NASA has announced that it is making progress in the construction of the X-Plane, its silent supersonic aircraft for passengers. The US space agency has awarded its development to Lockheed Martin, an aeronautical company from Palmdale, California, which will manufacture the aircraft and deliver it to the Armstrong Flight Research Center by the end of the year 2021.
Commercial supersonic flights can drastically reduce travel times, an especially interesting feature on long-haul flights. The Concorde, which is the fastest commercial plane to date, was able to fly at a speed of 2,179 kilometers per hour, completing the trip from Paris to New York in just two and a half hours.
Despite this great advantage, this type of aircraft is not without problems
Its development has been slowed by the sonic boom issue, a phenomenon that causes a thunderous noise that occurs when Mach 1 speed is exceeded, and that can be heard kilometers away. For this reason, current regulations prohibit supersonic flight over land.
NASA has been investigating supersonic aviation for years, focusing especially on combating the impact of the sonic boom.
Thus was born the mission Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator, which has the objective of demonstrating the ability to fly at a faster speed than the sound but respecting the regulation in the acoustic matter.
NASA stated it solved out the sonic boom issue
According to the US space agency, the design of the X-Plane supersonic aircraft manages to silence the sonic boom thanks to the way in which its uniquely shaped hull generates supersonic shock waves.
The shock waves of a conventional aircraft design merge as they expand away from the nose and tail of the aircraft, causing two loud bang sonic booms. But the shape of the prototype of NASA moves those shock waves away from the aircraft, weakening them and directing them towards the ground, which avoids the sonic explosions.
“It will be heard as a rapid series of soft blows,” the NASA representatives said in a statement.
The X-Plane will have a length of 28.6 meters, a wingspan of 9 meters and a takeoff weight of 14,651 kg. The research indicates that the maximum speed of the aircraft will be Mach 1.5 or 1,593 km/h.
The delivery of the X-Plane supersonic aircraft designated for passengers transportation is scheduled for the end of 2021, and from 2022 NASA will begin to test flights over 6 cities in the United States, tests which will continue until 2025.