NASA grants Lockheed Martin $248M contract to develop a quieter supersonic jet

Randal Sanchez
April 5, 2018

Taking another step toward building a quieter supersonic aircraft, the United States space agency has awarded a $247.5 million contract to the global aerospace company Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin will complete the design and fabrication of the 94-foot-long experimental aircraft which will cruise at 16,700 metres at a speed of about 1,500 km per hour.

NASA wants to prove that it can fly a plane faster than the speed of sound without blasting American neighborhoods below with sonic booms.

NASA signed a contract with Lockheed Martin to design the plane in 2016 and now it's ready to proceed with construction of supersonic jet.

Nasa is looking to foster technology that can overcome noise restrictions on supersonic flight, which has been banned overland for commercial planes since 1973.

The work will be done at the Lockheed Martin facility in Palmdale, California and is worth $247.5 million. "We're thrilled to continue working with @NASAaero to make supersonic commercial travel a reality!"

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The proposed plane, based on a preliminary design developed by Lockheed Martin, will be 29 meters long with a wingspan of 9 meters and a fully-fueled take-off weight of 15,000 kilograms.

"It is super exciting to be back designing and flying X-planes at this scale", Jaiwon Shin, NASA's associate administrator for aeronautics, said in a statement. The complete set of community response data is targeted for delivery in 2025 to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) from which they can develop and adopt new rules based on perceived sound levels to allow commercial supersonic flight over land. The design of the airplane is meant to reduce the "sonic boom" to a thump or a double-thump by the time it reaches the ground.

NASA said it expects to receive the X-Plane from Lockheed Martin by late 2021.

The Concorde, the supersonic airliner that began service in 1976, was built by a French-British coalition and flown by Air France and British Airways until it was discontinued in 2003 - in part because noise complaints limited its flights. Another company, Spike Aerospace, aims to test its S-512 Supersonic Jet by the end of 2018.

The U.S. space agency has said that if it can reduce sonic booms from supersonic flights, that passenger jets could fly from NY to Los Angeles in two hours.

The aircraft will be created to cruise at 55,000 feet (16.7km) altitude at 940mph (1512km/h).

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