Nasa unveils quiet supersonic aircraft in effort to revive commercial flights

Nasa Supersonic

Nasa Supersonic

NASA unveiled the X-59, an experimental supersonic aircraft, in collaboration with Lockheed Martin Skunk Works during a joint ceremony in Palmdale, California, on Friday. This innovative aircraft is designed to reach speeds of 925 mph (1,488 km/h), flying at 1.4 times the speed of sound. The X-59, with dimensions of 99.7ft in length and 29.5ft in width, features a distinctive thin, tapered nose, comprising nearly one-third of its total length. The aim of this unique design is to disperse shock waves associated with conventional supersonic aircraft, thereby minimizing sonic booms.

To further enhance the aircraft’s supersonic capabilities, engineers strategically positioned the cockpit almost halfway down its length and eliminated the forward-facing windows commonly found in traditional aircraft. Explaining these configurations during the launch event, NASA’s Deputy Administrator, Pam Melroy, emphasized the decision to improve noise levels while advancing aviation technology. Melroy highlighted the external vision system, a technological marvel employing high-resolution cameras feeding an ultra-high-resolution monitor to address the challenge of limited visibility in the cockpit.

Engine mounted on top

The X-59 also boasts an engine mounted on top and a smooth underside to prevent the formation of shock waves behind the aircraft, thereby reducing the potential for sonic booms. NASA anticipates the X-59’s inaugural flight later this year, followed by its first quiet supersonic flight.

Concerns over disruptive sonic booms have led to the prohibition of commercial supersonic travel over land in the United States for the past 50 years. Addressing this restriction, Bob Pearce, NASA‘s Associate Administrator for its Aeronautics Research Mission, emphasized that grounded flight testing demonstrated the feasibility of designing an aircraft producing a soft thump instead of a disruptive sonic boom. The mission of the X-59 is to collect data on the acceptability of the sonic thump from people on the ground and then present it to U.S. and international regulatory authorities with the aim of lifting the ban.

In a post-launch press conference, Lockheed Martin’s X-59 Program Director, David Richardson, revealed expectations for taxi tests of the X-59 to commence in late spring or early summer.. Richardson emphasized a thorough evaluation process to ensure the aircraft’s functionality, addressing any identified issues before committing to its first flight.

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