NASA's supersonic X-plane completes preliminary design review

WASHINGTON. NASA and Lockheed Martin engineers completed the preliminary design review (PDR) of its Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) aircraft design. QueSST is the initial design stage of NASA’s planned Low Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) experimental airplane, which is also known as an X-plane.

and NASA engineers concluded that the design is capable of fulfilling the LBFD aircraft’s mission objectives, which are to fly at supersonic speeds, but create a soft “thump” instead of the disruptive associated with supersonic flight today. The LBFD X-plane will be flown over communities to collect data necessary for regulators to enable supersonic flight over land in the United States and elsewhere in the world.

In February 2016, NASA partnered with lead contractor, Lockheed Martin, for the QueSST preliminary design. Last month, a scale model of the QueSST design completed testing in the 8-by 6-foot supersonic wind tunnel at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

"Managing a project like this is all about moving from one milestone to the next,” says David Richwine, manager for the preliminary design effort under NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project. “Our strong partnership with Lockheed Martin helped get us to this point. We’re now one step closer to building an actual X-plane.”

NASA’s project team can start the process of soliciting proposals later this year and awarding a contract early next year to build the piloted, single-engine X-plane. The acquisition for the LBFD X-plane contract will be fully open and competitive, with the QueSST preliminary design data being made available to qualified bidders. Flight testing of an LBFD X-plane could begin as early as 2021.

Over the next few months, NASA will work with Lockheed on finalizing the QueSST preliminary design effort. This includes a static inlet performance test and a low-speed wind tunnel test at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

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