Ever since the demise of the Concorde travellers and airplane manufacturers have been dreaming about the return of supersonic travel. Well fortunately so has NASA and after nearly a decade the US space agency along with Lockheed Martin are about to reach a major milestone in commercializing supersonic flight.
The goal is to solve one of the most persistent challenges of supersonic flight – the sonic boom. NASA awarded Lockheed Martin Skunk Works a contract in February 2016 for the preliminary design of X-59, designed to reduce a sonic boom to a gentle thump.
And this year, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works was selected for the design, build and flight test of the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD). The X-59 aircraft will collect community response data on the acceptability of the quiet sonic boom generated by our design, helping NASA establish an acceptable commercial supersonic noise standard to overturn current regulations banning supersonic travel over land. This would open the door to an entirely new global market for aircraft manufacturers, enabling passengers to travel anywhere in the world in half the time it takes today.
X-59 is designed to cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom.
“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 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.”