NASA’s X-59 supersonic plane will fly over cities to prove it’s quiet | Science

The dream of making commercial supersonic flights as common in the future as taking a charter to the beach today took a step closer to becoming a reality this Friday. NASA officially presented its X-59 experimental aircraft, capable of breaking the sound barrier without causing virtually any noise. This achievement eliminates one of the big problems with using hypersonic speed in everyday life.

The X-59, the result of collaboration between the American space agency and the aeronautical company Lockheed Martin, plans to make its first flight this year. A future full of activities awaits it: as NASA revealed during the presentation ceremony, the device will spend years flying over certain populated areas to collect data on silent supersonic flights, their effects and their reception in these communities.

Its aim is to pave the way for a new generation of commercial flights capable of traveling faster than the speed of sound and cutting journey times in half: from New York to London, for example, in just three hours.

The X-59 aircraft in an artistic (

“In just a few years, we have gone from an ambitious concept to a reality. “NASA is in California.

The artifact looks like a futuristic, minimalist vision of the merger between a plane and an arrow. 30 meters long and 9 meters wide, a third of its fuselage is made up of the nose, long and thin like the beak of a stork. Something that allows it, as Melroy explains, to avoid the accumulation of sound waves that cause the characteristic boom of supersonic aviation. Instead, the flight of this plane produces “no more than a whisper”, he assured. Or, at most, the sound of a car door closing, according to space agency engineers.

Each element of its particular design is carefully considered to keep noise to a minimum. From its relatively compact wings to a cockpit located in the middle of the fuselage and lacking a front window. The pilot is guided by the images offered by high definition and augmented reality cameras installed in the fuselage and displayed on a monitor, also high definition, inside the cabin. The single engine is placed at the top of the ship, to prevent sound waves from accumulating under the device and causing noise. The plane will be able to fly at 1.4 times the speed of sound, or 1,485 kilometers per hour.

The Quest project of NASA, which includes the X-59, is seeking to collect data that will allow air regulators to lift a half-century-old ban on commercial supersonic flights over land. This veto in the United States and other countries is due to the inconvenience caused to populations by the deafening noise of crossing the sound barrier.

During the test flights, which will last for years, NASA “will share with regulatory agencies and industry the data and technology obtained from this mission,” said Bob Pearce, associate administrator for aeronautical research at headquarters. of the space agency in Washington. To do this, it will fly over cities in the United States where data will be collected from communities to find out their perception of the system. “By demonstrating that quiet supersonic commercial flights are possible, we seek to open new commercial markets for American companies and benefit travelers around the world,” he added.

After the plane’s launch, NASA will now focus on preparations for the first flight, including testing the engine and its integrated systems. After your first takeoff and landing, the next step will be to perform a supersonic flight.

But even though it has reached a new milestone, the dream of hypersonic commercial flight still has a long way to go. According to NASA, to make these projects viable it is necessary to improve aspects such as fuel consumption efficiency or emissions reduction. “It has to be sustainable,” says the space agency.

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