10 things to know about NASA’s X-59 jet that can travel ‘faster than sound’


NASA and Lockheed Martin, an American aerospace company, officially unveiled the agency’s ‘X-59 Quesst supersonic aircraft’ on Friday. This unique experimental airplane is designed to collect data that could potentially transform air travel, ushering in a new era of commercial aircraft capable of travelling at speeds exceeding the sound barrier, according to NASA.

X-59 Quesst supersonic aircraft(NASA)

The space agency’s ‘Quesst mission’ aims to showcase the X-59’s ability to achieve supersonic flight without producing disruptive sonic booms. The mission will also involve gathering public feedback on the quieter sonic “thumps” generated by the aircraft when flying overhead. The responses to these subdued sounds will be shared with regulators, who may then consider developing new sound-based regulations to lift the current ban on supersonic flight over land.

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10 things to know about X-59

-The X-59 is anticipated to reach speeds of 1.4 times the speed of sound, equivalent to 925 mph, according to NASA. Its design, structure, and technologies are engineered to enable the aircraft to achieve these speeds while producing a less audible sonic thump.

-Having concluded the rollout phase, the Quesst team will now progress to the subsequent stages in readiness for the maiden flight. This includes conducting integrated systems testing, engine runs, and taxi testing for the X-59.

-The aircraft is scheduled to have its inaugural flight later this year, followed by its first quiet supersonic flight.

-Operated by a single pilot, the 99.7-foot-long, 29.5-foot-wide aircraft is powered by a single jet engine. Its designated research speed is Mach 1.4, flying at an altitude of 55,000 feet.

-NASA aims to use the experimental X-59 to gather data that could potentially lead to a reevaluation of regulations prohibiting supersonic flight over land. The goal is to demonstrate that a sonic boom can be minimised to a barely audible sonic thump when heard on the ground.

-After completing flight tests, NASA plans to fly the X-59 over selected cities in the US gathering public input on the sound generated by the aircraft and how it is perceived. The collected data will be shared with the Federal Aviation Administration and international regulatory bodies.

-The X-59 is categorised as a unique experimental airplane rather than a prototype. Its technologies are designed to inform the development of future generations of quiet supersonic aircraft.

-The thin, tapered nose of the X-59, constituting nearly one-third of its length, is engineered to disrupt shock waves that would typically result in a conventional supersonic aircraft producing a pronounced sonic boom.

-With this arrangement, the cockpit is situated nearly midway along the aircraft’s length, and it lacks a conventional forward-facing window. Instead, the Quesst team introduced the eXternal Vision System, incorporating high-resolution cameras that feed into a 4K monitor within the cockpit.

-The team implemented an innovative design for the aircraft, placing its engine on top and ensuring a streamlined underside.

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