About 30 meters long, ten meters wide, pointed at the front and largely turquoise: “X-59” appears futuristic. In 2018, the US space agency Nasa commissioned the jet from the defense company Lockheed Martin - and now wants to revolutionize supersonic flight. Today, NASA wants to publicly unveil the centerpiece of its “Quesst” mission (Quiet SuperSonic Technology). Flight tests are planned for later.
"We are definitely ready to write a new chapter in the history of supersonic flight and make air travel over land twice as fast, but in a way that is safe, sustainable and so much quieter than before," says NASA manager Peter Coen.
The special thing about the "X-59: The machine should be able to fly without a supersonic bang. When flying supersonic, the flight speed is greater than the speed of sound in the area around the aircraft. If an aircraft breaks the sound barrier in the air, there is a very loud bang . It is not just heard once, but is created constantly. As long as the aircraft flies at supersonic speed, certain sound waves are created that travel along its route at the same speed as the aircraft and can be heard. Among other things, because this worries many people The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has banned all civilian supersonic flights over the USA until further notice.
The "X-59", the supersonic jet without a supersonic boom, is supposed to fly at an altitude of around 16 kilometers at around 1,500 kilometers per hour - and instead of a loud bang, it only produces a noise that is as loud as the slamming of a car door. Lockheed Martin received around $250 million (around €230 million) from NASA to develop the aircraft. NASA now wants to collect more data during flights over selected regions of the USA.
With the "X-59" the return of supersonic flight is getting closer - around 20 years after the end of the legendary Concorde. The elegant snow-white supersonic jet with delta wings and a pointed nose was once the ultimate between Paris, London and New York. For a quarter of a century, the aircraft enabled jet setters and top managers to fly from Europe to New York within three and a half hours - leaving after sunset in Europe and before sunset in the USA.
Concorde disaster in 2000
In July 2000, a disaster struck: Shortly after take-off from Paris airport, a Concorde crashed, killing all 109 passengers and four people on the ground. The cause of the accident was a metal strip lying on the runway - the beginning of the end for the "Queen of the Skies". Added to this was the aviation crisis following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and rapidly rising maintenance costs. In view of high losses, it was over in 2003. On October 24, 2003, the last commercially used supersonic jet operated by British Airways and Air France landed in London. The legendary Concorde can only be admired in museums.
Several supersonic projects in planning
But the fascination with supersonics remained, and there has been no lack of plans for a successor since then. However, they have not yet been implemented. But now, in addition to NASA and Lockheed Martin, other companies are also working on supersonic jets. Among others, the US start-up Boom is currently at the forefront. It is working on "Overture", a jet for up to 55 passengers that is supposed to be faster and significantly more efficient than the Concorde.
"The ticket prices are intended to be similar to those of today's business class, so that the horizons of millions of travelers can be broadened," said company boss Blake Scholl in a statement. "Ultimately our goal is that everyone should be able to afford supersonic flight." United Airlines, among others, has already ordered aircraft from Boom. However, planned test flights were repeatedly delayed.
"We're talking about a future where people can spend less time traveling and more time in their destinations - with family, at work or visiting new places," said NASA scientist Jonathan Rathsam. "It's a way to shrink the world and it's exciting to be a part of that future."