Meet the NASA X-59 silent supersonic experimental fighter jet that was spotted making a trip to Texas

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A photographer recently captured some footage of a Lockheed Skunk Works X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) test stand aircraft en route to the Lockheed Skunk Works plant in Fort Worth, TX.

The supersonic jet’s silhouette is wrapped in blue plastic and tied up tail-first aboard a full-size trailer bed in Marana, Ariz., According to footage taken by Aldo Boccaccio and published by The Drive.

The X-59 QueSST is an experimental aircraft developed by Lockheed Martin for the US space agency NASA. Lockheed Martin won the contract to develop a silent supersonic aircraft in 2016, since then the project has seen significant development.

The Skunk Work facility at U.S. Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., Has been working on the aircraft since 2018.

The current plan is to transport the X-59 to the Lockheed Martin plant in Texas, known to house the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter production line, for structural testing before returning it to Palmdale for the first round of ‘flight tests.

X-59 – NASA

As EurAsian Times previously reported, disruptive noise and tremors produced by planes flying faster than the speed of sound are still major obstacles to commercial supersonic aircraft. Although the sonic boom is only felt briefly, it is actually produced indefinitely as long as the aircraft is flying at supersonic speeds.

Depending on when the supersonic aircraft passes through the area, various people will hear the impact of thunder at different times and at different points along the flight path. As a result, the United States and a number of other countries have banned such flights in their airspace.

The goal of the X-59 and QueSST program is to examine technology that could dramatically reduce the sonic and felt impact of sonic booms on planes traveling faster than the speed of sound, as the name suggests.

Design X-59 QueSST

The X-59 is an innovative design that makes extensive use of components from other Lockheed Martin aircraft in order to keep the design as basic and economical as possible.

The landing gear of an Air Force F-16 fighter, a cockpit canopy of a NASA T-38 trainer, part of the propulsion system of a U-2 spy plane and a The control stick of an F-117 stealth fighter is part of the reused parts. to be used on NASA’s newest aircraft, ”according to NASA.

Artist’s impression of the X-59 – NASA

The structure of the X-59, according to Lockheed Martin, would significantly reduce the decibel level of a sonic boom reaching the ground. The aircraft will take off on a mission to collect data on silent supersonic flight and assess the public’s reaction to supersonic “thumps”.

The success of this concept could pave the way for supersonic commercial flights, which would significantly reduce the time required to travel long distances.

The firm’s demonstration model is a single-engine aircraft with a length of 28.7 meters and a wingspan of 9 meters. The aircraft has an elongated nose which reduces noise levels. The X-59 is driven by F414-GE-100 turbojets specially designed for use in the aircraft.

By 2025, the aircraft is expected to meet the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The pandemic, however, caused delays in the project, The EuraAsian Times reported earlier.

Representatives from Skunk Works claimed earlier this year that about 10% of the design is completely new. At the same time, the company added that this aircraft is being used to test new sophisticated manufacturing techniques, such as the large one-piece composite skins on the wings.

An image of a XVS simulator test for the X-59 – NASA

One of the most notable aspects of the design is the complete absence of the pilot’s foresight. Instead, the pilot of the X-59 will use a remote vision system known as the External Vision System (XVS) to “see” through the feeds of a set of high-resolution cameras aimed at the before.

This design allows the entire front end of the aircraft to be better tuned for supersonic flight attenuating the sonic boom.

Development timeline

In February 2016, NASA awarded Skunk Works, a division of Lockheed Martin, a $ 247.5 million contract for a preliminary design of the X-59. The goal was to have the aircraft pre-designed by 2020 and delivered by 2021.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, delayed flight tests.

Skunk Works was chosen in April 2018 to develop, build and test the X-59, and in November of the same year the first parts of the X-59 began to be manufactured. The results of the study and the concept of the silent supersonic airliner were presented in June 2019. NASA and Skunk Works concluded the critical appraisal of the X-59’s design in September of the same year.

Additionally, the aircraft was removed from the jig support system at the end of October this year. This technology, which works similar to scaffolding, ensures that all aircraft hardware is properly installed during the production process.

According to NASA’s official schedule, the X-59 will make its maiden flight by next year. The initial flight tests are expected to last nine months and extend until 2023. The initial flight tests will demonstrate such things as the aircraft’s basic airworthiness.

During the study phase of the community response, which will take place between 2024 and 2026 and will include flights over many U.S. cities, the public will be invited to comment. People on the ground will be notified of X-59 flights via push notifications and feedback will be collected.



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