NASA has given the green light to the final assembly of its supersonic aircraft, the X-59, in late 2020. The heads of the American space agency will then assess the feasibility of a maiden flight in 2021. The aircraft will also perform test flights to assess the loudness of its sonic boom.
Credits: Pixabay / Michael Draeger
NASA has announced that it has cleared its X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft for final assembly, which is scheduled for late 2020. The news came four days after senior managers held a project review meeting at NASA headquarters in Washington on 12 December.
Three main areas of work
Final assembly will involve building the aircraft’s main fuselage, wings and empennage, which are being manufactured at Lockheed Martin Aeronautic Company’s Skunk Works factory in Palmdale, California. The X-59’s ground-breaking cockpit and flight systems will also be integrated in this final phase.
This unique aircraft has been shaped in such a way to make it almost silent, unlike other supersonic jets, which produce a very loud sonic boom. According to NASA’s engineers, the plane’s sonic boom will sound like a “gentle thump” on reaching the ground, if it is heard at all.
The X-59 will be flown above specific parts of the United States with a view to generating data from sensors and people on the ground. This data will then be analysed to assess public perception of the plane’s sonic boom and to set out new rules relating to supersonic air travel over inhabited areas.
The heads of the QueSST project are planning to meet again in late 2020 to study the possibility of the X-59 performing its first flight the following year. NASA has been working on its quiet supersonic aircraft project for more than 30 years and is investing $247.5 million in the X-59.
Cover image: Pixabay / skeeze
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