Aircraft

X-59 supersonic test aircraft gets final assembly nod

X-59 supersonic test aircraft ...
Illustration of the completed X-59 QueSST making a landing
Illustration of the completed X-59 QueSST making a landing
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The X-59 being assembled
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The X-59 being assembled
Illustration of the completed X-59 QueSST making a landing
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Illustration of the completed X-59 QueSST making a landing

NASA's X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) supersonic X-plane has passed its final development milestone and is going on to final assembly. Designed to advance technologies for the next generation of commercial supersonic airliners, senior managers greenlighted the next phase in the project on December 12, 2019, after the Key Decision Point-D (KDP-D) management review at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Scheduled to fly in 2021, the X-59 is being built at Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works factory in Palmdale, California, under a US$247.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract. When completed, the research aircraft will be able to cruise at an altitude of 55,000 ft (17,000 m) at a speed of Mach 1.27 (940 mph, 1,512 km/h), yet produce a sonic boom of only 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB) – about as loud as a car door closing.

The purpose of the X-59 is not only to demonstrate new technologies that will minimize the infamous sonic boom, but will also fly over special sensor arrays and various US communities to gather technical data and gauge public reactions to the aircraft, which will be used to rewrite American environmental regulations that were first drafted in the 1970s and were often prejudicial to overland commercial supersonic flight.

The X-59 being assembled
The X-59 being assembled

Final assembly and systems integration is slated for completion towards the end of 2020 with the first flight slated for 2021.

"With the completion of KDP-D we’ve shown the project is on schedule, it’s well planned and on track. We have everything in place to continue this historic research mission for the nation’s air-traveling public," says Bob Pearce, NASA’s associate administrator for Aeronautics.

Source: NASA

12 comments
jsopr
Yay, now hundreds of millions of people can enjoy the continual sound of car doors slamming so the 1% can fly to Aspen and Davos a bit faster.
Derek Howe
I don't share jsopr point of view.
I think this is great, this tech is pushing the boundaries of air travel, this is what will enable supersonic travel for the masses, and not just a new Concorde (which could only fly over water because of it's sonic boom).
With maglev trains continuing to get faster, airlines haven't increased their speed in many decades. This will allow a future 797 to be supersonic, anywhere on Earth. Getting people to their destinations faster, who wouldn't want a shorter flight time.
aratuk
At 17000 meters, 1512kph would be Mach 1.42, because the speed of sound is lower at that altitude than at sea level. Is 1512kph even the cruising speed at that altitude, or is this an arbitrary combination of speeds and altitudes that the craft is capable of at different times?
bkwanab
It's time for a high carbon tax. So high that the 1% become members of the 99% if they continue to pollute the atmosphere and accelerate climate change even quicker than they are now
Douglas Rogers
I remember sitting on the third floor of Norwood Hall in Rolla when MacDonald Douglas flew over supersonic. Got a pretty solid "kick in the pants" from the wood floor! Some people complained of nail popping on drywall.
buzzclick
Instead of developing air travel that is less polluting and more efficient, we're going back in time to get people to their destinations faster with a 75% less boom. Think about that. With all the issues being dealt with in our modern age, is this appropriate? The fact that only a select few will get to enjoy this marvelously unnecessary and retro-future achievement will be the wealthy is so wrong. On top of all that, when these lucky few get to their destinations, they may spend more time in traffic or the train on the last leg of the trip. Just like the Concorde, these jets will need longer runways as well. We're saving six cents to spend half a dozen.
Mortarman
Wow! The reactionary comments here are seriously ridiculous. This is a technology demonstration project and NOBODY knows what commercialization looks like, or even IF it'll be commercialized!

Everyone needs to listen to Aaron Rodgers and R-E-L-A-X.
Terry
Seems to me the government is going to use us as test subjects again without our permission.
TourNut
I'm impressed , that is one sleek aircraft !
BlueOak
Haha, the silly doomsday comments. Please. This is very cool tech. Relax.