Washington: NASA has started work towards developing quieter supersonic commercial jets that do not produce the disruptive boom currently associated with such planes and provide accessible, affordable passenger flight at record speeds.
The US space agency has awarded a contract for the preliminary design of a “low boom” flight demonstration aircraft has taken the return of supersonic passenger air travel one step closer to reality.
This is the first in a series of ‘X-planes’ in NASA’s New Aviation Horizons initiative, NASA said.
“NASA is working hard to make flight cleaner, greener, safer and quieter – all while developing aircraft that travel faster, and building an aviation system that operates more efficiently,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
“To that end, it is worth noting that it’s been almost 70 years since Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 as part of our predecessor agency’s high speed research,” said Bolden.
“Now we’re continuing that supersonic X-plane legacy with this preliminary design award for a quieter jet that may break the barrier to accessible, affordable supersonic passenger flight,” he said. NASA selected a team led by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale in California, to complete a preliminary design for Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST).
After conducting feasibility studies and working to better understand acceptable sound levels across the US, NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project asked industry teams to submit design concepts for a piloted test aircraft that can fly at supersonic speeds, creating a supersonic “heartbeat” – a soft thump rather than the disruptive boom currently associated with supersonic flight.
“Developing, building and flight testing a quiet supersonic X-plane is the next logical step in our path to enabling the industry’s decision to open supersonic travel for the flying public,” said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission. The company will develop baseline aircraft requirements and a preliminary aircraft design with specifications, and provide supporting documentation for concept formulation and planning.
This documentation would be used to prepare for the detailed design, building and testing of the QueSST jet. Performance of this preliminary design also must undergo analytical and wind tunnel validation. The detailed design and building of the QueSST aircraft, conducted under the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s Integrated Aviation Systems Programme, will fall under a future contract competition.
In addition to design and building, this Low Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) phase of the project also will include validation of community response to the new, quieter supersonic design. The New Aviation Horizons X-planes will typically be about half-scale of a production aircraft and likely are to be piloted.