NASA’s Rule-Changing Supersonic Aircraft Should Be Ready for FAA Review in 2027

X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology QueSST 6 photos
Photo: NASA
NASA QueSST airplaneNASA QueSST airplaneNASA QueSST airplaneNASA QueSST airplaneX-59 prototype at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in California
For a number of years now we have been watching NASA’s efforts to bring back commercial supersonic aircraft. Relegated to the history books by the retirement of the Concorde and the regulations prohibiting supersonic flight over populated areas, this type of machine should make a comeback by the end of the decade.
NASA is not actually looking to develop a new aircraft per se, but a new design, and the technologies needed to bring down the noise levels associated with supersonic flight. It does need a test aircraft, though, and it has been working on it together with Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’.

Called X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology, or QueSST, the airplane is expected to take to the sky for the first time later this year. The goal is to have it fly a never-before-seen design, meant to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight in order to reduce sonic boom levels to about 60 dB, way down from the 90 dB of the Concorde.

This week, NASA released a sort of timetable of what’s next for the QueSST. First up, well get this year ground testing, followed by the first flight. Next year should bring acoustic validation flights, with ones over populated areas, meant to gauge the people’s response to noise the airplane is making, coming in 2024.

Flights should continue for the next three years, with NASA saying it should submit “results of the community overflights to the International Civil Aviation Organization and Federal Aviation Administration” in 2027.

Both organizations will have to look into the design and decide whether it’s time to change the current rules prohibiting supersonic flight over land. NASA expects that decision to come in 2028, and at least in theory, if positive, it should lead to a flood of new supersonic aircraft being developed by major players of the aviation industry.
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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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