Supersonic commercial air travel may become a possibility at some point in the future. NASA has been working to make that happen. The first part of the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology aircraft is now being built by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works team as part of NASA’s Low-Boom Flight Demonstration program.
NASA has officially committed to a three-year development timeline which will lead to the first flight of the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology aircraft. The milestone has been set after a rigorous review. The agency has confirmed its continued support for the program in terms of funding and has also put in place an achievable development timeline for its first piloted, full-size X-plane in more than three decades.
The sound was one of the major reasons that commercial supersonic travel powered by the iconic Concorde was phased out. This entire project is focused on reducing the loudness of a sonic boom (the sound generated when an aircraft goes supersonic) “to that of a gentle thump, if it’s heard at all,” according to NASA. The plane will fly at an altitude of 55,00 feet and reach speeds of up to 940 miles per hour.
If the work continues as per plan and there are no unforeseen delays, the X-59’s first flight may very well take place in 2021. The test flights will enable NASA to come up with an acceptable commercial supersonic noise standard that will overturn existing regulations that ban supersonic travel over land.