NASA Ready to Start Ground Testing of Supersonic Airplane, First Flight Later This Year

X-59 prototype at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in California 6 photos
Photo: Lockheed Martin
NASA QueSST airplaneNASA QueSST airplaneNASA QueSST airplaneNASA QueSST airplaneX-59 prototype at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in California
At the end of this year, when NASA plans to conduct the first test flight of the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) prototype aircraft, the project will be just four years old. That means it only took that much for the American space agency and its commercial partners to get from idea to real-life machine, and that gives us hope we’ll be seeing a return of civilian supersonic flight sooner than expected.
Ever since the retirement of the iconic Concorde, the only humans allowed to go faster than sound are military pilots. Yet even for them, going over the sound barrier while flying above populated areas is an activity frowned upon by the FAA and others, and that’s why it’s kind of illegal to do so.

With the QueSST, NASA hopes to change that and not only bring back supersonic flight, but greatly expand its reach as well. It will do so by coming up with a never-before-seen design, meant to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight and reduce the sonic boom to as much as 60 dB, from the 90 dB Concorde reached.

At the moment of writing, the X-59 is on location at the Lockheed Martin facilities in Texas, when soon will undergo ground testing. That means a series of procedures meant to “ensure the aircraft can withstand the loads and stresses that typically occur during flight.” Engineers will also look to calibrate test the fuel systems.

After this is done, the plane will be moved back to the Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility in California, where more testing will be performed in light of the planned flight test. If all goes well, starting 2024 NASA will fly the airplane to overpopulated areas to collect “data that could open the future to commercial supersonic flights over land.”
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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