NASA orders a supersonic X-Plane, easy on the boom

Lockheed wins Nasa contract to build quiet supersonic jet

Lockheed wins Nasa contract to build quiet supersonic jet

NASA has awarded a contract for the design, building, and testing of a quieter supersonic aircraft - described by the agency's April 3 announcement as one "that reduces a sonic boom to a gentle thump".

This data set will help USA and other worldwide regulators to choose supersonic travel and may welcome commercial markets in faster-than-sound air travel.

The chief engineer at NASA Langley in Hampton, Jay Brandon, said when airplanes fly at a supersonic speed they make sonic booms.

The X-Plane is projected to be built by 2021 and construction of the plane will happen at the Lockheed Martin facility in Palmdale, California, which is where the U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes were built. The last commercial supersonic aircraft was the Concorde, which operated from 1976 to 2003.

"It is super exciting to be back designing and flying X-planes at this scale", said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for aeronautics, NASA.

The partners are seeking to foster technology that can overcome noise restrictions on supersonic flight, which has been banned overland for civil aircraft since 1973. It'll pass that information along to regulators in the United States and overseas to help shape rules governing supersonic flights over land.

The X-plane's configuration will be based on a preliminary design developed by Lockheed Martin under a contract awarded in 2016.

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"Our long tradition of solving the technical barriers of supersonic flight to benefit everyone continues", Shin added.

At a cruising altitude of 16.7km, the X-plane could fly at Mach 1.42, or 1,753km/h. It was these regulations which severely hampered Concorde's use in the 1970s and 1980s; with no possibility to fly at supersonic speeds over the USA, the aircraft could not serve routes to the West Coast.

NASA plans to begin flying the aircraft over select USA cities in mid-2022, and will collect data about community reaction to the noise level.

Listen closely: A quiet, supersonic jet capable of blasting through the sound barrier without emitting a sonic boom could pass over your home as soon as 2022.

Meanwhile Spike Aerospace is hoping to test its S-512 Supersonic Jet by the close of this year.

Much of the engineering is up to Lockheed, of course, but in the end the single-pilot craft will travel at some 940 miles per hour at high altitude - 55,000 feet - and produce around 75 perceived decibels (compared with the Concorde's 90) at ground level.

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