NASA has officially committed to a development timeline that will lead to the first flight of its X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft in just three years.
This critical milestone comes after a rigorous review, Key Decision Point-C (KDP-C), that confirmed NASA’s continued support of the X-59, in terms of funding, and established an achievable development timeline for NASA’s first piloted, full-size X-plane in more than three decades. X-59 QueSST will seat one pilot in its 94-foot body, cruising at 55,000 feet at Mach 1.4 (940mph).
“This aircraft has the potential to transform aviation in the United States and around the world by making faster-than-sound air travel over land possible for everyone,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We can’t wait to see this bird fly!”
KDP-C commits NASA to the full X-59 development effort through flight-testing in 2021. The cost and schedule commitments outlined in KDP-C align the project with program management best practices that account for potential technical risks and budgetary uncertainty beyond the project’s control.
“This is a monumental milestone for the project,” said Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics. “I’m extremely proud of the team for its hard work getting to this point, and we all look forward to watching this aircraft take shape and then take flight.”
The X-59 QueSST is shaped to reduce the loudness of a sonic boom to that of a gentle thump, if it’s heard at all. The supersonic aircraft will be flown above select U.S. communities to measure public perception of the noise – data that will help regulators establish new rules for commercial supersonic air travel over land.
Management of X-59 QueSST development falls under the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD) project, part of the Integrated Aviation Systems Program in NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD).
The manufacturer Lockheed Martin Skunk Works has recently announced that it had began manufacturing the first part for the X-59 QueSST aircraft.