A new NASA-built supersonic jet is nearing its debut, and it is hoped it will break the sound barrier without creating a sonic boom for the first time ever.
The X-59 jet sees NASA teaming with aerospace company Lockheed Martin to build a revolutionary jet.
It is hoped the plane will be the natural successor to the Concorde – and it has now moved to the flight line, meaning it could debut in the air soon.
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It's been 20 years since Concorde was retired, which was the last commercial supersonic airliner, as NASA and Lockheed Martin look to bring about the return of supersonic travel.
The study of the perception of sound, known as psychoacoustics, is front and centre with NASA’s X-59.
Officially called the 'Lockheed Martin X-59 QueSST', the goal of the mission is to replace the sonic boom with a gentler sonic “thump”.
The return of commercial supersonic flight will partly be based on what the human threshold is for sonic booms – a vital piece of information the mission is expected to achieve.
The magnitude of the mission means that strenuous testing must be taken with NASA already conducting psychoacoustics research in simulated environments.
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The X-59 is scheduled to be flown over several US cities in 2024, with results set to be used to develop a better scale for measuring the loudness and intensity of sonic booms and ultimately to set limits on these levels – but it now looks as if that could happen before the scheduled dates.
A NASA spokesman said this week: “NASA will then fly the X-59 over several communities to gather data on human responses to the sound generated during supersonic flight.
“NASA will deliver that data set to U.S. and international regulators to possibly enable commercial supersonic flight over land.”
A date for potential commercial use is unknown, as the jet is only a small one at present.
New images of it show that it seats just two people – but the mission is said to be more data driven than actually testing it for commercial reasons.
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