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NASA’s X-59 aims to open the sky to new supersonic airlines


Image for NASA's X-59 article that aims to open the skies to new supersonic airlines

Graphics: Lockheed Martin

For nearly three decades, a fraction of humanity could afford to have access to supersonic air travel. The Concorde regularly crosses the North Atlantic for three and a half hours on routes due to Airline British and Air France. However, supersonic passenger flights never travel further west in the United States than international flights on the East Coast. Government restrictions have prevented ear drums and windows from being shattered by sea-to-sea bursts of sound.

QueSST X-59 (Super Quiet Sound Technology)authorized by NASA and developed in cooperation with Lockheed Martin, which is scheduled to make its first flight later this year. The supersonic test plane is at the heart of NASA’s Low Explosive Flight Demonstration program. The goal of the program is to develop technology to mitigate sonic booms and re-evaluate decades-old restrictions on supersonic flight over densely populated areas.

Project participants believe the X-59 will reach a top speed of Mach 1.5 (990 mph) with a General Electric F414 turbofan engine generating 22,000 pounds of thrust. In addition, the significantly reduced shape of the nose of the X-59 means that pilots will not be able to look out the window. The aircraft will be used by NASA Eternal vision system (XVS) to enable forward vision with the use of a high-definition display along with a sensor and camera.

Image for NASA's X-59 article that aims to open the skies to new supersonic airlines

Graphics: NASA

After the X-59 begins flying, the test aircraft will fly over select communities in the United States to measure the effects of muffled explosions. Dave Richwine, the project’s vice president of technology, told Detect, “You will hear something like a heartbeat. Or you might not even hear it if you’re in a noisy environment like a city.” The ultimate goal is for the X-59 to open the skies for passenger flights across the country of a new generation of supersonic aviation like the Boom Overture.



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