NASA's new X-plane: The next sonic boom

05 April, 2018, 01:39 | Author: Shannon Aguilar
  • NASA orders a supersonic X-Plane, easy on the boom

Once NASA accepts the aircraft from the contractor in late 2021, the agency will perform additional flight tests to prove the quiet supersonic technology works as designed, aircraft performance is robust, and it's safe to operate in the National Airspace System.

Lockheed Martin has agreed to develop an experimental plane which will cruise 55,000 feet and reach speeds of about 940 miles per hour.

The X-plane will help NASA establish an acceptable commercial supersonic noise standard to overturn current regulations banning commercial supersonic travel over land.

"Supersonic commercial travel is on the horizon", Lockheed Martin wrote on Twitter.

NASA is engaging in the project as three companies are working to develop new-generation supersonic civilian aircraft.

Skunk Works will build the aircraft at its Palmdale, California-based facility in preparation for the plane's initial flight in 2021. Lockheed Martin (LMAC) has been awarded a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract valued at $247.5 million, noted a release by the space agency.

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

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The age of supersonic commercial flight ended with the last Concorde flight in 2003. That data will then be turned over to USA and global regulators to be considered when making new rules on sound for supersonic flights over land.

At a cruising altitude of 16.7km, the X-plane could fly at Mach 1.42, or 1,753km/h. NASA also hopes to reduce the time it takes to travel.

Gulfstream, a unit of General Dynamics Corp, has said it won't attempt to build a supersonic aircraft until it's cleared to fly open-throttle over land and sea.

The answer to how the X-plane's design makes a quiet sonic boom is in the way its uniquely-shaped hull generates supersonic shockwaves.

After receiving the plane from Lockheed Martin in late 2021, NASA plans to conduct a series of flights over certain USA cities to get community feedback on the sound, according to The Times.

The former pilot said he was unconvinced that the X-plane's primary sonic booms will be quieter than Concorde's troublesome secondary booms. The Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator is created to send those shock waves away from each other, which Lockheed Martin says produces a sound about as loud as a vehicle door being closed.

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