To make a flight greener, safer, affordable and quieter, the US space agency NASA has finally given a go ahead for preliminary design of a “low-boom” flight demonstration aircraft that will be the return of supersonic passenger air travel.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “It’s worth noting that it has 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. Now we’re continuing that supersonic X-plane legacy with this preliminary design award for a quieter supersonic jet with an aim toward passenger flight.”
This is an artist’s concept of a possible Low Boom Flight Demonstration Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) X-plane design, which is the first in a series of ‘X-planes’ in NASA’s New Aviation Horizons initiative that was introduced in the US space agency’s FY2017 budget. This initiative has ambitious goals of cutting down on fuel use, emissions and noise through innovations in aircraft design that departs from the conventional tube-and-wing aircraft shape.
In order to complete a preliminary design for Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST), NASA opted for a team led by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, California, which includes subcontractors GE Aviation of Cincinnati and Tri Models Inc. of Huntington Beach, California. According to NASA, “Lockheed Martin will receive about $20 million over 17 months for QueSST preliminary design work.”
The New Aviation Horizons X-planes will typically be about half-scale of a production aircraft and likely are to be piloted.