Mach 1: Assaulting the Barrier- page 13 | History | Air & Space Magazine
The Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket (shown here at Edwards Air Force Base circa May 1949) pushed past Mach 2 on November 20, 1953, beating an advanced X-1 to the record. (US Navy via National Air and Space Museum. Photo SI A-5168-C.)

Mach 1: Assaulting the Barrier

In 1947, no airplane had ever gone faster than the speed of sound.

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(Continued from page 10)

As an airplane increases speed, the wave fronts ahead of it get closer and closer together. When the airplane reaches Mach 1, the wavefronts overtake one another and pile up in a concentrated front, a “shock wave.” A shock wave marks an instantaneous change in air pressure, temperature, and density.

Past Mach 1, the combined motions of the airplane and the pressure waves still radiating outward form a conical front, which moves continuously with the airplane and which engineers call a “Mach cone.”


This article first appeared in the December 1990/January 1991 issue of Air & Space.

 

 

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