NASA Marks Halfway Point In Supersonic X-Plane Construction


Construction of NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft has reached the halfway point, according to an announcement from the agency last week. The X-59 is being assembled by Lockheed Martin at the company’s facility in Palmdale, California. NASA also announced that it has awarded Lockheed Martin a $40 million contract to provide support for the community overflight response phase of the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) mission.

“In 2024, NASA will fly the X-59 over select communities to measure public perception of the sound,” the agency said. “The data from these tests will be given to U.S. and international regulators, potentially opening the future to commercial supersonic flight over land.”

As previously reported by AVweb, NASA officially cleared the X-59 QueSST aircraft for final assembly in December 2019. Construction and systems integration are expected to be completed next year with the aircraft’s first flight scheduled for 2022. The X-59 was designed to test “technology that reduces the loudness of a sonic boom to that of a gentle thump.”

Video: NASA
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. Since CFD already shows that it’s doable, the only question really is if they can they build it close enough to the design specs to work well enough.

  2. Sooo…, NASA, with taxpayer dollars, is funding the construction of a super-polluter project that only the filthy rich, corporate fat-cats and politicians will be able to afford to use. What else is new?

    • Listen Commie.

      It’s the role of NASA to do basic research in the X-plane program, which is used in all commercial and military aircraft.

      Part of that is supersonic and hypersonic flight.

      So there is nothing different here at all from a research program perspective.

      Whether this results in a passenger airline or not, and whether you can afford a ticket or not, is irrelevant.

      James B.

      • James, in 1955 you would be correct. In 2020 all the design work is done faster and more accurately on computers. I agree that there is nothing different than all the other Test programs (because we already have supersonic and hypersonic data from decades of actual flight testing). The test is now what’s irrelevant.

        • There is still a lot of value in physical testing. Computers are only as good as the data that is input. Computational fluid dynamics is especially sensitive to that and usually requires you to have some test data to correlate against. Computational fluid dynamics will get you closer to a more optimized solution, but still has to be verified against an actual test.

          If anything reliance on computers slows down the engineering process, where the creation of models and discussions could have been solved in one test.

          Where computers are of value is optimization of results and allowing you to explore the design space and also eek out that additional level of performance.

          Eventually though it will come to a physical test, whether that is the final product or intermediary.

  3. Listen here, guys … and “commie” (sic) … pay attention … there’s gonna be a test later.

    This project highly incenses me because this work already HAS been physically done … 17 years ago … by NASA, et al!

    I was part of a team that did an airplane called SSBD (Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstrator) funded by DARPA, NASA and USN. It was a highly modified worn out F-5E formerly used as an aggressor in the USMC at Yuma. NASA, DARPA, USN and my Company collaborated on it and the real world audio shock wave testing was done out on the ranges associated with NASA Dryden (now Armstrong) and Edwards AFB. There is absolutely NO REASON to build still another sonic boom demo airplane to refine what they already know works on “paper,” in CFD computers and HAS been verified !! Unless, of course, someone is just wanting to throw taxpayer dollars away to keep people employed? If you’d like to see that airplane, it’s in the Valiant Air Command Museum in Titusville, FL. It’s got a very long pointy nose … um … just like the X-59 !!

    At a NASA / X-59 forum at Airventure a couple of years ago, I challenged the project pilot on this. I totally took him off his dog and pony show stride; you shoulda seen the look on his face. It was if, “Nobody is supposed to know about that” as he quickly regained his composure and cut me off for the next question. He didn’t have answers as to why NASA is doing still another “project” airplane other than refinement of the idea. Excuse me, NASA, if Aerion, et al, needs some help to refine their design, let THEM pay for it, not the taxpayers. And, “… $40 million contract to provide support for the community overflight response phase of the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) mission.” This is an even bigger boondoggle. I’d like to get a little of that action in south Texas. LBFD is redoing work already done by SSBD (which itself was a NASA project) and they know it. NASA already HAS the data from a real airplane. Too bad you can’t attach pictures here; I could show you the difference in the shock waves between a normal F-5 and SSBD.

    How many times do we have to refine and retest the wheel before we figure out we can move the blocks to the pyramid faster then dragging them with logs? All X-59 is doing is improving the tread pattern on the tire already developed for SSBD. RIDICULOUS!

    Now then — the test — where is SSBD now ? OH! And Gerald K. IS right.

    If you’d like to read the paper presented at the 2005 AIAA Conference in Reno, just google, “Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstrator.” Don’t take my word for it …