NASA says a new quiet supersonic passenger jet it has been designing alongside Lockheed Martin would create a soft “thump” heard on the ground rather than the bone-rattling sonic boom that led to the original U.S. prohibition on supersonic flight over land back in the early 1970s.
NASA cleared a “significant milestone” last Friday with the completion of the preliminary design review for its Low-Boom Flight Demonstration X-plane, or LBFD.
The initial LBFD design, known as Quiet Supersonic Technology, or QueSST, was designed with Lockheed Martin as the lead contractor. The plan calls for the QueSST to fly over communities to collect the data that regulators would need to ease the ban.
Now that the preliminary QueSST design has been approved, NASA and Lockheed Martin will further refine it based on the results of additional performance and wind tunnel tests. Then NASA will solicit proposals for building the piloted, single-engine airplane.
Although Lockheed Martin has been the lead contractor for the early design phase, the follow-on contract will be awarded in an open competition. The contract will be awarded early next year, with flight tests scheduled to begin as early as 2021.