Less noise and more speed: NASA advances with its supersonic plane project

NASA completes ground testing of its supersonic aircraft in development, the X-59 QueSST.


The United States Space Agency ( NASA ) does not rest in its attempts to improve air navigation, and part of its objectives is to allow supersonic flights to operate again after the last Concorde flight in November 2003.

which caused the end of this high-speed commercial flight program.

In this case, NASA is developing a project under the nomenclature X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology , or QueSST , which attempts to solve the sonic boom dilemma and reduce boom by breaking the sound barrier.

This silent technology X-59 is used by NASA as an instrument to collect data that will help air regulators establish a noise standard for commercial flights, in case this system takes to the air again.

explosion in supersonic flight

This explosion phenomenon occurs when a vehicle exceeds the speed of sound, about 1,200 kilometers per hour. Because this blast can be heard from a great distance, Concorde’s supersonic flights had to cease.

The X-59 project, presented in 2016, proposes a research jet designed to reduce the volume of that sonic boom, and poses a difference compared to that of a car door closing against that of thunder that knocks down a house, the reference to the current sound emitted by airplanes when overcoming the sound barrier.

With this NASA prototype, the first ground tests have been carried out, in which the stress of the ship could be measured against the loads and tensions of supersonic flight.

The aircraft will be about 30 meters long and will be able to reach speeds up to 1.4 times the speed of sound. This new milestone will allow flights between Buenos Aires and Mexico, which usually last almost 10 hours, to be carried out in less than four and a half hours.

Noise-free supersonic flights in 2022

Due to the pandemic and other factors, the project delayed the start of aerial tests to 2022, three years later than initially estimated. Overflights over populated areas could take place in a couple of years.

The goal of these tests on cities and towns is to determine the impact of the blast breaking the sound barrier, and establishing an average volume of 75 decibels. If the new schedule occurs, in 2028 NASA and Lockheed Martin – a collaborating partner in the project – must receive a response from regulators to start the construction of aircraft, if they obtain approval.