NASA’s X-59 supersonic aircraft to go ahead

NASA’s X-59  ‘quiet’ supersonic aircraft – its first large scale, piloted X-plane in more than thirty years – has been cleared for final assembly.

Senior managers at NASA held a review, known as Key Decision Point-D, was the last hurdle to clear before they meet again in late 2020 to approve the X-59’s first flight in 2021.

“We’ve shown the project is on schedule, it’s well planned and on track,” said Bob Pearce, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics.

“We have everything in place to continue this historic research mission for the nation’s air-travelling public.”

The X-59 is shaped to reduce the loudness of a sonic boom reaching the ground to that of a gentle thump.

It will be flown above selected communities to generate data from sensors and people on the ground to gauge public perception. That data will help regulators establish new rules to enable commercial supersonic air travel over land.

NASA X-59 supersonic
NASA’s X-59 main assembly coming together. Top: Illustration of the completed X-59 QueSST landing on a runway. Images: Lockheed Martin

Construction of the X-59, under a $247.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, is continuing at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company’s Skunk Works factory in Palmdale, California.

Three major work areas are actively set up for building the airplane’s main fuselage, wing and empennage. Final assembly and integration of the airplane’s systems – including an innovative cockpit eXternal Visibility System – is targeted for late 2020.

NASA Aeronautics