The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has revealed a new, low-noise supersonic plane as part of its mission to bring back commercial air travel.
NASA has revealed a unique, noise-reducing supersonic plane in their efforts to enable commercial supersonic travel.
NASA and Lockheed Martin Skunk Works held a joint event in Palmdale, California on Friday to unveil the X-59, a prototype aircraft that is projected to reach a speed of 1.4 times the speed of sound, equivalent to 925mph (1,488 km/h).
The plane is 99.7ft (30.4m) long and 29.5ft wide. It has a slender, pointed nose that makes up about one-third of its total length. This design helps to reduce the impact of shock waves that usually occur with supersonic planes and cause sonic booms.
Engineers placed the cockpit near the middle of the aircraft and eliminated the front windows commonly seen in other planes in order to improve its supersonic abilities.
Nasa’s deputy administrator, Pam Melroy, stated that the configurations at Friday’s launch event were chosen to reduce noise. This decision not only makes the launch quieter, but also marks progress in the advancement of aviation technology.
The team faced a major obstacle of poor visibility in the cockpit. To overcome this, they created an external vision system using high-resolution cameras and an ultra-high-resolution monitor, which is truly remarkable.
Melroy stated that the external vision system could impact future aircraft designs, providing potential engineering advantages by eliminating the need for a forward-facing window, as it did in their case.
The plane also has a top-mounted engine and a streamlined underside to prevent the formation of shock waves and resulting sonic booms.
According to NASA, the X-59 will have its inaugural flight and first quiet supersonic flight sometime this year. After completing test flights, the aircraft will travel over various cities in the US (which have yet to be chosen) to gather feedback from the public on its sound.
For the past five decades, the US has prohibited commercial supersonic travel over land due to public worries about loud and potentially damaging sonic booms that can be heard for long distances.
During the launch event on Friday, Nasa’s associate administrator for their aeronautics research mission, Bob Pearce, addressed the ban by stating that grounded flight testing has shown the potential for designing an aircraft that creates a soft thump rather than a disruptive sonic boom. Although laboratory studies indicate that this thump may be quiet enough for supersonic flight over land, the true answer can only be determined by involving individuals who would hear it in their daily lives.
Pierce stated that the X-59’s function would involve gathering information from individuals on the ground, evaluating the acceptability of the sonic boom, and relaying the data to both American and global regulatory bodies in order to potentially lift the ban.
During the press conference following the launch, David Richardson, program director for Lockheed Martin’s X-59, announced that taxi flights for the aircraft are anticipated to begin in late spring or early summer.
Richardson stated that any issues or malfunctions will be addressed and corrected before the first flight to ensure the airplane is fully operational, safe, and ready for flight.