Engine Installed On NASA X-59 Quiet Supersonic Demonstrator


NASA announced this week that the engine for its X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) research aircraft has been installed. Installation of the engine, a F414-GE-100 from General Electric Aviation, was completed at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California. The X-59, which was designed to “reduce the sound of sonic booms … to a quiet sonic ‘thump,’” is currently slated to fly for the first time in 2023 with demonstration flights over communities around the U.S. planned for 2025.

“The engine installation is the culmination of years of design and planning by the NASA, Lockheed Martin, and General Electric Aviation teams,” said Ray Castner, NASA propulsion performance lead for the X-59. “I am both impressed with and proud of this combined team that’s spent the past few months developing the key procedures, which allowed for a smooth installation.”

The X-59 is expected to be capable for flying at speeds of up to Mach 1.4 and reaching an altitude of around 55,000 feet. According to NASA, data gathered from QueSST demonstration flights will be used to explore the possibility of allowing commercial supersonic flight over land. As previously reported by AVweb, the $247 million contract to build the X-59 was awarded to Lockheed Martin in 2018.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. Why does the propulsion method matter with regards to sonic boom? The boom is from the plane itself breaking the sound barrier. The engine that gets it there does not matter.

    Consider the different sounds of subsonic vs. supersonic bullets. There is no engine at all involved with either.

  2. Not sure about how an engine would affect a sonic boom but larger supersonic planes need afterburning engines to develop enough thrust to go faster than mach 1. Don’t know of any “quiet” afterburning engines.

  3. Heard Concorde take off on numerous occasions. It was loud, very loud, growing every other engine noise around it. I also lived on the English south coast for a few years, and every night, at around 9pm there would be an intense, window shaking but not too loud boom from the channel, around 40 km away, as Concorde passed the sound barrier. Given that Concorde was probably in mid channel, around 40 km from the shore, the boom must have travelled 80 km or so. No engine noise from that.
    So my take is that even if you reduce it to a thump, it will still shake windows, set off car alarms and upset people on the ground. Like living in a mining town when they blast. Many miners do not live near where they work, for that reason.

  4. Tell me again why we are doing this? This just seems like a complete waste of tax payer money. Considering the other companies taking the same approach have either gone bankrupt or run out of money, I am not sure I get it.

    • Joe, my son has a saying that is dead-on in all of things, particularly when politics are involved. It is “Follow the money.” I believe that will, for the very most part, answer you question! Make sense? Nope. But, follow the money.

  5. I think the money might be better spent on psycho/socio/economic research to discover paths that will provide technology that will demonstrate how people can cooperate and live in peace–something which seems to continually allude the species even as our technological knowledge expands at a lightning pace.

  6. I wonder if some people even read the articles before compulsively jumping in to criticize any innovation that’s reported in the Avweb comment section. Because, nowhere is it stated or even implied that the engine itself is supposed to make a difference in the sonic boom. The article is simply reporting a milestone in the development of the aircraft.

    As for whether NASA should be funding research into new aerospace designs – um, well that is kind of exactly what they have always done. And not a lot of companies have huge wind tunnels to test stuff like this so it makes perfect sense for them to be involved.

    Quite honestly I don’t even know if I think that non-booming Mach 1+ air transportation would be a good thing. But these straw man criticisms just rub me the wrong way.