Aircraft

Lockheed Martin supersonic jet hits the wind tunnel – in model form

Lockheed Martin supersonic jet...
Artist's concept of Lockheed Martin’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane
Artist's concept of Lockheed Martin’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane
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Artist's concept of Lockheed Martin’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane
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Artist's concept of Lockheed Martin’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane
Mechanical technician Dan Pitts prepares a nine percent scale model of Lockheed Martin’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane preliminary design for its first high-speed wind tunnel test
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Mechanical technician Dan Pitts prepares a nine percent scale model of Lockheed Martin’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane preliminary design for its first high-speed wind tunnel test

Last March, NASA announced that as part of its New Aviation Horizons initiative, Lockheed Martin had been chosen to develop a manned demonstrator aircraft called the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane. It would be used to test technologies that would make commercial supersonic aircraft quiet enough to fly over land. Eleven months later, Lockheed and the agency are ready to take the next step as a nine-percent scale model starts wind tunnel tests at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

NASA says that the bespoke metal model will spend the next eight weeks in the 8 x 6 ft (2.4 x 1.8 m) Supersonic Wind Tunnel, which is capable of subjecting the QueSST to wind speeds from Mach 0.3 to Mach 1.6 (about 150 to 950 mph, 241 to 1,530 km/h) as the engineers learn more about the aircraft's aerodynamics and propulsion system.

According to aerospace engineer Ray Castner, the tests will include measurements of QueSST's lift, drag, and side forces as well as how the air moves around the engine nacelles. The idea is to subject the model to all the conditions from takeoff to supersonic cruising to landing, using the variability of Glenn's tunnel.

Mechanical technician Dan Pitts prepares a nine percent scale model of Lockheed Martin’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane preliminary design for its first high-speed wind tunnel test
Mechanical technician Dan Pitts prepares a nine percent scale model of Lockheed Martin’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane preliminary design for its first high-speed wind tunnel test

The purpose of QueSST, which is still in the early stages of design, is to create a supersonic airplane that is able to spread out its shock wave in such a way that when it reaches the ground it's heard as a soft thump rather than an ear-shattering boom.

The wind tunnel tests are scheduled to continue until the middle of this year. If successful and the funding is available, the mature design will then go on to final design, fabrication, and testing.

"Our unique aircraft design is shaped to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight, dramatically reducing the aircraft's loudness," says Peter Losifidis, QueSST program manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. "Our design reduces the airplane's noise signature to more of a 'heartbeat' instead of the traditional sonic boom that's associated with current supersonic aircraft in flight today."

The video below shows the wind tunnel model being assembled.

Time-Lapse Assembly of NASA Supersonic Model

Source: NASA

4 comments
Jimjam
I think Reaction Engines might have the better approach with their Mach 5 air breathing hybrid rocket turbine Lapcat craft. It can fly from London to Sydney in 4.5 hours via the north pole. So could fly from Europe to the West coast of the americas or east cost of asia in less time than that. The US department of defense is investing heavily in this technology.
Digitalclips
So some 40 years later it's far slower than a commercial airliner called Concorde? That's progress?
habakak
It's all about the cost of energy. Until we have a dramatic breakthrough in the cost of operating a plane like this, it will not happen.
Nelson Hyde Chick
It might go with less noise, but it will still take more energy to fly the same amount of miles.