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NASA delays first flight of pioneering supersonic X-59 QueSST to 2024.

| 2023

NASA's Quest mission has postponed the maiden flight of its revolutionary X-59 supersonic aircraft until 2024. The delay comes as the agency works to overcome several technical challenges identified in 2023. NASA's X-59 research aircraft NASA was moved from its construction site to the flight runway at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, California on June 16, 2023.

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NASAs X 59 pioneering quiet supersonic flight amid 2024 delay 925  X-59 QueSST is a research jet shaped to reduce the loudness of a sonic boom to that of a gentle thump. (Picture source: Lockheed Martin)


As part of the requirements for developing this unique aircraft, the Quesst team is working on several technical challenges identified during 2023, when the X-59 was scheduled to make its first flight. Additional time is required to fully integrate the systems into the aircraft and ensure they work together as intended. The team is also fixing intermittent issues with some of the safety-redundant computers that control the plane's systems.

Quest has made steady progress toward flight over the past year. The team put the finishing touches on the X-59's tail structure, allowing it to finalize its electrical wiring and conduct critical ground testing, and moved it from its assembly facility to the flight path to perform structural tests.

The X-59 will demonstrate the ability to fly supersonically, or faster than the speed of sound while reducing the normally loud sonic boom to a quiet thud. NASA plans to fly the X-59 over several communities to collect data on how people perceive the sound it produces. The agency will provide this information to U.S. and international regulators to potentially adjust rules that currently prohibit commercial supersonic flights over land.

A one-of-a-kind experimental aircraft, the X-59 required complex engineering by NASA researchers working with prime contractor Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. In addition to the aircraft design, the X-59 also combines new technology with systems and components from several well-established aircraft, such as its landing gear from an F-16 and its life support system adapted from an F-15.

In partnership with NASA, the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works team is solving one of the most enduring challenges of supersonic flight: the sonic boom. The X-59 QueSST (Quiet SuperSonic Technology) will be used to collect community response data on the acceptability of a quiet sonic boom generated by the aircraft's unique design. The technology demonstrator will fly over populated areas to provide U.S. and international regulators with the statistically valid data needed to help approve new rules that could enable quiet commercial supersonic flight over land, which could bring us closer to supersonic travel quiet for passengers around the world.
This breakthrough would open the door to a whole new global market for aircraft manufacturers, allowing passengers to travel anywhere in the world in half the time of today.

The X-plane achieves this by adapting the distribution of volume and lift to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight. The resulting supersonic “heartbeat” is considerably quieter than the disruptive N-wave boom generated by today’s supersonic aircraft.

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