NASA Brings In the Japanese to Help With the X-59 Supersonic Aircraft


It shouldn’t be long now until NASA has the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft in the air for testing purposes, and that should mark an important moment in the history of aviation.

If successful, the X-59 might open the doors for the return of supersonic civilian transport, with an even greater reach, as this time, unlike the Concorde, planes might be allowed to break the sound barrier over land.

Last we heard of the X-59 was back in September, when Lockheed Martin, the company tasked with building it, released an image of the plane on the floor of the building where it is being put together. And now, another major development was announced.

JAXA, the Japanese space agency, announced it signed a joint research agreement not only with NASA, but with Boeing as well, “to validate the low sonic-boom design of X-59.” It is hoped that the deal would also allow the three parties to “share expertise to improve respective capabilities within the overall objective of helping the development of sonic boom standards for future supersonic transport.”

More to the point, a 1.62 percent-scale model of the X-59 will be tested in the wind tunnels operated by NASA and JAXA, and numerical analyses of the model through computational fluid dynamics will be run by both parties.

When ready, the QueSST will be capable of flying at Mach 1.4 (1,100 mph/1,770 kph), twice the speed of today’s commercial airliners. A demonstrator is being built to test the theories that its design would allow for sonic booms to be reduced to 60 dB (the volume you get in an average conversation), from the 90 dB spat out by the Concorde.

When ready, the demonstrator will be flown over yet undisclosed populated areas, with transportation planning company Harris Miller Miller & Hanson handling the logistics. Flights should take place over the coming eight years.