WASHINGTON: Nasa is to begin supersonic tests this month for its next-generation passenger airliner, dubbed the ‘Son of Concorde’ by aviation fans. The plane, officially known as the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST), will fire off ‘quiet’ sonic booms when it is launched for test flights.
The first flight of the X-59, which could one day fly from London to New York in just three hours without giving off a loud sonic boom, is scheduled for 2021.
The craft could become the first commercial supersonic aircraft to carry passengers since iconic Anglo-French jet Concorde was decommissioned 15 years ago.
Ahead of this the space agency will use a modified combat jet to check the ‘acoustic signature’ of the engines to be used in the airliner, by sending it into a series of dives.
It has recruited 500 people on the ground to then answer surveys about the noise generated by the F/A-18 Hornet, to ensure the flight is quiet as it flies over Texas.
Nasa has announced a series of new tests for its 1,770kph supersonic commercial airliner tipped to be the follow-up to the legendary Concorde. The plane (artist’s impression) aims to cut out the noise associated with supersonic travel.
Before the aircraft takes to the skies, Nasa is investigating whether members of the public are put off by the noise produced by X-59 when it breaks the sound barrier.
Tests scheduled for November will see an F-18 fighter jet conduct dive maneuvers off the shores of Galveston, Texas – an island city near Houston.
The noise, which Nasa calls a ‘sonic thump’, should sound more like a car door slamming as opposed to the booms produced by existing supersonic aircraft.
The agency will measure the sounds using sensors on the ground while gathering public reaction through a series of surveys.
Sasha Ellis, a NASA spokesperson for the X-59 mission, told, ‘We’re solely focused on addressing the challenges of quiet supersonic flights over land, reducing that sonic boom to a sonic thump.’
Nasa pilot Jim Less will fire off ‘quiet’ sonic booms over a small city in Texas this month in a bid to gauge public reaction to the dampened supersonic thuds.
Alexandra Loubeau, Nasa’s team lead for sonic boom community response research at Langley, said in July: ‘We’ll never know exactly what everyone heard.
X-59, which Nasa is developing with Lockheed Martin’s aeronautics branch, is scheduled to make its first flight in 2022.