NASA reveals revolutionary X-59 quiet supersonic aircraft for the first time (video)

NASA, in collaboration with Lockheed Martin, has revealed the revolutionary X-59 quiet supersonic aircraft for the first time on Friday, January 12, 2024.

NASA's experimental X-59 quiet supersonic aircraft at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility
NASA’s experimental X-59 quiet supersonic aircraft at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility. (Image credit: Lockheed Martin Skunk Works)

An aircraft is said to be supersonic if it flies faster than the speed of sound. The speed of sound at sea level is about 768 miles per hour (1,236 kilometers per hour).

Now, when an aircraft flies at supersonic speed, it generates a sonic boom, i.e., loud, thunder-like noise to the people on the ground.

Fifty years ago, in 1973, the United States prohibited commercial supersonic flight over land due to its loud sonic boom.

However, the aircraft X-59 is revolutionary because it can fly at supersonic speed while generating a quieter sonic thump than loud sonic booms.

“This is a major accomplishment made possible only through the hard work and ingenuity from NASA and the entire X-59 team,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy.

“In just a few short years we’ve gone from an ambitious concept to reality. NASA’s X-59 will help change the way we travel, bringing us closer together in much less time.”

The 99.7 feet long and 29.5 feet wide X-59 aircraft is expected to fly at 1.4 times the speed of sound, or 925 mph.

X-59 aircraft are part of NASA’s Quesst mission. The goal of the Quesst mission is to demonstrate the quiet supersonic capabilities of the X-59. The aircraft will fly over selected U.S. communities to survey what people on the ground hear when it flies overhead. Then NASA will share this data with U.S. and international regulators to lift the ban on supersonic aircraft.

Here, “X” in the X-59 aircraft signifies that the aircraft will be used for experimentation only, that it’s not a prototype design for a commercial airliner, and that it will never carry passengers. 

“Across both teams, talented, dedicated, and passionate scientists, engineers, and production artisans have collaborated to develop and produce this aircraft,” said John Clark, vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works.

“We’re honored to be a part of this journey to shape the future of supersonic travel over land alongside NASA and our suppliers.” 

The shape of the aircraft X-59 is designed in such a way that it can break up the shock waves, which create a sonic boom. It has a thin, tapered nose-like shape for almost a third of its length. The cockpit is located almost halfway down the length of the aircraft and has a series of high-resolution cameras attached to a 4K monitor in the cockpit instead of a forward-facing window.

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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