NASA Awards Big Contract for Design of Quieter Supersonic Aircraft

Under the $247.5 million contract, Lockheed Martin will complete the design and fabrication of an experimental aircraft known as an X-plane that can cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, instead of a sonic boom, according to NASA.

NASA has awarded a contract for the design, building, and testing of a quieter supersonic aircraft -- described by the agency's April 3 announcement as one "that reduces a sonic boom to a gentle thump." Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, Calif., won the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration contract, a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract valued at $247.5 million.

Work under the contract began April 2 and runs through Dec. 31, 2021, NASA reported.

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will complete the design and fabrication of an experimental aircraft known as an X-plane that can cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom, according to the announcement, which says after NASA accepts the aircraft from the contractor in late 2021, the agency will perform additional flight tests to prove the quiet supersonic technology works as designed, aircraft performance is robust, and it is safe to operate in the National Airspace System.

Beginning in mid-2022, NASA will fly the X-plane over select U.S. cities and collect data about community responses to the flights. The resulting data will be provided to U.S. and international regulators for their use in considering new sound-based rules regarding supersonic flight over land, which could enable new commercial cargo and passenger markets in faster-than-sound air travel.

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