NASA, Lockheed Martin Unveil Finished X-59


On Friday, NASA and Lockheed Martin displayed the X-59 QueSST (Quiet SuperSonic Technology), the agency’s latest X aircraft designed to break the sound barrier without generating a sonic boom. The aircraft was shown off at a ceremony hosted by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works at its Palmdale, California, research facility. 

According to NASA, the X-59 QueSST is integral to its Low Boom Flight Demonstration project, which gathers data for informing regulations on potential commercial supersonic flight over land. The initiative comes five decades after the FAA banned such flights due to the disruptive noise caused by sonic booms.

NASA says the aircraft is expected to fly at 1.4 times the speed of sound, or 925 mph. Because of its shape and technological innovations (the aircraft is 99.7 feet long and 29.5 feet wide), NASA expects quiet supersonic flight to be possible. “In just a few short years we’ve gone from an ambitious concept to reality. NASA’s X-59 will help change the way we travel, bringing us closer together in much less time,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy in a press release. NASA says the X-59 QueSST is set to make its first flight later this year. 

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. ” NASA’s X-59 will help change the way we travel”

    No, the NASA Deputy Administrator is wrong.
    Planes are getting larger, flying slower, and becoming more fuel efficient.

  2. Another expensive NASA Armstrong boondoggle. The reduction in sonic boom overpressures has already been tested. The theories cum technology is known. THIS machine is being built to see if people it flies over will object to the sound. I worked on an airplane already funded to test the theories involved here … the Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstrator (SSBD) over 20 years ago. Google it. That airplane was funded by … you guessed it … NASA and DARPA and US Navy, et al.

    OK … lets assume that NASA finds out that is true that a reduction in sound levels is OK with the masses … THEN what? Is NASA now working for Boom Aerospace? And just who will fly on an airplane built to fly supersonically? Answer: only the well heeled. The masses will still be flying on Boeings and Airbus’ as Arthur opined. It’s time that someone get command of the budget for NASA. STOP spending our money foolishly!

    • “ And just who will fly on an airplane built to fly supersonically? Answer: only the well heeled.”

      One is only allowed to travel in a mode that is conducive to my economic environment. Anything greater than than, one is “well heeled” and should be included in the next struggle session.

      Anything more than horse and buggy, 20 miles from your domicile of record, and you’re suspect.

  3. boondoggle /boo͞n′dô″gəl, -dŏg″əl/
    Def: I can’t see how this will help me, so it’s a waste of money.

    NASA is the aerospace R&D department of the government. Their job is to push knowledge and physical boundaries to the extent their budgets will allow. R&D is never a boondoggle, but businesses can make any idea into one through mismanagement. That’s not the fault of the scientists, researchers, and theoreticians working the problem.

    Nor are they responsible for the ultimate use their findings may see (“Oppenheimer”). Any R&D program that actually delivers tangible results will be touted by someone higher up in its food chain, in a (justified) attempt to keep someone paying the bills for expanding our knowledge.

    Historically such aeronautical advancements are usually first deployed by the military (cf. observation balloons). I don’t suppose you would object to those “well-heeled” customers using this technology, would you?

    • Boondoggle: “work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.” What home made dictionary did you dig your erroneous definition from, Aviatrexx?

      Look … I spent 27 years at Edwards AFB … I KNOW how things work there both on the USAF side and the NASA side. If it looks, smells and feels like a boondoggle … it’s a boondoggle. Generally, I don’t disagree with your premise — that’s what TRUE research is all about — BUT … at what point does valid research morph into a waste of money and “make work” project? You never heard me say that valid research shouldn’t be attempted. But neither should good money be thrown after bad, either. How many times do you have to do the same job over again before you publish the technical papers and move on. Did you google Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstrator? I trust you did not or you wouldn’t take this stance? A book was written about it; read it before you flap your fingers. And, sticking up for NASA because ‘they’re NASA is not a valid stance either. During and after my USAF careers in aviation, I was widely known for calling a spade a spade … sometimes to the chagrin of folks in charge. That’s what I’m up to here.
      At Airventure 2023, NASA Armstrong people put on a forum about their X-57 Maxwell. I was already hot over that like waste of time so I made a point of attending. When they described the mismanagement that led NASA Armstrong to shut that boondoggle woke program down, I went through the ceiling and confronted them vociferously. They discerned that I knew what I was talking about and could not blather their way out of my questioning but tried. I had the program manager stammering and turning red. They went WAY WAY over budget, produced no discernable learning and finally, someone higher up mercifully pulled the plug on that dumb program. In like manner, that’s what’s going on with the X-59. Basically, they’re reinventing a wheel that has already been invented, tested and works.
      I also attended the forum put on by the X-59 project pilot to see if I’d hear anything valid. I did not. That said and in his defense, HIS job is to safely fly the airplane, so it isn’t HIS doing that they’re wasting money. From where I sit, this program is little more than a way to keep current NASA Armstrong employees working and little more. I also feel that it’s a way to infuse money into Lockheed Martin Palmdale’s coffers, too. In fact, that may well be the bottom line here … that they’re hiding something else going on in the Skunk Works? Stand by for further …
      To watch the same NASA that took a challenge to go to the moon in the 60’s — and did it –doing things like this is disheartening to me. I was at Edwards AFB when they pulled the first lifting body off the lakebed with a highly modified 421 Pontiac convertible because they were operating on a shoestring. THAT was true research. NOW … someone is shoveling massive amounts of money into NASA Armstrong on wasteful projects and needs to be stopped.
      They’re spending 250 million dollars on this program to fly an airplane over people’s heads!

