NASA X-59 Returns To California For Final Integration


NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) research aircraft has returned to Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, California, following the completion of a series of ground tests in Fort Worth, Texas. While at the Texas facility, structural and fuel calibration tests were completed on the aircraft in preparation for final integration and taxi testing back in Palmdale. The X-59 QueSST is part of NASA’s low-boom flight demonstration mission, which will test technology designed to reduce “the loudness of a sonic boom to a gentle thump to people on the ground.”

“Our Texas site has existing facilities to perform the kinds of tests needed,” said Lockheed Martin’s Mike Buonanno. “It would have been expensive and time consuming to design and build them from scratch in Palmdale. But in Fort Worth they’ve got the perfect facility with a full control room and all the support equipment needed to do those tests very efficiently.”

NASA awarded the $247 million contract to build the X-59 QueSST to Lockheed Martin in 2018 and announced in December 2020 that construction had reached the halfway point. Components yet to be installed include the aircraft’s engine and cockpit displays. The X-59 is tentatively slated for its first flight late this year with the goal of beginning demonstration flights over communities in the U.S. beginning in 2024.

Video: NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center
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. Have I got this right— $247mil in 2018 — 2020 half done— 2022 may start flying? This thing isn’t that complicated it’s just a different shape airframe. Guess inflation started before we thought.

  2. Ah, Lockheed Martin. Between those corporate saviors and the coasting-into-failure, time-honored process of divvying up the work 50 ways, we should see 30 per cent of the projected performance for 300 percent of the tender price within triple the expected timeframe. And yeah, I’ve had quite enough of all of them ever since the Rand Corporation determined that we’d barely draw a conventional war with China.

  3. Should have given the contract to Elon.
    He would have got it done in 1/4 time and at 10 times le$$…

  4. Since airliners have been going slower and slower over the past decades to save costs, why are we spending many hundreds of millions of dollars on a design that has already proven itself to be a money loser?

  5. I dislike Musk, and hate Tesla with a deep dark passionate hate but I’m open minded enough to agree that Musk, for all of his failings and failures, could probably accomplish this task faster and cheaper.

    I also agree this is brilliant technology but likely to not be profitable.

  6. This project is spending nearly a quarter billion dollars to REPEAT testing already done nearly 20 years ago by NASA Dryden (now Armstrong) using an airplane built out of an old and carefully reshaped F-5 Aggressor airplane! It was called the Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstrator (SSBD); it’s now displayed at the Tico Air Museum in FL. They’re spending all that money to build a new airplane with a pointy nose that’ll fly at M1.4! WHY? They already know what the shock wave intensity will be +/- … the NASA/NAVY/DARPA testing on the SSBD airplane already measured those intensities right there AT NASA Armstrong both in the air AND on the ground.

    Further, if they want to know what the population thinks of sonic booms, just go to the Antelope Valley area of the Mojave Desert near Palmdale / Edwards AFB and ask those folks what they think; they live with booms routinely. Never bothered me during the 27 years I lived and worked there. I challenged the project pilot at Airventure 2019 during a NASA presentation about this; he stammered and tap danced trying to answer me but was unsuccessful at providing me with anything substantive which would change my opinion. IMHO, this is nothing more than a boondoggle or make work for both Lockheed Martin and NASA Armstrong. I’m not the only person formerly involved with the SSBD effort who feels this way. Taxpayers should be outraged over this needless expenditure reinventing the wheel. If nothing else, they could have resurrected the SSBD airplane and done the civilian overflights for a helluva lot less money on that already paid for airframe.

    Finally, Arthur is right … NASA Armstrong is SIMULTANEOUSLY testing the X-57 Maxwell to develop electric — green — flight. Now the other hand is trying to test supersonic — not green — flight so heavy hitters can get places a little bit faster. Someone needs to put these folks on a money diet.

  7. ‘People out in the middle of nowhere won’t accept even “a gentle thud” whatever that means.’

    Really? Why? Growing up we loved hearing the ‘booms’, wherever we were. Is there some new science now that shows if hearing a loud or even gentle ‘boom’ from above one’s irritation could trigger end-of-days fear, or just induce a screaming need to pee? Strange times…