NASA and Lockheed Embarks on Rolling Out the X-59 Supersonic Jet: A Cutting-Edge ‘Silent’ Aircraft

NASA and Lockheed Martin have finally taken the wraps off of the X-59, a “quiet supersonic” aircraft that may shape the future of both military and civilian air travel. The X-59 has been under development at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works for years, following a $248 million grant from NASA in 2018. NASA’s X-59 will help change the way we travel, bringing us closer together in much less time,” said Pam Melroy, NASA deputy administrator, in a press release. “By demonstrating the possibility of quiet commercial supersonic travel over land, we seek to open new commercial markets for U.S. companies and benefit travelers around the world,” said NASA’s Bob Pearce. Others than NASA and Lockheed are interested in this kind of flight, of course: Boom Supersonic is hard at work getting its own quiet supersonic test plane out there.

After years of development and anticipation, NASA and Lockheed Martin have finally unveiled the X-59, a revolutionary “quiet supersonic” aircraft that has the potential to redefine both military and civilian air travel. This groundbreaking aircraft has been in the works at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility since 2018, when NASA granted them a whopping $248 million for research purposes. This was just the first of many research projects that NASA hoped to fund in their efforts to push the boundaries of aviation and make bold advancements in terms of speed, efficiency, and size.

Up until now, the X-59 has only been seen in various stages of assembly inside the hangar. But today, for the first time, it has been revealed to the public on the tarmac at Lockheed’s Palmdale facility. Needless to say, the event was met with great excitement and fanfare.

“In just a few short years, we have gone from a bold concept to a tangible reality. NASA’s X-59 will revolutionize the way we travel, bringing us much closer together in significantly less time,” stated Pam Melroy, NASA’s deputy administrator in a press release. (A press call is scheduled for later today, and this article may soon be updated to include any remarks made during the call.)

It’s important to note that the X-59 is an experimental aircraft and not a prototype of a production-ready plane. Its main purpose is to demonstrate that it is possible for an aircraft to fly faster than the speed of sound, in this case reaching a staggering 925 MPH, without creating the deafening sonic boom that often accompanies supersonic travel.

Of course, it’s impossible to completely eliminate the effects of a large object moving at high speeds through the atmosphere. But the team behind the X-59 has made it their mission to greatly reduce the impact of the sonic boom to a more manageable “sonic thump” that is less disruptive to people, infrastructure, and wildlife.

NASA’s Bob Pearce expressed his excitement, stating, “By showing that it is feasible to have silent commercial supersonic flights over land, we hope to create new commercial opportunities for companies in the United States and bring benefits to travelers all around the world.”

The impressive aerodynamic shape of the X-59 is what makes this quiet supersonic travel possible. Measuring nearly 100 feet in length and only 29.5 feet in width, it has a sleek, dart-like profile that has been carefully engineered to disrupt and break apart the shock waves that occur during flight.

An interesting consequence of this design is that a traditional forward-facing window in the cockpit was deemed impractical. Instead, the team fitted the X-59 with a state-of-the-art 4K screen known as the eXternal Visibility System, or XVS, which streams real-time images from the front of the aircraft.

While the X-59 has not yet taken to the skies, there are still many tests and preparations that need to be completed first. Now that it has wheels and can be moved, the team will focus on integrated systems testing, engine runs, and taxi tests before its scheduled first flight later this year. This will be followed by a subsonic flight, more tests, and eventually, the all-important first supersonic flight.

It’s not just NASA and Lockheed Martin who have a vested interest in this type of flight; others such as Boom Supersonic are also working tirelessly to develop their own quiet supersonic test plane. However, it may still be some time before we start hearing those “sonic thumps” overhead as the technology is still in its early stages and may take a few more years before it is ready for everyday use.

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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