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QueSST: NASA plans to fly the X-59 experimental aircraft in 2024

QueSST: NASA plans to fly the X-59 experimental aircraft in 2024

QueSST Mission – Quiet SuperSonic Technology NASA The scheduled first flight of the X-59 experimental aircraft has been changed to 2024. The X-59, a unique experimental aircraft, required complex engineering work by NASA researchers working with prime contractor Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. .

In addition to the aircraft's design, the X-59 also combines new technology with systems and components from several existing aircraft, such as the landing gear from the F-16 and a life support system adapted from the F-15.

To develop this aircraft, the QueSST team is working on several technical challenges that were identified during 2023, when the X-59 was scheduled to make its maiden flight. More time is needed to fully integrate the systems into the aircraft and ensure they work together as intended. The team is also working to fix problems with some redundant security computers that control the plane's systems.

Over the past year, QueSST has made steady progress toward its long-awaited maiden flight. The team put the finishing touches on the tail structure of the X-59 experimental aircraft, allowing them to finish the electrical wiring and continue critical testing on the ground, moving it from the assembly facility to the flight line for structural testing.

NASA's unique Lockheed Martin Mach 1 aircraft. The X-59 supersonic jet is expected to produce only a slight “whack” to people on the ground compared to the traditional sonic boom that occurs when speed exceeds Mach 1.

NASA plans to fly the X-59 over several communities to obtain data on how residents perceive the sound it produces. The agency will submit this information to US and international regulators to change rules that currently prohibit commercial supersonic flights over land.

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@Lockheed Martin/NASA

In fact, let us remember that commercial supersonic flight today is only possible over the sea. This ban went into effect in 1973, and has plagued commercial supersonic ventures ever since, restricting supersonic travel to flights over the ocean only. British Airways and Air France that fly the Concorde were two airlines that provided the service between 1976 and 2003.

NASA's top priorities for any mission are safety and ensuring success. For QueSST, this means not only ensuring that the X-59 experimental aircraft is safe before flight, but also safe and reliable in the long term during the testing phase. The aircraft is currently undergoing comprehensive tests, which must be completed before flight.

Once this phase is complete, the aircraft will continue its flight with a flight readiness review, at which time NASA plans to release a more specific timeline for the first flight. QueSST is a mission that has the potential to revolutionize commercial aviation by dramatically reducing travel times. Therefore, the X-59 could lead to new rules regarding supersonic flight over land, opening new doors for faster air transportation of cargo and passengers.

NASA Lockheed Martin X-59
@Lockheed Martin/NASA

For these reasons, safe and reliable flight of the X-59 experimental aircraft is essential for NASA to achieve these benefits. The agency is engaged in a comprehensive review and testing process that will lead to the success of this mission. In this regard, we also remember that in October the X-59 was selected, due to its characteristics and goals, as one of the “Best Inventions of 2023” by TIME magazine in the transportation category.

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Last June 19, the X-59 supersonic aircraft was moved from the factory to the flight line at Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California, which is now almost complete. The 99.7-foot-long, 29.5-foot-wide aircraft is powered by a single F414-GE-100 turbojet engine produced by General Electric Aviation. NASA's X-59 was designed to reach a speed of Mach 1.4, about 1,488 km/h, while flying at an altitude of 55,000 feet (16,764 metres).

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