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.
“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,” commented 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 programme 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,” added NASA Associate Administrator for Aeronautics, Jaiwon Shin.
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 US communities to measure public perception of the noise – data that will help regulators establish new rules for commercial supersonic air travel over land. Assisting in the programme, which is managed under the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator project in NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, will be US F/A-18 aircraft which, in a carefully controlled, dive, have the ability to approximately mimic the QueSST’s aerodynamics and can therefore be used for early sonic boom research in advance of the X-59’s proposed first flight.