NASA gives nod to quieter supersonic passenger jet

Washington: The US space agency has finally given green signal for preliminary design of a “low-boom” supersonic passenger plane that will take people places with an unimaginable speed.

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 is working hard to make flight greener, safer and quieter – all while developing aircraft that travel faster, and building an aviation system that operates more efficiently,” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on Monday.

Aeronautics company Lockheed Martin will receive about $20 million over 17 months for the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) preliminary design work.

The Lockheed Martin team includes subcontractors GE Aviation of Cincinnati and Tri Models Inc. of Huntington Beach, California.

Lockheed Martin will develop baseline aircraft requirements and a preliminary aircraft design, with specifications, and provide supporting documentation for concept formulation and planning.

Performance of this preliminary design also must undergo analytical and wind tunnel validation.

“We are continuing supersonic X-plane legacy with this preliminary design award for a quieter supersonic jet with an aim toward passenger flight,” Bolden announced.

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, NASA 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.

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 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, the US space agency said in a statement.