GE Aviation has now officially shipped its first engine for NASA’s X-59 QueSST (Quiet SuperSonic Technology) experimental piloted aircraft.
The X-59 QueSST is designed to fly faster than sound, cruise at 55,000 feet yet generate significantly less noise than previous supersonic aircraft such as the SST or Concorde.
NASA selected the F414, a GE fighter-jet powerplant, and the business developed a new single-engine variant dubbed the F414-GE-100, for the aircraft. The engine will provide its traditional 22,000 pounds of thrust while also integrating single-engine safety features.
Under the program contract, GE Aviation will provide two engines for the QueSST program, with an option for a third, and is working closely with airframer Lockheed Martin on integration engineering activities and plans for shipment. At the end of 2019, the Lynn-based team completed acceptance testing of the first F414-100. NASA chief engineer Jay Brandon also visited the site to witness the FETT (First Engine To Test) and speak to employees.
“This is a unique program overall and certainly a new platform for the F414,” said Dave Prescott, GE Aviation Program Manager. “We’re leveraging the proven performance of the engine and allowing it to showcase its versatility.”
Lockheed Martin completed its Critical Design Review (CDR) last September, a major project milestone that accelerates the evolution from paper concept to an airplane ready to roll out of the factory. “The CDR showed us the design was mature enough to continue into the next phase and essentially finish the assembly,” said Craig Nickol, NASA’s project manager for the X-59.
The X-59’s mission is to gather data that has the potential to aid in the opening of a new era of commercial supersonic air travel overland. In 2021, NASA and Lockheed Martin will perform flight tests to validate operational safety, quiet supersonic technology and robust aircraft performance.
That data will then be passed on to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and international regulators and potentially prompt them to rewrite the rules so that supersonic flight over land is regulated based on noise levels and not the arbitrary speed of Mach 1.