Nozzle Acoustic Test Rig (NATR)
The Nozzle Acoustic Test Rig (NATR), a free-jet wind tunnel, plays a key role in evaluating jet noise reduction concepts so that only the most promising concepts are selected for full-scale engine tests. Scale models of nozzles from both military and commercial aircraft engines can be tested in the NATR, which is one of three test rigs housed in the NASA Glenn Aero-Acoustic Propulsion Lab. The NATR can simulate take-off and landing flight conditions up to Mach 0.35. A jet engine simulator with up to three streams of air at a variety of pressures and temperatures simulate the flow of a turbofan engine to evaluate advanced nozzle concepts. The arc of microphones overhead simultaneously measures the far-field noise at all angles, allowing accurate translation of measurements to those of an actual aircraft flying overhead. The NATR enables engineers to evaluate a number of nozzle noise reduction concepts at a fraction of the cost and time required for a full-scale engine test.
Over its 30-year history, NATR has been the origin of many important jet noise breakthroughs. First built to support jet noise testing for the High-Speed Research program on commercial supersonic airliners, the facility has hosted many test programs led by NASA and industry. The chevron nozzles seen flying on today’s aircraft were first ‘discovered’ during a NASA-led test campaign in 1997. Over the years industry has used the rig to develop noise prediction methods for near-term designs. NASA has explored low-noise concepts for engines that are not yet available, such as engines with dual-fan systems. Recent tests have measured the noise likely to be heard from supersonic airliners, reducing the risk that these unique aircraft will not be allowed to fly from current airports. The tests also point to technologies to reduce their noise, allowing the aircraft designers to make the aircraft more efficient and environmentally acceptable.
The ability to test nozzle with flight is critical, as this has a strong impact on the noise produced by the relative velocity of the jet and the surrounding air, and it is a key feature allowing noise measurements to be directly transformed to what would be heard from a real airplane flying overhead. The large size of the anechoic space around the NATR is also critical to measuring the true acoustic far-field of the jet nozzle. The NATR in the Aero-Acoustic Propulsion Lab is one of the very few facilities in the world where these measurements are possible, and the only facility where both flow diagnostics and acoustics can be made on the same rig, a key capability in understanding the relationship between jet flow and noise.