This is a 1.79 percent scale model of a concept supersonic aircraft designed by The Boeing Company. You're seeing it through a window in the supersonic wind tunnel at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio.
Researchers recently wind tunnel-tested the model's performance while changing the amount of air streaming through inlets you can see near the back of the model, NASA said. The research is part of the agency's work into making supersonic flights quiet enough to go over land.
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While the model is positioned in the test section of a transonic wind tunnel, there is no airflow occurring. These transonic wind tunnels are "blow-down" tunnels, which use rapid discharge of large compressed air tanks to produce a few seconds of supersonic airflow over the model. If there was a test occurring in this picture, you would see visible shock waves propagating over the model from laser or schlerien imagery.
Actually, the transonic tunnel shown here-as well as several across the country-is a continuous flow facility, meaning it uses a motor-driven compressor to allow for non-stop data acquisition. Yes, you can use Schlieren imaging during supersonic tests in order to see the shocks coming across a body, but that is a very special setup that most of the time only allows for a 2D black and white view. The Imaging would most likely use these windows, but shocks cannot be seen by the naked eye. With a normal camera that appears to have taken this photo, it is impossible to tell whether flow is currently occurring.
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