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NASA X-59 Supersonic Airplane cleared for Final Assembly!

What next-gen supersonic flights means to future air travel

After years of preparations, NASA’s Quiet Supersonic Research Aircraft “NASA’s X-59 supersonic airplanehas been cleared for final assembly and integration of its systems. First supersonic flight test approval is expected in 2021.

The news from the NASA – Lockheed Martin joint project mark an important milestone in the next frontier of flying, or the next-gen of supersonic airplanes that are coming.

X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft

Senior managers held a major review of the X-59 project on Thursday at NASA Headquarters in Washington. This “Key Decision Point-D (KDP-D)” management review of the plane was the last programmatic hurdle for the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft to clear before officials meet again in late 2020

nasa supersonic airplane x-59 assembly
The X-59 supersonic airplane main assembly.
Photo: Lockheed Martin/NASA.

NASA X-59 supersonic airplane is no longer a fiction: first flight approval expected in 2021

2021 will be the most exciting part of the project by far when approval to begin testing of the supersonic airplane is expected to take place.

NASA: A historic research mission for the traveling public

“With the completion of KDP-D we’ve shown the project is on schedule, it’s well planned and on track. We have everything in place to continue this historic research mission for the nation’s air-traveling public,”

said Bob Pearce, NASA’s associate administrator for Aeronautics.

Reintroduction to supersonic civilian airplane flights are long overdue

Advancements to NASA’s’ supersonic airplane program is big news because it also takes us a step closer to future hypersonic flight.

In our article where we explained how new supersonic passenger flights are coming back, we discussed the buzz of activities on the subject, taking place behind the scenes. New “quiet” supersonic airplane technology and other significant advancements to supersonic flight development have opened the doors for a whole new generation of airplanes.

The design and engine technology of modern airplanes have advanced, but not the speed at which we travel! However, that’s about to change in the next couple of decades. This is why we should fully appreciate the NASA X-59 supersonic airplane development.

Bluntly stated, time and speed efficiency advancements of civilian plane designs are long overdue!

Supersonic flight, but no more loud booms will be heard on the ground

T-38 shockwaves. NASA X-59 supersonic airplane, no sonic boom will beh eard on the ground.
A while back NASA took a series of history-making photographs showing shockwaves from two T-38 supersonic airplanes in flight. Photo: NASA.

The supersonic X-59 plane has been shaped to reduce the loudness of a sonic boom reaching the ground to that of a gentle thump (if it is even heard at all).

The airplane will be flown and tested above select U.S. land-areas. That will generate data from sensors and people on the ground, which will measure public perception of supersonic flight above.

Regulators to establish new rules for supersonic airplane flights above ground

The data collected from the research missions will help regulators establish new rules on commercial supersonic air travel over the ground.

Construction of the X-59 airplane Assembly Plant

Construction of the X-59 is anticipated to carry a cost of $247.5 million. The project has been approved as a “cost-plus-incentive-fee” contract.

Three major work areas are divided into handling the different parts of the airplane:

  • the airplane’s main fuselage,
  • wing,
  • and the empennage.

X-59 supersonic airplane final assembly and systems integration

The final assembly and integration of the airplane’s systems have a target date for late 2020.

The NASA X-59 cockpit

To do that the system will use a cockpit eXternal Visibility System. This type of window is called a “virtual forward window”

Image: NASA.

Who is the management for the NASA X-59 QueSST supersonic aircraft project?

Managing the complex X-59 QueSST development and construction falls under the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator project, a part of NASA’s Integrated Aviation Systems Program.

A small step towards hypersonic flights, but a giant step towards renewed supersonic flights

Yes, the rebirth of supersonic airplanes is here indeed. How can this technology benefit civilian airline flyers? NASA’s supersonic research jet X-59 is not designed to carry airline passengers. It never will.

However, as typical of American ingenuity the knowledge passed on from NASA and the U.S. military will carry over to civilian use in form of commercial passenger jets. These will be flights where you, as a passenger, can benefit from the applied supersonic airplane technology for use in civilian aviation.

Making sense of supersonic flight efficiency: What is the Distance -Speed – Time formula?

For those of us truly into fascinating facts of aviation, here’s an explanation that would make it clear why it makes sense to fully reinstate supersonic flight by applying the technology available to us today.

The distance speed time formula allows us to find the individual value of tell distance, speed, and time of flight.

By applying two of the three different values of the 1) speed 2) distance 3) time formula you can always find the value of the third factor.

How to figure Distance Speed Time for your flight (video)

Explaining the efficiency of supersonic flight by applying the distance speed time formula. Video: YouTube.

Airplane technology advances, other reading

Things are rapidly developing that will soon benefit air travel and flying in the near future. For other angles into some of these concepts, you may want to read:

What do you think about the NASA X-59 supersonic airplane project? Are you excited that this could lead to us, as passengers, not needing to endure those grueling ultra-long-haul flights between New York and Australia?

Featured Image: NASA/Lockheed Martin.

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