NASA Testing New Super Quiet, Supersonic Passenger Jet Design

Image courtesy of NASA

Eleven months after NASA said it was working on a quieter, “low boom” supersonic passenger jet that could travelers around the world in a matter of hours, the agency says it has started testing the plane with Lockheed Martin.

NASA is testing a scale model of the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane that is 9% of the real plane’s size in a wind tunnel at its Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, the agency says.

During tests over the next eight weeks, engineers will expose the model to wind speeds ranging from Mach 0.3 to Mach 1.6 (approximately 150 to 950 mph).

“We’ll be measuring the lift, drag and side forces on the model at different angles of attack to verify that it performs as expected,” said aerospace engineer Ray Castner, who leads propulsion testing for NASA’s QueSST effort. “We also want to make sure the air flows smoothly into the engine under all operating conditions.”

NASA says recent research shows it’s possible for a supersonic airplane that, when flying faster than the speed of sound, will form shock waves that result in a ground level sound “so quiet it will hardly be noticed by the public, if at all.”

That booming noise is the reason why the now-retired Concorde was prohibited from flying over the United States. Flying at speeds in excess of 1,300 mph, the Concorde could make it across the Atlantic in 3.5 hours.

“Our design reduces the airplane’s noise signature to more of a ‘heartbeat’ instead of the traditional sonic boom that’s associated with current supersonic aircraft in flight today,” said Peter Iosifidis, QueSST program manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works.

NASA says it expects the QueSST X-plane “to pave the way for supersonic flight over land in the not too distant future.”

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.