JAN 12, 2024 3:40 PM PST

Revolutionizing Air Travel: NASA's X-59 Quiet Supersonic Aircraft

While NASA has long been known for its space-related initiatives, the space agency also has a rich history of aeronautics research and development with high-speed aircraft. This makes today’s unveiling of the experimental X-59 quiet supersonic aircraft, a joint venture between NASA and defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, much more exciting. With the X-59, NASA hopes to collect data with the goal of revolutionizing commercial air travel, as the most well-known supersonic passenger aircraft was the Concorde, which retired in 2003.

“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 X-59 aircraft is the centerpiece of NASA’s Quesst mission and stands for “Quiet Supersonic Technology”. The goal of Quesst is to develop supersonic aircraft that don’t produce the familiar sonic booms that supersonic aircraft are known to make when they break the sound barrier, which has been known to result in broken windows and significant noise pollution for civilian populations.

The first test flight of the X-59 is scheduled to take place later this year and will be performed at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, CA, where the X-59 currently waits for its maiden flight.

The X-59 experimental aircraft imaged at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, CA. (Credit: NASA/Steve Freeman)

“Across both teams, talented, dedicated, and passionate scientists, engineers, and production artisans have collaborated to develop and produce this aircraft,” said John Clark, who is the 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.”

As noted, NASA has a rich history of developing high-speed aircraft, most notably the X-15, which was an experimental aircraft designed to explore the limits of supersonic flight, for which Apollo 11 astronaut, Neil Armstrong, flew prior to being selected as a NASA astronaut.

How will the X-59 shape the commercial aviation industry in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: NASA, Britannica, NASA (1), United States Air Force, Lockheed Martin, National Air and Space Museum

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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