NASA Funds Low-Sonic-Boom X-Plane
Lockheed Martin will create a preliminary design for a low-sonic-boom supersonic X-Plane, NASA officials announced on Monday in Washington, D.C. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden noted it's almost 70 years since Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1. "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," Bolden said. The Lockheed Martin research team will complete a preliminary design for an aircraft using Quiet Supersonic Technology, with a budget of about $20 million over 17 months. The next step then will be to build a flying technology demonstrator that will likely be piloted, not a drone, and will be about half the size of a production aircraft.
Lockheed won the contract after submitting design concepts to NASA's Commercial Supersonic Technology Project. The project aims to reduce the usual loud and disruptive sonic boom to a soft thump, or "heartbeat," that should be nearly unnoticeable to listeners on the ground. "Developing, building and flight-testing a quiet supersonic X-plane is the next logical step in our path to enabling the industry's decision to open supersonic travel for the flying public," said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission. Test flights are expected to begin about 2020 if the funding continues. Shin recently announced that NASA's new budget proposal includes a request to fund five new X-Plane projects that aim to transform commercial flight technologies.