In efforts to create an aircraft that can travel faster than the speed of sound without causing the loud sonic boom effect, NASA has awarded Lockheed Martin with a hefty $247.5 million cost-plus contract to design what’s being dubbed the “X-Plane,” reports SPACE.
Lockheed Martin’s secretive Skunk Works division will be in development of the piloted X-plane and incorporate the company’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (or QueSST). The experimental plane is expected to cruise at an altitude of 55,000 feet and reach speeds of about 940 mph. While such an aircraft would traditionally create a sonic boom, NASA expects the new aircraft to reduce the loudness of a sonic boom to that of a gentle thump.
With the prototype scheduled to test fly by 2021, the X-plane will travel over select U.S. communities to gather data on human responses to the low-boom flights and deliver that data set to U.S. and international regulators.
Upon analyzing, new sound-based rules regarding supersonic flight over land could be developed, and will open doors to new commercial cargo and passenger markets to provide even faster air travel. Previously, the last supersonic passenger air travel was completed by the Concorde in October 2003.
For additional details, be sure to read the full story on NASA.
In related news, the world’s first supersonic business jet is coming soon.