Lockheed Martin and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have finally unveiled the new supersonic jet, an aircraft that surpasses the sound barrier and travels at supersonic velocities without generating that ear-piercing sonic noise that initially threatens to disrupt the travel industry.
Space.com reports that NASA unveiled the X-59, an innovative spacecraft featuring an elongated nose section, in front of an estimated 150 people on Friday at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, California.
Many Americans—and NASA in particular—are desperate for a victory, and they are placing their hopes on this aircraft. Its success and dependability with this aircraft could potentially transform supersonic travel.
The X-59 Quesst (Quiet SuperSonic Technology) glistened on stage Friday when NASA introduced it to the world.
“It’s rare that we have the opportunity to host this many visitors at the Skunk Works, and it’s even more rare that we were able to publicly unveil one of our aircraft,” said John Clark, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, Space.com reported.
One characteristic of the aircraft became immediately apparent. There is no observable aperture facing forward for the pilot’s benefit.
As opposed to peering through a forward cockpit window, the X-59 pilot will utilize the newly developed External Vision System (XVS) to “see” their destination. Space.com noted in a separate report on the aircraft that the pilot will be seated in front of a wide video view screen whose transmission originates from a forward line-of-sight camera located at the snout of the aircraft.
NASA announced in a news release that this XVS will “create an augmented reality view of the X-59 pilot’s forward line-of-sight accompanied by graphical flight data overlays” using specialized imaging software.
The emerging method of pilot guidance is anticipated to be a paradigm shift in the aviation industry as aircraft continue to develop.
“We haven’t felt comfortable about putting in a crewed flight vehicle without first testing it. So this groundbreaking technology is really a beacon guiding us towards a future where visibility barriers in aircraft design can be overcome with this inventive solution,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy.
Further, according to Space.com, the aircraft has a length of 99.7 feet, a width of 29.5 feet, and is capable of Mach 1.4, or 925 mph. Additionally, it has a maximum altitude of 55,000 feet. A single engine produced by General Electric Aviation provides propulsion.
Regarding that protruding snout, its entire 38-foot length is intended to reduce the volume of the noise produced when the aircraft strikes the sound barrier. The extra-long snout section, according to NASA, is intended to modify the sound waves generated by the aircraft during flight.
Aviation enthusiasts may have found the deployment to be thrilling, but that is only the start.
“Rollout is a major accomplishment, but it also means the next milestone is first flight, and then supersonic flights after that,” said NASA’s Catherine Bahm, manager of NASA’s Low Boom Flight Demonstrator project and development lead on the X-59, in NASA’s statement. “Our eyes are on the mission,”
“The rollout is a huge milestone toward achieving the overarching goal of the Quesst mission to quiet the sonic boom. For the team, some of whom have worked on the aircraft since the first component was created, the reveal of the X-59 will be a very special moment,” Bahm added.
“This is a moment, future generations will look back upon with both awe and admiration,” added Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s Vice President of aeronautics. “The Skunk Works mantra of quick, quiet, and quality takes on a whole new meaning. As we usher in the hopes of a new era of quiet supersonic travel, made possible through our collaboration with NASA.”
When aircraft surpass the speed of sound, they produce an incredibly deafening “crack” sound, which has been the greatest obstacle to supersonic travel. The noise pollution experienced by individuals on the ground in American cities was a contributing factor to the demise of the old Concord flights, as municipalities prohibited the aircraft due to its disruptive noise levels.
It is rumored that this issue has been partially resolved with the X-59, which will conduct test flights across the nation in the future years to evaluate ground reaction to its own rendition of the sonic boom.
“The X-59 represents a nearly 100-foot-long step forward in the journey of discovery that began decades ago, a step toward opening the door to sustainable commercial supersonic flight over land,” said NASA’s Associate Administrator for the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate Robert Pearce.
The United States desperately requires a technological victory. As the world’s foremost adversary, China, strives to establish technological superiority in order to attain global hegemony, and a resurgence of USSR-era Russia seeks to reclaim glory, the United States has fallen significantly behind in virtually every field, including manufacturing, computers, science, and computers. Success with the X-59 technology could provide the United States with a significant competitive edge over its rivals.