NASA-Lockheed Develop Supersonic Aircraft As Silent As Heartbeat

The desire to travel faster than the speed of sound has not died down yet. Ever since the Concorde made their last flight in 2003, it has only become strong.

The quest to fly at supersonic speed has pulled aviators and scientists to start a new phase of wind tunnel testing in Cleveland.

NASA and Lockheed Martin have come together for the Quest Supersonic Technology Program (QueSST). On February 24th announcement was made for a scale model-X plane.

Preparations are now being made at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland for high speed wind tunnel testing.

A test rig is being prepared by NASA and you can watch the time lapse video on YouTube.

Lockheed Martin has been assigned the task to design the concept airplane. An eight weeks schedule has been planned out for testing the model in the wind tunnel, which can generate velocities of around 950 mph (Mach 1.6).

NASA has announced that, as the wind is blown by machine, designers and engineers will learn about the aerodynamics of quiet design along with different aspects of the propulsion systems.

Tests that will be carried out at the lower end of the speed curve will be at around 150 mph.

David Stark, facility manager at the Glenn center, stated that, engineers and designers want to understand how the design will perform just after takeoff, when it reaches supersonic speed and when it prepares for landing approach.

The dimension of supersonic wind tunnel is eight by six feet and it will enable to check all the sweet spot range in one place.

This effort from NASA-Lockheed partnership has been among the numerous approaches to develop supersonic transport for civilian. These approaches are in different stages of progress.

We will have to wait a few more years before a maiden flight can be made.

To launch a supersonic aircraft in commercial market, a combination of requirements have to be fulfilled including corresponding regulations and quiet-boom technology.

The new generation of aircraft will also have to adhere to overland flight rules.

One of the main reasons for Concorde failure in commercial market was its limitation to fly over water routes only. It also explains why the technology of Concorde failed ultimately.

NASA and Lockheed engineers are of the belief that designs from QueSST will be very quiet and a ‘boom’ may never be noticed by a ground observer.

Peter Losifidis, QueSST program manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works stated that the unique design of the aircraft will separate expansions and shock associated with supersonic flight.

As per a news release from NASA, the signature noise of supersonic aircraft will be reduced to something like a ‘heartbeat’ by our designs. The signature sonic boom is a distinguishing feature of supersonic aircraft that are in operation these days.

The design contract was awarded to Lockheed in the year 2016 and the results of the wind tunnel testing are expected to come out by the mid of this year.

More funds will be required to take the development to its next stage, which involves making the final design and constructing a demo aircraft.

This supersonic demo airplane with minimal boom is among the numerous X-planes that are being developed under the NASA New Aviation Horizons initiative.

The new aircraft will be different from conventional aircraft both in terms of shape, emissions, fuel use and noise. According to NASA, if the funding allowed, QueSST will come out with a maiden flight by the year 2020.

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