‘Son of Concorde’ – Inside the NASA X59 Program

By Luke Will | December 1, 2019

Since the retirement of the legendary Concorde aircraft in 2003, amidst rising fuel prices and safety concerns following the Air France #4590 crash, the market has lacked a supersonic commercial airliner; However, this is set to change following an announcement from NASA, in partnership with Lockheed Martin, unveiling the X59 project.

A prototype of the X59 | (c) Lockheed Martin

A key concern of Concorde was it’s ‘sonic-boom’ which prohibited the airliner from flying at supersonic, Mach 2, speeds over land, so a key announcement of the X59 is it’s ‘Quiet Supersonic Technology’ design, aiming to fly at 55,000ft (Compared to the 36-40,000ft height of most commercial airliners), 940kph, and only be as loud as a closing car door – just 75 on the Perceived Level decibel (PLdB). NASA say:

By designing the perfect sonic boom, as quiet as a car door closing, would allow the plane to go supersonic over land

The X-59 is expected to conduct its first flight in 2021, following tests since November 2018 by  NASA, over Texas; Testing residents response to noise from experimental aircraft.

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The initial experimentation flights are said to  collect community response data on the acceptability of the quiet sonic boom generated by the aircraft, helping NASA establish an acceptable supersonic noise standard to overturn current regulations banning supersonic travel over land.

What are your thoughts on the X59? Is it a viable commercial plan? Or is it doomed before it’s first flight? Let us know in the comments!

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  • jonathan schwab

    If the sonic boom can be made quieter, I am 100% in favor of it!

  • I cant see it getting approved for flight over land. Concorde really wasn’t that loud on the ground when flying at 17000m, but the US government succumbed to pressure to curtail its success and introduced the over-land ban. Noise regulations have got tighter in the last 50 years, so the X59 will have to be unbelievably quiet to overcome the inevitable political backlash. Politics and regulation trumps technical innovation every time. Sadly.

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