NASA hired Lockheed Martin, an aerospace company, to build a new X-plane called Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator. The contract is worth $247.5 million and the new plane is expected to be completed by 2022. This is the space agency’s latest attempt to build an aircraft that is capable of traveling faster than the speed of sound without producing the usual sonic boom.
The Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator will be 94′ long and fly at an altitude of approximately 55,000′. The X-plane will reach a speed of about 1,600 km/h or 1,000 mph or 1.4 times the speed of sound. According to NASA officials, the sound it will create is similar to that of a car door closing.
Funds for the LBFD will come from the federal budget for FY2019. President Donald Trump noted that the LBFD would open a new market for companies in the U.S. to create faster commercial airliners. This will help reduce cross-country flight time in half and create jobs.
The LBFD will not be designed for transporting people. Lockheed Martin and NASA have to prove first that breaking the sound barrier without the loud sonic boom is possible. The X-plane would be created to fly technologies that reduce the loudness of sonic booms to that of a gentle thump. The X-plane would fly over select U.S. towns starting in mid-2022. NASA will ask those working and living in those cities to tell them what they heard.
The space agency will then send the information to the International Civil Aviation Organization and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, so they can use the info to change the existing rule that prohibits civil supersonic flights over land. Changing the rule will open up a new future for the aviation industry. The change will allow the aviation industry to enter a supersonic market not only in the U.S, but around the world as well.
Other companies are also working on their supersonic aircraft designs. Spike Aerospace built its own S-512 Supersonic Jet and plans to test its creation by the end of 2018. Virgin Galactic and Boom Technology partnered up to create Baby Boom, a supersonic passenger jet that is capable of flying across the Atlantic Ocean at two times the speed of sound, reducing flight time in half. Test flights will start in 2020.
However, unlike NASA’s goal to reduce the loud sonic boom, the supersonic aircraft designs of other companies will still produce a sonic boom during flight.