NASA quietly confident of taming sonic boom

Image: © NASA / Lockheed Martin

NASA says it has achieved a significant milestone in its effort to develop quieter supersonic passenger jet travel over land. The US government agency has completed the preliminary design review of its Quiet Supersonic Transport or QueSST aircraft design.

The review, by NASA and Lockheed Martin engineers, concluded the QueSST design was capable flying at supersonic speeds, while only creating a soft ‘thump’ instead of the disruptive sonic boom associated with supersonic flight today.

NASA partnered with lead contractor Lockheed Martin in February 2016, for the QueSST preliminary design. Last month, a scale model of the QueSST design completed testing in the 8 foot by 6 foot supersonic wind tunnel at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

QueSST is the initial design stage of NASA’s planned Low Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) experimental aircraft, otherwise known as an X-plane.

The completed review means NASA’s project team is on track to issue a contract early next year to build the piloted, single-engine X-plane. NASA says the LBFD X-plane contract will be fully open and competitive, with the QueSST preliminary design data being made available to qualified bidders. NASA plans for flight testing of an LBFD X-plane to begin by 2021.