The technical and business case for hydrogen-powered supersonic airliners is re-examined as an exercise in multidisciplinary concept innovation by undergraduates at different levels. A progression of exercises is used. A conceptual design exercise in a freshman introduction course was expanded to modify a conventional hydrocarbon fuelled airliner concept to one using hydrogen fuel, quantifying the economic opportunities in the Carbon Market. Sophomores in research Special Problems were tasked with extending the freshman experience to supersonic airliners, as part of a team including senior students. These students explored radical concepts for such airliners. An upper level aerodynamics course was used to develop technical figures of merit for supersonic hydrogen airliners from basic aerodynamics knowledge. The process identified numerous gaps in the comprehension of the students from their courses. The integration challenge of this project enabled iterative refinement of their understanding. The concepts and analysis approaches taught at each level are seen to have become useful only when subjected to integrated use through several iterations. The paper also demonstrates a process to show how some certainty can be achieved in developing an ambitious advanced concept through the notion of a “figure of merit”. The results have led to a poster presentation and progress towards peer-reviewed archival publication.

2. Introduction

Weary travelers have long dreamt of flying supersonic in spacious comfort across the world. Yet today there appears to be no immediate prospect of the leading airliner manufacturers developing affordable and viable realizations of this dream. This paper explores the notion of using the hydrogen-fueled SST as the focus of undergraduate projects, thereby raising awareness, debunking superstitions and reducing risk enough to trigger inspired thinking among design leaders. Perhaps, this thinking will blossom at least by the time today’s undergraduates rise to decision-making positions in industry. The paper is laid out as follows. The first part defines the issues. The second lays out an approach to address the issues. The third explores the synergy with the aerospace undergraduate curriculum and pedagogy, and the final part reports on technical and pedagogical results from this exploration at our institution.

2.1 The Problem

The Concorde1 and the Tupolev 1442 are famous as 1960s pioneers of an age of supersonic intercontinental travel that promised much, but ultimately did not get beyond the niche market stage. The Tu-144 suffered a fatal crash at the first Air Show where it was exhibited in the West, and regular passenger service was cancelled after only 55 flights citing safety issues. The Concorde on the other hand was widely respected as a technological marvel, whether loved or hated. Airport noise and sonic boom concerns killed its prospects of flying across land, and thus

Komerath, N. (2010, June), Undergraduate Studies Of Supersonic Transport Development Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16969

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