Boom Supersonic Debuts XB-1, Prototype Commercial Supersonic Jet

Boom Supersonic unveiled its prototype supersonic commercial jet, slated for service by 2029.
Brad Bergan

Boom Supersonic debuted a full-scale supersonic passenger jet prototype — designed to become the next-gen Concorde, according to the aviation startup's website.

Called the XB-1 demonstrator, the new prototype won't take to the skies until 2021, but Boom debuted the new vehicle to a group of aerospace and aviation executives at Centennial Airport in Denver, Colorado.


Boom Supersonic XB-1 Front View
The XB-1 is a prototype for the world's first independently-developed supersonic jet. Souce: Boom Supersonic

UPDATE Oct. 7, 2:10 PM EDT: Boom Supersonic's XB-1 tests unparalleled performance, high- and low-speed maneuverability

The live debut of Boom Supersonic's supersonic commercial prototype kicked-off with an introduction from CEO and Founder Blake Scholl, who summed up the company's philosophy with a word of advice for future entrepreneurs and engineers: "You have to be naive enough to start, but wise enough to finish" — presumably describing ambitious thrusts into unknown technological ground.

Boom Supersonic Drag 1
Boom Supersonic's jets use a sleek design to minimize drag. Source: Boom Supersonic

As the world's first independently-developed supersonic jet, the forthcoming Overture will overcome the paradox of speed and drag. The faster any physical body moves through the air, the greater the drag from the surrounding atmosphere. Boom circumvents this with a sleek design, a slender fuselage, aggressive air intake, and many other customized features.

However, while these adjustments may improve high-speed performance, they make low-speed maneuverability a challenge.

Boom's Wing Structure 1
Boom's wing structure can carry up to 60,000 lbs. Source: Boom Supersonic

UPDATE Oct. 7, 2:15 PM EDT: Boom's wing structure carries up to 60,000 lbs

The three engines of the Overture will produce 12,000 lbs (roughly 5,443 kg) of thrust, and the aircraft will be built piecemeal, in sub-assemblies, and later installed into the airframe once complete.

The wing structure can carry up to 60,000 lbs of load — an impressive weight limit. Additionally, new parts can be 3D-printed in-full overnight, saving time and financial investments.

Boom Supersonic Flight Simulator
Accomplished pilots hone their skills in a flight simulator designed to mimic the cockpit of the XB-1. Source: Boom Supersonic

UPDATE Oct. 7, 2:20 PM EDT: Boom's supersonic jet test simulator, nose-gear cameras for virtual line-of-sight

To prepare for the forthcoming test flight of XB-1, pilots used a flight simulator designed to mimic the controls of Boom Supersonic's prototype.

One of the problems supersonic jet pilots face is the landing. To cut efficiently into the air at supersonic speeds, the jet's nose has to be elongated — blocking a pilot's line-of-sight to the airstrip or runway. Concorde's nose actually turned downward to give pilots a direct view of the ground.

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Boom Supersonic Elongated Nose
Boom's nose-gear will feature two attached cameras to provide virtual line-of-sight during landings. Source: Boom Supersonic

Boom's approach is more modern. Instead of an adjustable nose, they've simply attached two cameras on the nose-gear — providing a virtual view of the landing area.

The first flight of the XB-1 will happen over the Mojave Desert, and future ground and flight tests will be 100% "carbon zero," according to the live stream.

Boom Supersonic Mojave Desert
XB-1's test flights will happen over the Mojave Desert. Source: Boom Supersonic

UPDATE Oct. 7, 2:35 PM EDT: Boom Supersonic aims for flights 'anywhere in 4 hours, only $100'

Boom CEO Scholl stressed the primacy of sustainability and accessibility as key goals for the future of commercial flight. From day one, the Overture aircraft will be 100% carbon neutral, and flights will eventually be able to fly anywhere in 4 hours for only $100, according to the live stream.

The Overture will go into production in 2022, with a rollout in 2025.

Boom Supersonic debuted prototype supersonic commercial jet

The XB-1 is 71 ft (21.6 m) long, and is a scaled-down version of the forthcoming production model slated for passenger service during or after 2029. Today's prototype can only house the pilot, but the commercial version will hold up to 44 passengers, reports The Verge.

Tests for the XB-1 aircraft should begin next year. The demonstrator should reach speeds of Mach 1.3 — because of its triple J85-15 engines, which General Electric manufactures — typically for military aircraft.

Boom Supersonic catching up to schedule

However, Boom has fallen behind schedule. The aviation startup initially debuted renderings of its XB-1 in 2016 — when it said flight tests would start in 2017, with aims to fly real-life passengers on or during 2020. But since then, the timeline has been pushed back nearly a full decade.

If tests go well, Boom Supersonic will place its energy into developing its first commercial plane, called Overture. This plane will be 199 ft (60.6 m) long, ferry between 65 and 88 passengers, and fly at twice an average commercial jetliner's speed.

Boom says its supersonic jets will one day fly from New York to London — typically a 7-hour flight — in only 3.5 hours. Additionally, the trip from Los Angeles to Sydney — normally a trip taking 15 hours — could be completed in only 45 minutes. On the downside, tickets will cost $5,000 per seat.

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