NASA's Supersonic X-Plane Will Re-Use Several Kinds of Military Jet Parts

The jet will travel faster than the speed of sound and keep sonic boom sound at an all-time low.
Fabienne Lang

The U.S. will soon have a supersonic jet, and it won't sound louder than a car door slamming shut.

NASA and Lockheed Martin have been collaborating to design and build a new aircraft that will reduce the sound of supersonic boom noise. Moreover, in a bid to keep costs down, NASA is prowling through military boneyards to re-use parts of military aircraft in their upcoming jet. 


The U.S.' newest X-plane

NASA's X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Transport (QueSST) is currently under construction, and it'll be one of many kinds. What we mean by that is that the X-59 will feature some very familiar parts once it's ready to take to the skies. 

The jet will feature a number of recycled parts of former U.S. Air Force fighter jets, such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon. 

NASA's Supersonic X-Plane Will Re-Use Several Kinds of Military Jet Parts
Assembly of the X-59 in the factory, Source: Lockheed Martin

QueSST is an experimental project that is part of an effort to create commercial airlines that can fly at supersonic speeds without causing an enormous and continuous ruckus as they fly overhead. 

The reason there aren't currently any supersonic aircraft is that if that were the case, our skies would be booming with the sound of jets flying above us. Airplanes, as we know them today, only truly make a loud noise when they take off, which is predominantly heard in surrounding areas to airports. A supersonic jet, however, like the previous Concorde, which generated 105 perceived decibel levels on the ground when it travels at speeds above 1 Mach. That means that supersonic jets would be heard throughout their entire flight time. 

NASA's Supersonic X-Plane Will Re-Use Several Kinds of Military Jet Parts
The X-59 dimensions, Source: Lockheed Martin

The entire point of NASA's effort, known as the Low Boom Demonstrator Project, is to reinstate commercial supersonic flights after reducing the jet's sonic boom. The flight time would be minimized by half. 

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According to Lockheed Martin, who is building the jet, that once the X-59 is ready it "should fly at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and create a sound as loud as a car door closing, 75 perceived level decibel, instead of a sonic boom."

At the moment the X-59 is being built at Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works factory in Palmdale, California and should be built by 2021, with test flights commencing in 2022.

In order to keep costs down, NASA is re-using parts of retired jet planes such as "landing gear from an Air Force F-16 fighter, a cockpit canopy from a NASA T-38 trainer, a propulsion system part from a U-2 spy plane, and a control stick from an F-117 stealth fighter,"  all of which were scavenged from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

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