NASA Awards Massive Supersonic Aircraft Contract to Lockheed Martin

Coming to a sky near you in 2022.

by Catie Keck
YouTube user: NASA Langley Research Center

NASA announced Tuesday that it has awarded Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company a $247.5 million contract to build and test a supersonic aircraft that “reduces a sonic boom to a gentle thump.”

This is exciting news for anyone looking to fly cross-continentally in two hours — which, considering the increasingly limited leg room, is really a win for all of us. Work under the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration contract is reportedly underway as of Monday and will continue through Dec. 31, 2021. In a Tuesday press release, NASA added: “Under this contract, Lockheed Martin will complete the design and fabrication of an experimental aircraft, known as an X-plane, which will cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom.”

NASA will conduct flight tests after the aircraft is accepted in 2021 to ensure safety standards and affirm the the low-boom supersonic technology is up to par.

“We look forward to applying the extensive work completed under QueSST to the design, build, and flight test of the X-plane, providing NASA with a demonstrator to make supersonic commercial travel possible for passengers around the globe,” Lockheed Martin program manager Peter Iosifidis said in a statement.

The X-plane is expected to take flight over U.S. cities in mid-2022, at which time it will collect data pertaining to community responses to the flights, which is great for those of us uninterested in ear-deafening booms being emitted from our skies. That data will then be shared with officials both in the United States and overseas for further consideration about regulations around supersonic air travel.

More updates on the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration and Lockheed Martin’s concept will no doubt continue to emerge in the coming months.

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