The goal is to enable quieter supersonic flights
NASA has inked a deal with Lockheed Martin to develop a supersonic “X-plane” that could break the sound barrier without a sonic boom.
The $247.5 million contract allows for the design, building and testing of a plane that would make its first test flight in 2021, NASA said.
The experimental plane “will cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 1,513 kmph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom,” the U.S. space agency said in a statement.
As early as mid-2022, NASA plans to fly the X-plane over certain, as yet to be determined, U.S. cities to collect data and gather community responses.
The goal is to enable quieter supersonic flight and create “new commercial cargo and passenger markets in faster-than-sound air travel,” NASA said.
But passenger seats are not part of the project Lockheed Martin is working on, at least not yet.
First, the company must show it is possible to fly a quiet supersonic aircraft. Then, the rules of the Federal Aviation Administration would have to be changed in order to lift the current ban on civil supersonic flights over land.