NASA tests Lockheed's quieter supersonic X-plane design

CLEVELAND. NASA and Lockheed Martin have begun the first high-speed wind tunnel tests for the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane preliminary design -- a supersonic plane designed for quieter overland flight -- at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

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Over the next several weeks, NASA will expose the nine percent scale model of Lockheed Martin’s X-plane design to wind speeds ranging from approximately 150 to 950 mph (Mach 0.3 to Mach 1.6); will occur in Glenn’s eight-foot by six-foot Supersonic Wind Tunnel. Engineers at the facility are endeavoring to understand the aerodynamics of the X-plane design as well as different aspects of the propulsion system.

NASA expects the QueSST X-plane to pave the way for supersonic flight over land in the near future. According to NASA, research shows that it is possible for a supersonic airplane to be shaped so that the shock waves it forms -- when flying faster than the speed of sound -- can generate a sound at ground level so quiet it will hardly will be noticed by the public, if at all.

Wind-tunnel testing and analysis of the QueSST is expected to continue until mid-2017; assuming funding is approved, NASA expects to award another contract for the final design, fabrication, and testing of the low-boom flight demonstration aircraft. The QueSST design is one of a series of X-planes envisioned in NASA's New Horizons (NAH) initiative, which aims to reduce fuel use, emissions, and noise through innovative aircraft designs that differ from the conventional tube-and-wing aircraft shape. The design and build phases for the NAH aircraft will be staggered over several years, with the low-sonic-boom flight demonstrator starting its flight campaign around 2020; other NAH X-planes will follow in subsequent years, depending on funding.

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