Lockheed Gets $247M NASA Supersonic X-Plane Development Contract

The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ X-plane design will cruise at 55,000 feet Mach 1.4 and will generate a gentle supersonic heartbeat instead of a sonic boom

The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ X-plane design will cruise at 55,000 feet Mach 1.4 and will generate a gentle supersonic heartbeat instead of a sonic boom

It wants the aerospace company to refine, build and test the experimental aircraft - known as the X-plane or "Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator" - and deliver it to NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center by the end of 2021. It will fly at a cruising altitude of about 55,000 feet (17,000 meters) and reach a speed of 1.4 times the speed of sound (about 1,000 miles per hour, or 1,600 km/h).

X-Plane might fly at an elevation of more than 16,700 meters, at a speed of more than 1,500 km per hour, but create a sound about as loud as a auto door closing instead of a sonic boom, according to NASA.

NASA has awarded Lockheed Martin a $247.5 million contract to build the supersonic aircraft.

"We're honored to continue our partnership with NASA to enable a new generation of supersonic travel", said Peter Iosifidis, Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator program manager, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works.

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Lockheed Martin has already designed much of the sleek plane.

Current regulations, which are based on aircraft speed, ban supersonic flight over land. The complete set of community response data is targeted for delivery in 2025 to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) from which they can develop and adopt new rules based on perceived sound levels to allow commercial supersonic flight over land. In his budget plan proposition, Trump kept in mind that the X-plane "would open a brand-new market for US business to develop faster business airliners, developing tasks and cutting cross-country flight times in half".

Of course, NASA isn't alone in its quest to revive supersonic air travel.

"Beginning in mid-2022, NASA will fly the X-plane over select United States cities and collect data about community responses to the flights", the space agency said.

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As you can see there's a long way to go before a quiet supersonic jet is even built and tested, but the work is underway.

The proposed design of X-Plane will be developed from a preliminary design from 2016.

NASA officials said this would "create a sound about as loud as a vehicle door closing".

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The aircraft will be created to cruise at 55,000 feet (16.7km) altitude at 940mph (1512km/h). The company must first show it is possible to fly a quiet supersonic aircraft.

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