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February 26, 2024

NASA Unveils Revolutionary X-59 Jet to Enable Sustainable Supersonic Travel

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Jan 13, 2024

NASA recently unveiled its highly anticipated X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) experimental aircraft, which aims to reduce sonic booms to make supersonic flight over land feasible and enable a new generation of sustainable supersonic travel.

The peculiar-looking jet with no front windows and a long, pointed nose was rolled out at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works advanced development facility in Palmdale, California [1]. NASA is hailing the X-59 as a “pivotal moment” to usher in greener and more accessible supersonic transport [2].

X-59 Design Targets Quieter Sonic Boom

The X-59’s distinct shape and 100-foot-long nose have been meticulously designed to cut the loudness of sonic booms that are created when aircraft fly faster than the speed of sound. Conventional supersonic jets generate thunderous booms that can travel miles and rattle buildings on the ground. This has led to bans on supersonic flight over land for over 50 years [3].

However, through innovative aerodynamic shaping, NASA and Lockheed aim to generate acoustic “thumps” so quiet that public can accept supersonic overland transit, potentially extending the aviation industry into uncharted territory [4].

X-59 Specifications
Length 94 feet
Wingspan 29.5 feet
Height 22.9 feet
Top Speed Mach 1.4
First Flight 2024

The X-59 is the first large-scale supersonic X-plane since the X-51 Waverider scramjet demonstration aircraft flew in 2013. Its rollout comes after years of simulated flight modeling along with wind tunnel testing by NASA, Lockheed Martin and other partners. This data will pave the way for smoother control, better vehicle structural design, and understanding how supersonic aircraft perform in the real atmosphere [5].

Test Flights Over US Cities Planned

In 2024, the X-59 will begin its highly-anticipated test flight campaign over select US cities, with community response measurements being a major objective. The cities have not been announced yet [6]. Residents will be asked to share their impressions on the sound and impact of the quiet sonic thump generated by X-59.

The test flights aim to provide NASA and regulators the necessary acoustic evidence and public feedback to update policies for governing supersonic flights over land [7]. Current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations ban civil supersonic flight over land except for in specific testing corridors.

If effective, the X-59 could enable new supersonic airliner designs connecting faraway cities in hours instead of half a day. Flight times from San Francisco to Tokyo could be cut from 11 hours to just 6! [8] This would provide enormous economic advantages and could ignite supersonic’s next renaissance.

Path to Sustainable Supersonic Travel

With sustainability becoming ever more crucial, NASA plans to use the X-59 tests to develop requirements for acceptable overland noise, emissions and high-altitude flight dynamics. Advanced environmentally-compatible designs, materials, wing shapes, propulsion systems and operational concepts tuned for supersonic flight may then emerge [9].

“Everything we’re doing is really geared towards making sure we have all the ingredients to be able to allow regulators to open up supersonic flight over land,” – Peter Coen – NASA Commercial Supersonic Technology Lead [10]

However, the X-59 is just an experimental concept craft not intended to carry passengers. Significant further development would still be needed before quiet supersonic jets enter airline service. NASA plans to share the X-59’s flight data to help US industry create prototypes.

If noise and emissions targets are met, the goal is to have supersonic passenger planes operational by 2030, with transoceanic service ramping up in the 2030s. This positions supersonic for a key role in sustainable long-distance mobility this century [11].

Conclusion: New Chapter for Supersonic Aviation

The X-59 experimental aircraft represents a hugely promising milestone for NASA’s supersonic research after years of preparation. Its first test flights in 2024 will be watched closely by media, industry and the public. Valuable data gathered could help transform regulations and produce new environmentally-friendly supersonic mobility options. If effective, prospects look bright for overland sustainable supersonic travel to make an inspiring comeback within this decade!

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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