We could be looking at the start of a renaissance in super-fast, supersonic jet travel, thanks to a new NASA initiative to potentially build a cutting-edge fleet of “X-planes.” The artist's rendering is in the shot above.
NASA has awarded a $20 million contract for the preliminary design of a “low boom” flight demonstration aircraft. The craft is set to be the first in a series of "X-planes" as part of NASA's New Aviation Horizons initiative. NASA chose Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, Calif., to put together a preliminary design for what is being dubbed the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST).
“NASA is working hard to make flight greener, safer and quieter – all while developing aircraft that travel faster, and building an aviation system that operates more efficiently,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “To that end, it’s worth noting that it's been almost 70 years since Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 as part of our predecessor agency's high speed research. Now we’re continuing that supersonic X-plane legacy with this preliminary design award for a quieter supersonic jet with an aim toward passenger flight."
The big selling point with this project is getting the jet down to acceptable noise levels, and NASA’s been conducting studies on that topic for a while now. Because, well, supersonic jets are typically very loud. The goal is to reduce the “boom!” to a “thump,” essentially.
Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will develop baseline aircraft requirements, a preliminary design, and detailed specifications for the jet. From there, the design document will be used for building and testing the mythical new “X-plane.”
Give it a few decades, and we could be blasting across the country at 800+ miles per hour.