Supersonic low-boom jet gets green light

PALMDALE, Calif. Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works has won a $247.5 million cost-plus contract from NASA to design, build, and flight test the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator, an X-plane designed to make supersonic passenger air travel a reality.

's Skunk Works -- the company's well-known high-security, experimental unit -- will build a full-scale experimental aircraft, known as an X-plane, of its preliminary design developed under 's Quiet Supersonic Technology () project. The X-plane is intended to enable NASA to establish an acceptable commercial supersonic noise standard aimed at overturning current regulations banning commercial supersonic travel over land.

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and NASA have worked together for more than 19 years to bring about the next generation of commercial supersonic aircraft; in February 2016, NASA awarded Lockheed Martin Skunk Works a to deliver the preliminary design of the supersonic X-plane flight demonstrator.

"We're honored to continue our partnership with NASA to enable a new generation of supersonic travel," said Peter Iosifidis, Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator program manager for Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. "We look forward to applying the extensive work completed under QueSST to the design, build, and flight test of the X-plane, providing NASA with a demonstrator to make supersonic commercial travel possible for passengers around the globe."

The aircraft -- which Lockheed Martin officials say will generate more of a soft thump rather than the disruptive boom currently associated with -- will be built at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California and is slated to conduct its first flight in 2021.