Washington: The National Aeronautic Space Agency (NASA) has awarded Lockheed Martin USD 20 million to design a new series of supersonic aircraft.
Known as “low boom” flight demonstration aircraft, NASA hopes these quieter “X-planes” will pave the way for the reintroduction of commercial supersonic flights.
Charles Bolden, the administrator of NASA, announced the news during an event at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Virginia yesterday.
The design for Lockheed’s test plane will be about half the size of a commercial plane and will “likely” be piloted, according to NASA, which leaves some room for autonomy.
According to The Verge,NASA began soliciting concepts for supersonic test aircraft last year, with a specific focus on planes that could break the sound barrier without creating massive sonic booms.
It instead was looking for planes that produce quieter supersonic “heartbeats,” or what it refers to as Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST).
NASA has said that noise pollution is a key factor preventing the return of commercial supersonic flights.
Lockheed Martin is expected to use the USD 20 million to fund preliminary design work over the next 17 months.
The NASA contract requires the company to develop a design and specifications for the aircraft, which will be validated by wind tunnel tests and computer simulations.
After that, another contract competition will be held to build the aircraft.
NASA has said that it aims to begin test flights around 2020 as long as funding is continued. (ANI)