Langley to lead development of NASA's new supersonic test plane

04 April, 2018, 01:45 | Author: Brooke Harris
  • 04_03_nasa_supersonic_jet

As contract victor, Lockheed Martin is tasked with building the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration X-plane, an experimental airplane that will reach supersonic speeds but not trigger a supersonic boom.

That project will help researchers understand how atmospheric turbulence can influence the sonic booms residents often hear after SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 boosters at Cape Canaveral or when the Space Shuttle would return to Earth.

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works will begin in April designing the experimental aircraft, which will cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 miles per hour. As Engadget notes, such technology in a consumer plane could open the door to flights as fast as two hours between cities like NY and Los Angeles. While the jet will only have room for a pilot, it will test design principles that soften the sonic boom.

The LBFD aircraft will be 94 feet (29 meters) long, or about the size of a small business jet.

NASA's ultimate goal with the LBFD is to bring supersonic flight to consumer markets, allowing for quicker transit than ever before.

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"It's about the data that will be collected". "We're very confident as we go forward from here in the design that we have, and being able to achieve that low-boom signature". Testing of the aircraft will take place through September 2022.

Aerion Corp., a business jet startup backed by Texas billionaire Robert Bass, is already working on a design that would fly overland just under the speed of sound and then speed up to Mach 1.4 over the ocean.

Gulfstream, a unit of General Dynamics Corp, has said it won't attempt to build a supersonic aircraft until it is cleared to fly open-throttle over land and sea.

But don't expect to board a supersonic passenger jet anytime soon; Lockheed Martin's LBFD won't be built for transporting people.

While NASA's interests aren't necessarily towards decreasing flight times for the average traveler (at least at his point in time) it's true that a successful supersonic X-plane would open up new options for travel that were previously inaccessible due to the incredibly loud sonic boom experienced when an aircraft breaks the speed of sound.

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