NASA ropes in Lockheed Martin to build civilian supersonic low-boom aircraft

Apr 05, 2018, 01:39
NASA ropes in Lockheed Martin to build civilian supersonic low-boom aircraft

It's the next step in NASA's journey toward the next generation in commercial supersonic flight.

It wants the aerospace company to refine, build and test the experimental aircraft - known as the X-plane or "Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator" - and deliver it to NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center by the end of 2021.

Their aim is to make this X-plane fly at supersonic speeds without so much of the big boom of sound that's always come with said speeds.

This data set will help USA and other worldwide regulators to choose supersonic travel and may welcome commercial markets in faster-than-sound air travel.

The aircraft will be built at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California, and will conduct its first flight in 2021.

Space.com says before supersonic planes are allowed to fly over the Continental U.S. they have to prove they don't emit that loud noise.This NASA project will be about 94 feet long, it won't be a commercial aircraft, but assuming it works, it will be adapted to carry passengers.

Supersonic aircraft have not been used commercially since Concorde, a British-French turbojet-powered airliner, was retired in 2003 after 27 years of service. The contract is the culmination of a decade of collaboration, and takes forward a contract awarded in 2016 for preliminary design of the aircraft.

A conceptual graphic of what the NASA X Plane prototype might look like
A conceptual graphic of what the NASA X Plane prototype might look

They hope to use this data to change the rule that prohibits civil supersonic flights over land.

NASA's mission, Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator will have the ability to fly supersonic but without any sonic booms.

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Aerion Corp, a business jet start-up backed by Texas billionaire Robert Bass, is already working on a design that would fly overland just under the speed of sound and then speed up to Mach 1.4 over the ocean. "Our long tradition of solving the technical barriers of supersonic flight to benefit everyone continues", said Shin.

By mid-2022, NASA said it plans to "fly the X-plane over select U.S. cities and collect data about community responses to the flights".

The X plane's sound will be as light as that of a auto door closing. This will "create a sound about as loud as a auto door closing", NASA officials said in the news conference.

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