Lockheed Gets $247M NASA Supersonic X-Plane Development Contract

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Once NASA accepts the aircraft from its 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 country.

The experimental plane is meant to cruise at altitudes around 55,000 feet and to reach speeds around 940 miles per hour.

This data set will help United States and other global regulators to choose supersonic travel and may welcome commercial markets in faster-than-sound air travel. But with an innovative plane design that might subtly morph in the air to tame sound waves, NASA hopes to build a quieter supersonic plane that would revolutionize travel.

Lockheed Martin will build the aircraft for $247.5 million.

The earlier supersonic airliner Concorde was retired in 2003 because of high maintenance costs and irritating sonic boom.

Lockheed Martin will create a design for the X-Plane, an experimental aircraft.

"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.

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Current regulations, which are based on aircraft speed, ban supersonic flight over land.

NASA is partnering with Lockheed Martin to develop an experimental manned airplane capable of traveling faster than the speed of sound while staying relatively quiet.

Once it has passed all the requirements set, the X-plane will be flown over select cities and data will be collected from communities and responses taken from everyday people about the flight.

"Our long tradition of solving the technical barriers of supersonic flight to benefit everyone continues", Shin added.

The precise speed varies depending on conditions, but 940 miles per hour is well over 100 miles per hour faster than the sound barrier.

However, Lowe raised doubts over widespread support even if the X-plane's design partially reduces the noise impact at ground level. "This X-plane is an important action better to that incredible future". The sound it generates, NASA says, should be at 75 perceived-level decibels, or "about as loud as a vehicle door closing". It was these regulations which severely hampered Concorde's use in the 1970s and 1980s; with no possibility to fly at supersonic speeds over the United States, the aircraft could not serve routes to the West Coast.

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