NASA has awarded the contract for the design, building and testing of a supersonic aircraft that reduces a sonic boom to a gentle thump to Lockheed Martin.
The company was selected for the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration contract, a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract valued at $247.5 million. Work under the contract began on April 2 and runs through December 31, 2021.
Under this contract, Lockheed Martin will complete the design and fabrication of an experimental aircraft, known as an X-plane, which will cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing – around 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom.
Once NASA accepts the aircraft from the contractor in late 2021, the agency will perform additional flight tests to prove the quiet supersonic technology works as designed, aircraft performance is robust, and it’s safe to operate in the National Airspace System.
Beginning in mid-2022, NASA plans to fly the X-plane over select US cities and collect data about community responses to the flights. This data set will be provided to US and international regulators for their use in considering new sound-based rules regarding supersonic flight over land, which could enable new commercial cargo and passenger markets in faster-than-sound air travel.