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Welcome to the Beginner's Guide to Compressible Aerodynamics
Image of supersonic airplane
High speed aerodynamics is a special branch of the study of aeronautics. It is often called compressible aerodynamics because, in this flight regime, the compressibility effects of air can not be neglected. The flight regime is characterized by the Mach number which is the ratio of the speed of the aircraft to the local speed of sound. Flight less than the speed of sound is called subsonic, near the speed of sound is transonic, greater than the speed of sound is supersonic, and very much greater than the speed of sound is hypersonic. Different flow phenomenon are present in each of the various flight regimes.

At this Web site you can study high speed aerodynamics at your own pace and to your own level of interest. Some of the topics included are: isentropic flows, oblique, and normal shock waves, and multiple shock interactions. Because high speed aerodynamics involves the generation of heat, there are several pages devoted to basic gas properties, how those properties change through the atmosphere, and some basic thermodynamics.

This site was prepared at NASA Glenn to provide background information on high speed aerodynamics for undergraduates, professionals, and life-long learners. There is a particular emphasis here on the math and science involved with high speed aerodynamics. High school students should be able to make sense of the math and science principles. We include many, small, interactive calculators and simulators which solve the flow equations and are provided to aid your understanding.

This site has been intentionally organized to mirror the unstructured nature of the world wide web. There are many pages here connected to one another through hyperlinks and you can then navigate through the links based on your own interest and inquiry. There is an index of topics that you can access from any page, so you are never more than two clicks away from any other Web page at this site. However, if you prefer a more structured approach, you can also take one of our Guided Tours through the site. Each tour provides a sequence of pages dealing with some aspect of aerodynamics.

NOTICE --- The site has been developed to support Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Many of the pages contain mathematical equations which have been produced graphically and which are too long or complex to provide in an "ALT" tag. For these pages, we have retained the non-compliant graphic at the top of the page and have provided a compliant text version of the equations in the body of the page. In many cases, because of the use of Greek fonts in the graphics, the purely English text version of the equations is slightly different than the graphic version. The differences are noted in the text.

Beginner's Guide Home Page
Beginner's Guide to Aerodynamics
Beginner's Guide to Wind Tunnels
Beginner's Guide to Propulsion
Beginner's Guide to Model Rockets
Beginner's Guide to Kites
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Editor: Nancy Hall
NASA Official: Nancy Hall
Last Updated: May 13 2021

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