The National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Lockheed Martin have finally formally introduced the new supersonic jet that promises to revolutionize travel with an aircraft that flies at supersonic speeds without creating that ear-crashing sonic boom when it first breaks the sound barrier.
NASA’s new X-59, with its distinctive extra-long nose section, was rolled out publicly on Friday in front of a crowd of about 150 at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California, according to Space.com.
America — and especially troubled NASA — needs a win, and many are hoping this aircraft is it. If this plane is successful and reliable, it could revolutionize 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 feature of the aircraft immediately became obvious. It does not have a forward-facing window for the pilot to see out of.
Instead of looking outside the ship through a forward cockpit window, the X-59 pilot will “see” what they are traveling toward with the new External Vision System, or XVS. The pilot will sit in front of a wide video view screen that gets its feed from a forward line-of-sight camera at the nose of the plane, Space.com noted in a separate report on the vehicle.
This XVS will use custom imaging software to “create an augmented reality view of the X-59 pilot’s forward line-of-sight along with graphical flight data overlays,” NASA revealed in its news release.
The new way to guide pilots is expected to be the wave of the future as planes become more advanced.
“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.
Space.com goes on to say that the plane is 99.7 feet long, 29.5 feet wide, and can reach Mach 1.4 — or 925 mph. It can also reach an altitude of 55,000 feet. It is powered by a single engine manufactured by General Electric Aviation.
As to that prominent beak, all 38 feet of it is designed to help quiet down the boom that occurs when the aircraft hits the sound barrier. NASA says that the extra-long nose section is designed to shape the sound waves the craft creates while in flight.
The rollout may have been exciting for aviation buffs, but that is just the beginning.
“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.”
The biggest barrier for supersonic flight has been the extremely loud “crack” sound planes make when they break the sound barrier. The noise problem for people on the ground in American cities is one of the things that led to the death of the old Concord flights as cities banned the plane for its noise problems.
The X-59 is said to have solved that issue to a degree and in the coming years will take test flights around the country to gauge how people on the ground react to its own version 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 U.S. dearly needs a tech win. With China, the world’s chief enemy, racing to achieve global hegemony by building its technological abilities, and a resurgent Russia looking to regain its past USSR glory, the U.S. has fallen far behind in nearly every category from science, to computers, and manufacturing. If the X-59 technology is successful, it could give the U.S. a major advantage over its rivals.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.