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NASA, Lockheed Martin Collaborate For Quieter 'X-Plane' Project Worth $20 Million

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March 1
4:54 AM 2016

NASA announced plans of producing supersonic planes that will one day supersede passenger jets. The project is in the first series of NASA's New Aviation Horizons initiative 'X-planes'.  It was rolled out in the agency's Fiscal Year 2017 budget where the contract of $20 million over 17 months was awarded by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to Lockheed Martin on Monday at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport for the QueSST introductory design work.

The Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, California was chosen by NASA to lead the completion of the introductory design for Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST).  The project will be performed under a task order against the Basic and Applied Aerospace Research and Technology (BAART) agreement at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.

"NASA is working hard to make flight greener, safer and quieter - all while developing aircraft that travel faster, and building an aviation system that operates more efficiently," said Bolden. "To that end, it's worth noting that it's been almost 70 years since Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 as part of our predecessor agency's high speed research. Now we're continuing that supersonic X-plane legacy with this preliminary design award for a quieter supersonic jet with an aim toward passenger flight."

After being done with the feasibility studies that will help better disposition, NASA's Commercial Supersonic Technology Project requested industry teams to present design ideas for a piloted test aircraft. These aircraft will be tested to fly at supersonic speeds that could make a supersonic 'heartbeat' which is a gentle beat instead of a breaking loud sound, Mail Online reports.

According to CNN, sonic booms came from formed shock waves when supersonic planes pierce the air.  The shock waves create quick air pressure changes releasing loud, breaking sounds which can be heard from distant miles. NASA and Lockheed are working together to master how to 'shape' or 'tune' the plane's sonic boom to make it quieter through its design.

NASA is expecting the design and structure phase for the half-scale first version of the aircraft to last for several years.  However, it depends on the funding. The flight will start around 2020.

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