NASA Awards Contract to Build Quieter Supersonic Aircraft


Making Sugar
Feb 24, 2016
NASA has taken another step toward re-introducing supersonic flight with the award Tuesday of a contract for the design, building and testing of a supersonic aircraft that reduces a sonic boom to a gentle thump.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, California, was selected for 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.

Under this contract, Lockheed Martin will complete the design and fabrication of an experimental aircraft, known as an X-plane, which will 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.

Once 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’s 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. This data set 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.


Expert Member
Jun 30, 2010
A local publication ran this story last year based on a presentation given by Jay Dryer, the director of the NASA Advanced Air Vehicle Programme:

This presentation was given as part of the annual meeting of the International Forum for Aviation Research, which was held in Pretoria in 2017. The heads of aviation research from a variety of countries (including the USA, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany) attended. They gave a day long plenary session where the major players each presented the future directions of aviation research in their respective countries.

One common theme that kept on coming up was the work going into supersonic transport aircraft. The Americans said that the reason that this died out in the past was that the aircraft were restricted to going supersonic only over the ocean. There were not enough point-to-point flights in the world that were over ocean only to make this economically viable. With the development of technologies that will lessen the sonic boom this opens up transcontinental routes, making the idea viable again. The Russians said that the sound signature was similar to distant thunder rather than the window splitting signature of a normal sonic boom.