NASA set to test quiet supersonic flights

NASA plans to publicly test its quiet supersonic technology this year

The tests around Galveston and "the resulting community response data will enable federal and global rule makers to write new regulations that allow supersonic flight over land, and thus open a whole new market for commercial supersonic air travel", says NASA.

The tests aim to see how well the public manages to notice softer sounds, unlike the usual ones generated by supersonic flights, which produce shockwaves that result in booming noises once they pass Mach 1 speeds. The space agency has made it a mission to revolutionize air travel.

If NASA's experimental project - formerly known as the X-plane or "Low-Flight Flight Demonstrator" but recently renamed X-59 QueSST - works, it should help make supersonic flight more economical.

According to the report, from November onwards, F/A-18 Hornets will be create regular sonic booms over the water near Galveston, a town in Texas, as well as quieter sonic "thumps" directly over the town. NASA says Galveston is the best choice for testing because of its location near the Gulf of Mexico. Producing an aircraft without the supersonic boom would be absolutely game changing for aviation. This plane will be shaped so that supersonic shockwaves do not coalesce together to form loud sonic booms, the disruptive sounds that led to the government banning supersonic flight over the United States in 1973, NASA reported. "But the airplane's shape is carefully tailored such that those shockwaves do not combine". The device will likely be called X-59 QueSST.

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"Instead of getting a loud boom-boom, you're going to get at least two quiet thump-thump sounds, if you even hear them at all".

"This is why the F/A-18 is so important to us as a tool", Haering said. Another company, Spike Aerospace, is developing its own S-512 Quiet Supersonic Jet, which would have similar performance.

The X-59 is scheduled for delivery by the end of 2021. "While construction continues on the X-59, we can use the diving maneuver to generate quiet sonic thumps over a specific area".

The project of this low-noise and fast aircraft was awarded to Lockheed Martin on a $247.5 million contract.

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