NASA and Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works are teaming up to create the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator, an experimental aircraft that aims to usher in the era of commercial supersonic flight.
The U.S. government has outlawed commercial aircraft from flying over land at supersonic speeds, which is anything over Mach 1 (768 MPH), since 1973. The last commercial supersonic aircraft was the Concorde, which operated from 1976 to 2003. The Concorde was retired after one that was operated by Air France crashed at the Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, killing everyone aboard.
This new contract between Lockheed Martin and NASA is looking to reignite the dream of supersonic commercial aircraft by overcoming the sonic boom.
This new project is part of NASA’s greater Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) effort, which aims to fly a supersonic aircraft that is quiet enough to convince legislators to overturn the current regulations.
“It is super exciting to be back designing and flying X-planes at this scale,” said Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics, in a press release. “Our long tradition of solving the technical barriers of supersonic flight to benefit everyone continues.”
The work will be done at the Lockheed Martin facility in Palmdale, California and is worth $247.5 million. Lockheed Martin has a long history of working with NASA and has been part of NASA’s QueSST effort since 2016.
“We’re honored to continue our partnership with NASA to enable a new generation of supersonic travel,” said Peter Iosifidis, Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator program manager for Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. “We look forward to applying the extensive work completed under QueSST to the design, build and flight test of the X-plane, providing NASA with a demonstrator to make supersonic commercial travel possible for passengers around the globe.”
With any luck, we may see the next generation of supersonic commercial aircraft flying passengers and cargo all over the continental United States shortly after 2021.