NASA begins work to build a quieter supersonic passenger jet

March 1, 2016 by J.d. Harrington
This is an artist’s concept of a possible Low Boom Flight Demonstration Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) X-plane design. The award of a preliminary design contract is the first step towards the possible return of supersonic passenger travel – but this time quieter and more affordable. Credit: Lockheed Martin

The return of supersonic passenger air travel is one step closer to reality with NASA's award of a contract for the preliminary design of a "low boom" flight demonstration aircraft. This is the first in a series of 'X-planes' in NASA's New Aviation Horizons initiative, introduced in the agency's Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced the award at an event Monday at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia.

"NASA is working hard to make flight greener, safer and quieter – all while developing that travel faster, and building an aviation system that operates more efficiently," said Bolden. "To that end, it's worth noting that it's been almost 70 years since Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 as part of our predecessor agency's high speed research. Now we're continuing that supersonic X-plane legacy with this preliminary design award for a quieter supersonic jet with an aim toward passenger flight."

NASA selected a team led by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, California, to complete a preliminary design for Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST). The work will be conducted under a task order against the Basic and Applied Aerospace Research and Technology (BAART) contract at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

After conducting feasibility studies and working to better understand acceptable sound levels across the country, NASA's Commercial Supersonic Technology Project asked industry teams to submit design concepts for a piloted test aircraft that can fly at supersonic speeds, creating a supersonic "heartbeat"—a soft thump rather than the disruptive boom currently associated with supersonic flight.

"Developing, building and flight testing a quiet supersonic X-plane is the next logical step in our path to enabling the industry's decision to open supersonic travel for the flying public," said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission.

Lockheed Martin will receive about $20 million over 17 months for QueSST preliminary design work. The Lockheed Martin team includes subcontractors GE Aviation of Cincinnati and Tri Models Inc. of Huntington Beach, California.

The company will develop baseline aircraft requirements and a preliminary aircraft design, with specifications, and provide supporting documentation for concept formulation and planning. This documentation would be used to prepare for the detailed design, building and testing of the QueSST jet. Performance of this preliminary design also must undergo analytical and wind tunnel validation.

In addition to design and building, this Low Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) phase of the project also will include validation of community response to the new, quieter supersonic design. The detailed design and building of the QueSST aircraft, conducted under the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate's Integrated Aviation Systems Program, will fall under a future contract competition.

NASA's 10-year New Aviation Horizons initiative has the ambitious goals of reducing fuel use, emissions and noise through innovations in aircraft design that departs from the conventional tube-and-wing aircraft shape.

The New Aviation Horizons X-planes will typically be about half-scale of a production aircraft and likely are to be piloted. Design-and-build will take several years with aircraft starting their flight campaign around 2020, depending on funding.

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8 comments

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gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 01, 2016
We already had the XB-70, which was not just supersonic, but "triple-sonic", going Mach Three, and could only be chased by Blackbirds. It was my favorite plane at Edwards, and a sad day when we lost Air Vehicle #2 on June 8, 1966.

I think they use a spike on the front of the new aircraft now to lessen the shock wave.
OdinsAcolyte
3 / 5 (1) Mar 04, 2016
The military used to have great fun and got to show it off.
Everything is all hush-hush now.

OdinsAcolyte
3 / 5 (1) Mar 04, 2016
The military used to have great fun and got to show it off.
Everything is all hush-hush now.

Whydening Gyre
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 04, 2016
We already had the XB-70, which was not just supersonic, but "triple-sonic", going Mach Three, and could only be chased by Blackbirds. It was my favorite plane at Edwards, and a sad day when we lost Air Vehicle #2 on June 8, 1966.

I think they use a spike on the front of the new aircraft now to lessen the shock wave.

Aw geez, George... Did ya have to?
Captain Stumpy
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 05, 2016
Aw geez, George... Did ya have to?
@Whyde
it's called "baiting"
she is seeking attention and drama... one reason i am trying not to post... unless, of course, i get the desire to have a fun poke, that is
LOL

at least we have a super commando engineer who has done everything and can share such incredible knowledge, even when it is blatantly wrong and against known facts!

we should bow to the massa beni-kam!
otherwise he will downrate you regardless of the scientific content

[sarcastic hyperbole]

LOL
compose
Mar 05, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (2) Mar 05, 2016
but why the space research governmental agency like NASA develops the passenger jet
@compose
NASA is The National Aeronautics and Space Administration

i know it sounds a little backwards (maybe it is??) ....
bschott
not rated yet Mar 07, 2016
one reason i am trying not to post....


Try harder. Or start using your....ooops almost said brain...sorry.

but why the space research governmental agency like NASA develops the passenger jet
@compose
NASA is The National Aeronautics and Space Administration

i know it sounds a little backwards (maybe it is??) ....


Well Captain Stumpy, NASA is a publicly funded organization. This is what we call a conflict of interest if they start A - profiting from work they do with public money and B - Working for Private companies...again, using public money.

It's quite clear, unless you are stumped.

Now, if someone were so inclined to look up the contracts and see the details as evidence that either NASA is doing something they shouldn't be, or is acting completely above board and is using money from the private companies for the research they are benefiting from.

But I just posted to say he may have a point....that you missed....again...as usual.

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