Friday, July 8, 2022

NASA Beginning Tests of Low-Boom SST

 NASA is beginning tests of the experimental, X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology Low-Boom Demonstrator, manufactured at Skunk Works by the Lockheed Martin Corporation. (Image Sources: NASA,, By Lockheed Martin Corporation -, Public Domain,

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Supersonic Transport (SST) passenger aircraft service across the Atlantic Ocean ended shortly after the beginning of the 21st century. One reason service ended was the intrusive Sonic-booms heard when the jets flew overhead. Now, NASA is beginning tests of a SST aircraft, designed to minimize those Sonic-booms, which could dramatically reduce transport times within and beyond the Continental United States.

NASA's experimental X-59 QueSST ("Quiet SuperSonic Technology") has been designed specifically to solve the problem of loud Sonic-booms heard on the ground, when a jet aircraft exceeds the Sound Barrier. It is part of NASA's Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator Project.

The QueSST has been designed by the Lockheed Martin Corporation, at their “Skunk Works” facility in Palmdale, California. NASA awarded the $247.5 million contract, for design, construction, and delivery of the X-59, to Lockheed Martin on 2018 April 2.

Officially, Skunk Works is known as the company's Advanced Development Programs (ADP), which was formerly known as the Lockheed Advanced Development Projects. Skunk Works was responsible for the development of World War II-era aircraft such as the P-38 Lightning (1939) and the P-80 Shooting Star (1943), as well as Cold War-era aircraft such as the U-2, SR-71 Blackbird, F-117 Nighthawk, F-22 Raptor, and F-35 Lightning II. The name Skunk Works comes from the moonshine factory in the comic-strip Li'l Abner, which is meant to denote an autonomous group working on advanced and / or secret projects.

In February of 2016, NASA and Lockheed Martin started preliminary designs for the X-59. The first prototype aircraft was delivered to NASA last year, with testing to begin this year.

The objective is to find a Sonic-boom sound level that is acceptable to the general public on the ground (or water surface, for that matter). It is not physically possible for an aircraft to fly faster than the Speed of Sound without some type of Sonic-boom. So, a “Low-Boom” Sonic-boom is the goal for the X-59.

The expectation is that the X-59 will reach Mach 1.42 (1.42 times the Speed of Sound) / 937 miles-per-hour / 1,510 kilometers-per-hour, at an altitude of 55,000 feet / 16,800 meters.

This is expected to provide a 75 Perceived Level Decibel (PldB) “thump”, in place of the loud Sonic-boom. By flying the X-59 over populated areas, NASA is optimistic that these test flights will demonstrate that people will accept low-boom SST aircraft over-flying the interior of America.

NASA's QueSST Mission has two specific goals ---

  1. Design and build NASA’s X-59 research aircraft with technology that reduces the loudness of a Sonic-boom to a gentle thump to people on the ground;

  2. Fly the X-59 over select U.S. communities to gather data on human responses to the sound generated during Supersonic flight and deliver that data set to U.S. and international regulators.

NASA has organized the QueSST Mission within two of the agency's aeronautical programs ---

  1. Advanced Air Vehicles Program;

  2. Integrated Aviation Systems Program.

Four NASA research facilities have been involved in the QueSST project ---

  1. Samuel Pierpont Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia;

  2. John Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland;

  3. Ames Research Center at Moffett Federal Airfield in California's Silicon Valley;

  4. Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center inside Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The British and French governments co-sponsored the Concorde SST, which began flying commercial passenger service in the last millennium. Concorde provided service from 1976 January 21 until the aircraft's retirement on 2003 October 24.

The Concorde aircraft could reach a speed of Mach 2.04 (2.04 times the Speed of Sound) / 1,346.511 miles-per-hour / 2,167 kilometers-per-hour. It may be that NASA officials believe a slower SST is more likely to meet Sonic-boom noise levels acceptable to the general public.

Commercial flights began between Paris (Charles de Gaulle Airport) and London (Heathrow Airport). Trans-Atlantic service, which was the most lucrative market, soon also started to Washington (Dulles International Airport) and New York City (John F. Kennedy International Airport).

The only other passenger SST was the Russian Tupolev TU-144, which provided commercial service from November of 1977 until a 1978 May airliner crash.

A larger and faster U.S. SST was canceled by the Boeing Corporation in 1971. Environmental problems, Sonic-booms, and the eventual ban of any SST flying over the Continental United States finally led to the cancellation of the Boeing 2707.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

NASA X-59 QueSST Aircraft -

Link 1 >>> 

Link 2 >>>

Link 3 - Short NASA Video: >>>

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works: Link >>>

Aviation Pioneer & Astronomer Samuel Pierpont Langley:

Link >>>

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeis                  

               Friday, 2022 July 8.

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Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator                                                             (For more than 50 years! - Since Monday Morning, 1972 June 12):
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Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
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* Other Walsh-Authored Blog & Web-Sites: Link >>>


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