        • I only get angry when people who don’t know what they’re talking about challenge my experience and technical background. Normally, I try to throttle myself but on this project and on the X-57 project, NASA Armstrong is or has wasted half a billion bucks! If that isn’t a reason to be mad … what is

      • What was the reduction of boom achieved by the Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstrator?

        Was that reduction sufficient enough to fly over populated areas?

        What in the proposed reduction of boom for the X-59?

        • Fair question, Bob. A better question would be what was learned and how did they do it. The contractor was charged with taking a worn out F-5E USMC aggressor airplane and more or less reshaping it to reduce the shock wave using some theories that were already known. After local flight test control validation in FL, it was flown to NASA Dryden (now Armstrong) at Edwards AFB for the actual measurements. Using airborne and ground instrumentation sensors, the SSBD airplane was flown followed by a regular F-5E to make the comparisons. So it was validated that the theories that led to the shaping redesign did work. The modified airplane can be seen at the Valiant Air Museum in Titusville, FL for anyone desiring a look. The X-59 WILL reduce the shock wave overpressure … how would it not. But no one is going to build a supersonic airliner that looks like it so what’s the point? Anyone desiring to build a “quiet” supersonic airliner (Boom Aerospace) will have to test their specific design; any data from the X-59 will not be valid. The ONLY point to be gained is what will people it flies over think of the “thump” from the airplane. Great … but has absolutely no relevance to the Boom final design or any other. Each airframe will have to be tested to determine the amount of sonic boom reduction. Therein lies MY rub on this program. BTW: Boom is imminently going to test a scale model of their larger airplane out of the Mojave airport. Fine … but the same problem will occur when they scale it up the design to the real deal.
          The ONLY positive thing I can say about the X-59 is that they’ll get an airplane out of it. On the X-57, they didn’t even get that.

  4. Forgot to mention that the cockpit is half way down the fuselage and there is no front view for pilots, only screens.
    Where there are screens there are computers, and soon no pilots…

  5. Aerion has been working on this for 20+ years. The anti-fossil-fuel, anti-private-jet class warfare politics of Obama and Biden have taken their toll.

    • I knew some political knuckle draggers would rumble their way into the conversation – the aviation community has more than its fair share of them. That said, I’d cancel the damn thing, too – mainly because it’s so ugly.

  6. I assume there’s a flush mounted camera lens on the belly so the pilot – if one is to be installed – can see what’s happening during landing. Because the top-mounted shock wave generator and the canard-ish surfaces aren’t going to help.

  7. Here’s what everyone is missing-

    While attenuating the supersonic shock wave is enviable, the thing will end up being banned at airports due to its TAKEOFF NOISE footprint. One must assume that given that wing planform, that it will require afterburner for takeoff and acceleration through transonic.

    Whatever the final form a supersonic airliner takes, it will likely be economically unviable anytime it flies eastbound. Concorde never made money flying eastbound due to the timezone vs flight time phenomenon. It makes departure times unattractive. For the vast majority of city pairs in the world, passengers would rather leave in the evenings, enjoy a meal, and enjoy a long nap on their way to a morning arrival.

  8. Supersonic transport of the masses is a long long way off if it ever comes at all. Molecular transportation may be here sooner. Outside of the military, any use of the X-57 X-59 technology at all will be in the private corporate area where, due to the huge incomes of many individuals, the time savings and prestige may justify it.