On February 29, NASA formally announced its New Aviation Horizons initiative – a 10-year plan contracting Lockheed Martin to build a series of experimental aircraft, or “X-planes.” The demos of the X-plane series includes advancements in lightweight composite materials. The first in the series is a new supersonic jet NASA hopes could one day replace passenger jets.
The jet, known as the Low Boom Flight Demonstration Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST), will help NASA achieve the first piloted flight faster than Mach 1 (the speed of sound). NASA says the design-and-build process will take several years, with the flight campaign projected to begin in the 2020s, depending on funding.
Back in January, NASA announced new “green technology” that incorporates composite materials that could help the United States airline industry save $250 billion while simultaneously cutting pollution by 75 percent and noise to nearly one-eighth of today’s levels. The X-plane series will incorporate that technology, according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
“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.”
Prior to QueSST, the only commercial supersonic jet was the Concorde, which was jointly developed and manufactured by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty. During its 27-year tenure, the jet flew regular transatlantic flights from London Heathrow and Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport to New York-JFK, Washington Dulles and Barbados. It was eventually phased out in 2003 due to cost and safety concerns.
For more information on QueSST and the X-plane series, watch the video below: