NASA will pay Lockheed Martin $US248 million to build this quieter supersonic jet

Lockheed Martin’s Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator. Picture: NASA/Lockheed Martin

  • Commercial supersonic air travel ended with Concorde in 2003.
  • Prototype aims to replace supersonic boom with ‘gentle heartbeat’.
  • Will travel at 1500km/h at 16,000 metres.

NASA and Lockheed Martin have joined forces in a bid to bring commercial supersonic air travel back to our skies.

The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works X-plane will cruise at 16,000 metres at a speed of Mach 1.4. In order to bring noise levels down to under regulation limits, it will generate a “gentle, supersonic heartbeat” instead of a sonic boom.

NASA will pay Lockheed $US248 million to develop the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator, under NASA’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) program at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California.

The age of supersonic commercial flight ended with the last Concorde flight in 2003. Lockheed’s plane will travel at 1500km/h and produce around 75 perceived decibels at ground level. The Concorde produced 90 decibels.

Lockheed plans to conduct the first test flight in 2021.

Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator program manager Peter Iosifidis said Lockheed was “honored to continue our partnership with NASA to enable a new generation of supersonic travel”.

“We look forward to applying the extensive work completed under QueSST to the design, build and flight test of the X-plane, providing NASA with a demonstrator to make supersonic commercial travel possible for passengers around the globe.”

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