Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Bethesda, MD, United States (4E) – The Lockheed Martin X-59 QueSST (“Quiet Supersonic Transport”) experimental plane has officially entered production less than three years after work on the project began.
What makes QueSST different from its predecessor, the Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde that was retired in 2003, is the former won’t generate ear-splitting sonic booms. Instead, QueSST will generate a low 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB) “thump,” or as loud as the sound a car door makes when closing.
On April 2, 2018, NASA awarded Lockheed Martin a $247.5 million contract to design, build and deliver a Low-Boom X-plane in late 2021. On June 26, the U.S. Air Force informed NASA it had assigned the X-59 QueSST designation to the demonstrator.
The X-59 QueSST is designed to cruise at 55,000 feet and reach speeds of about 940 miles per hour. Current regulations ban commercial supersonic aircraft from operating over land.
Lockheed Martin and NASA want to advance quiet supersonic technology through noise reduction to overturn regulations. The X-59 is designed to return supersonic passenger air travel to routes over land. The last such flight was by the Concorde in October 2003.
“The start of manufacturing on the project marks a great leap forward for the X-59 and the future of quiet supersonic commercial travel,” said Peter Iosifidis, Low Boom Flight Demonstrator program manager for Lockheed Martin Skunk Works.
“The long, slender design of the aircraft is the key to achieving a low sonic boom. As we enter into the manufacturing phase, the aircraft structure begins to take shape, bringing us one step closer to enabling supersonic travel for passengers around the world,” he added
The X-59 will conduct its first flight in 2021. The test will collect community response data on the acceptability of the quiet sonic boom generated by the aircraft, helping NASA establish an acceptable commercial supersonic noise standard to overturn current regulations banning supersonic travel over land.
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