NASA has begun the preliminary design of a “low boom” supersonic flight demonstration aircraft, as part of its renewed ‘X-planes’ program, under the ‘New Aviation Horizons’ initiative, introduced in the agency’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget. Under the contract a team led by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, California, will complete a preliminary design for Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST). The Lockheed Martin team includes subcontractors GE Aviation of Cincinnati and Tri Models Inc. of Huntington Beach, California.
“Developing, building and flight testing a quiet supersonic X-plane is the next logical step in our path to enabling the industry’s decision to open supersonic travel for the flying public,” said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission.
The team will develop baseline aircraft requirements and a preliminary aircraft design, with specifications, and provide supporting documentation for concept formulation and planning. This documentation would be used to prepare for the detailed design, building and testing of the QueSST jet. Performance of this preliminary design also must undergo analytical and wind tunnel validation.
In addition to design and building, this Low Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) phase of the project also will include validation of community response to the new, quieter supersonic design. The detailed design and building of the QueSST aircraft, conducted under the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s Integrated Aviation Systems Program, will fall under a future contract competition.
After conducting feasibility studies and working to better understand acceptable sound levels across the country, NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project asked industry teams to submit design concepts for a piloted test aircraft that can fly at supersonic speeds, creating a supersonic “heartbeat” — a soft thump rather than the disruptive boom currently associated with supersonic flight.
The current award worth about $20 million was funded by Nasa’s Basic and Applied Aerospace Research and Technology (BAART). The New Aviation Horizons X-planes will typically be about half-scale of a production aircraft and likely are to be piloted. Design-and-build will take several years with aircraft starting their flight campaign around 2020, depending on funding.
“NASA is working hard to make flight greener, safer and quieter – all while developing aircraft that travel faster, and building an aviation system that operates more efficiently,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.