Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Nasa picks Lockheed Martin to build low-noise supersonic plane

The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ X-plane design will cruise at 55,000 feet Mach 1.4 and will generate a gentle supersonic heartbeat instead of a sonic boom NASA Hires Lockheed Martin to Build Quiet Supersonic X-Plane
Andy Castillo | 05 April, 2018, 01:44

NASA announced on Tuesday that it had awarded a $247.5 million (€201 million) contract to American aerospace firm Lockheed Martin Aeronautics to build a quieter supersonic aircraft called the "X-plane".

X-Plane might fly at an elevation of more than 16,700 meters, at a speed of more than 1,500 km per hour, but create a sound about as loud as a vehicle door closing instead of a sonic boom, according to NASA.

This new contract between Lockheed Martin and NASA is looking to reignite the dream of supersonic commercial aircraft by overcoming the sonic boom.

NASA says the main factor in making supersonic passenger flight a reality is reducing sonic booms to a level that people on the ground "will hardly notice them, if they hear them at all".

The aircraft will be built at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California, and will conduct its first flight in 2021.

NASA and Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works are teaming up to create the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator, an experimental aircraft that aims to usher in the era of commercial supersonic flight.

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The earlier supersonic airliner Concorde was retired in 2003 because of high maintenance costs and irritating sonic boom. The company created a preliminary design under a previous contract. Then, the US' Federal Aviation Administration would have to change rules in order to allow for supersonic flights over land.

The aircraft will fly over specific cities in the United States in 2022 to analyze how the public reacts to the flights, the space agency said.

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At a cruising altitude of 16.7km, the X-plane could fly at Mach 1.42, or 1,753km/h. "This X-plane is a critical step closer to that exciting future". The design of the airplane is meant to reduce the "sonic boom" to a thump or a double-thump by the time it reaches the ground. "Our long tradition of solving the technical barriers of supersonic flight to benefit everyone continues", said Shin.

On the inside, the X-plane will have a single General Electric F414 engine, which is "the powerplant used by F/A-18E/F fighter jets". Prior to any supersonic airplanes will be enabled to fly over land, NASA and Lockheed Martin should show that it's possible to break the without the sonic boom.

Much of the engineering is up to Lockheed, of course, but in the end the single-pilot craft will travel at some 940 miles per hour at high altitude - 55,000 feet - and produce around 75 perceived decibels (compared with the Concorde's 90) at ground level.

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