All four of NASA research centers and Lockheed Martin Skunk Works are on a mission to build the X-59 – the first quiet supersonic research aircraft.
Stemming from low-boom flight research that had its roots in ASAB for decades, NASA Langley and SACD have been instrumental in the development of the X-59. The ASAB supersonics team was involved in the development of both the low-boom shaping tools and the methods used to design the X-59 aircraft. Various concept studies conducted over the past few years led to the award of the X-59 contract with Lockheed Martin. This ASAB-led research was instrumental in establishing the confidence needed in the design to secure agency support for this manned X-plane.
The FAA currently prohibits supersonic flight over land due to the loud boom caused by the shockwaves produced when the a supersonic vehicle exceeds the sound barrier. The engineers of ASAB, other NASA centers, and Lockheed designed X-59 to divert the shockwaves, softening the boom so only a light <thump> will reach civilians below.
The first flights above civilians will occur in 2024, when select communities will assess the noise level produced by the X-59 flying overhead. The results will be presented to the FAA and ICAO in the hopes of changing regulation prohibiting commercial, supersonic flight over land.
The X-59 will seat one pilot in its 99.7-foot body, cruising at 55,000 feet at Mach 1.4 (925 mph). ASAB is also developing low-boom supersonic passenger jet concepts, guiding the future of aviation and bringing commercial supersonic flight to reality.