NASA Awards Big Contract for Design of Quieter Supersonic Aircraft

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"Shockwaves from a conventional aircraft design coalesce as they expand away from the airplane's nose and tail, resulting in two distinct and thunderous sonic booms".

The X-plane is meant to create a "gentle thump" during flight, no louder than closing a auto door, while cruising at about 940 miles per hour at 55,000 feet, according to NASA, The Times reported.

The X-plane will create a "gentle thump", a sound that would be no louder than closing a vehicle door.

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and Nasa have partnered for more than a decade to enable the next generation of commercial supersonic aircraft.

Skunk Works will build the aircraft at its Palmdale, California-based facility in preparation for the plane's initial flight in 2021. No supersonic commercial aircraft has been in service since British Airways and Air France halted Concorde flights in 2003. Lockheed Martin (LMAC) has been awarded a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract valued at $247.5 million, noted a release by the space agency.

NASA will then send out the "clinically gathered human reaction" information to the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) "so they can utilize the information to alter the existing guideline that entirely prohibits civil supersonic flights over land", Shin stated.

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Several other aerospace firms, including Virgin Galactic, Spike Aerospace and Boom Supersonic, are also working on bringing back supersonic transport. "Our long tradition of solving the technical barriers of supersonic flight to benefit everyone continues", said Shin.

At a cruising altitude of 16.7km, the X-plane could fly at Mach 1.42, or 1,753km/h.

After the plane undergoes flight testing at Edwards, NASA will then begin "community response" tests at both the base and in up to six US cities, slated for completion by 2025. The company must first show it is possible to fly a quiet supersonic aircraft.

However, Lowe raised doubts over widespread support even if the X-plane's design partially reduces the noise impact at ground level.

It will create a sound about as loud as a auto door closing - 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB) - significantly lower than the 105 PLdB of the earlier Concorde airliner.