Supersonic passenger flights may be a reality soon as reports suggest that NASA along with Lockheed Martin has begun testing its supersonic plane based dubbed X-PLane.
The X-Plane is based on the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST). The testing which includes the first high speed and tunnel test is underway in NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
What Do The Tests Involve?
Currently, the test would involve a 9 percent scale model of the actual X-Plane and it will be tested in an 8-by 6-foot wind tunnel. This wind tunnel which is present at the Glenn Research Center is suited perfectly for testing the prototype.
To determine the aerodynamics involved, researchers will test the model in wind speeds varying between 0.3 mach to 1.6 mach, which is approximately 150 mph to 950 mph.
"We'll be measuring the lift, drag and side forces on the model at different angles of attack to verify that it performs as expected," stated Ray Castner, who is one of the engineers testing the propulsion system for the QueSST X-Plane prototype.
Methods To Reduce The Noise
Anything which moves faster than the speed of sound is generally expected to make a lot of noise. The same is true for supersonic planes as well. So, the noise level would normally discourage NASA and other researchers to build a commercial supersonic flight, which would produce sounds of very high decibels.
However, due to recent discoveries, NASA suggests that it may be possible for it to build the X-Plane with sounds so low that it would be impossible to hear it.
If recent research is to be believed, sound can be eliminated just by shaping the plane in such a way that the shockwaves which are emitted by supersonic objects will be indistinguishable to the human ears.
The project involving the preliminary design of the flight demonstrator was awarded to Lockheed Martin in February 2016 by NASA. The wind tunnel testing is expected to continue till the middle of the year. The complete design and functionality of the final product is also expected to be soon as NASA would likely award another contract to Lockheed for the same.
New Aviation Horizons
This innovative project falls under NASA's New Aviation Horizons (NAH) program which aims to reduce emissions, noise and fuel use through state of the art design.
The X-Plane development process will likely take some time so that researchers and engineers can perfect the model and make sure that it delivers the best possible product. Its flight campaign is expected to be sometime during 2020.
Check out the video from NASA detailing the development process of the X-Plane.