NASA Unveils Preliminary Plans for ‘Quiet Supersonic’ Passenger Aircraft

By Paul Riegler on 29 February 2016
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DSC_0502The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced Monday it is moving ahead with a preliminary design of a commercial supersonic plane.

Plans to build an aircraft using what NASA called Quiet Supersonic Technology or QueSST were unveiled at an event at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. The plan calls for Lockheed Martin to prepare a preliminary design of a “low boom” flight demonstration aircraft intended to be used as a commercial plane. The company will receive $20 million over a 17-month period to develop baseline aircraft requirements and a preliminary aircraft design, complete with specifications. Lockheed is also responsible for creating supporting documentation for concept formulation and planning.

The move follows multiple feasibility studies to determine acceptable sound levels when flying a supersonic jet over land. NASA asked companies in the aerospace industry to submit design concepts for a piloted plane capable of reaching supersonic speeds while creating what the agency called a “supersonic ‘heartbeat’” or “soft thump” instead of the extremely loud and disruptive sonic boom generated by previous generation supersonic aircraft.

The next phase of the project will be to create a detailed design of the QueSST jet, using the preliminary design as a starting point, after which a prototype will be built and tested.

“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.

Only two supersonic transports have been flown commercially, the Concorde and the Soviet-built Tupolev Tu-144. The Concorde first flew in 1969, entered commercial service in 1976, and flew for 27 years, while the Tu-144 was grounded, due to safety concerns, after only 55 passenger flights.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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