Measurement of Velocity in a Compressible Flow

The use of a Pitot tube for measuring the velocity of a low-speed, incompressible flow was discussed in Section 3.4. Before progressing further, return to Section 3.4, and review the principal aspects of a Pitot tube, as well as the formulas used to obtain the flow velocity from the Pitot pressure, assuming incompressible flow.

For low-speed, incompressible flow, we saw in Section 3.4 that the velocity can be obtained from a knowledge of both the total pressure and the static pressure at

a point. The total pressure is measured by a Pitot tube, and the static pressure is obtained from a static pressure orifice or by some independent means. The important aspect of Section 3.4 is that the pressure sensed by a Pitot tube, along with the static pressure, is all that is necessary to extract the flow velocity for an incompressible flow. In the present section, we see that the same is true for a compressible flow, both subsonic and supersonic, if we consider the Mach number rather than the velocity. In both subsonic and supersonic compressible flows, a knowledge of the Pitot pressure and the static pressure is sufficient to calculate Mach number, although the formulas are different for each Mach-number regime. Let us examine this matter further.

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