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NASA’s Supersonic Quiet Aircraft For Commercial Travel Gets A New Name

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X-59 QueSST is now the official name of NASA's experimental supersonic aircraft that will provide commuters with faster-than-sound air travel on land in the future.

The U.S. Air Force finalized the plane's designation as "X-59," following the decades-long tradition of naming experimental planes under the "X-plane" number series.

The very first plane, designated as X-1, was flown by Chuck Yeager in 1947. Yeager became the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound.

The "QueSST," meanwhile was coined by NASA itself as part of an inside joke referring to the agency's long-winding "quest" for the quiet "supersonic technology" or SST.

The X-59 QueSST

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company is at the helm of the X-59 QueSST construction. The proposed aircraft will be 94 feet long with a wingspan of 29.5 feet.

The plane will also have a fully-fueled takeoff weight of 32,300 pounds. It will be flying at a speed of Mach 1.42 or 940 miles per hour, speeding at a cruising altitude of 55,000 feet. A single General Electric F414 engine, used by F/A-18E/F fighters, will serve as the propeller for the airplane.

X-59 QueSST is specifically being designed to avoid the sonic booms normally produced by supersonic flights, which has since been banned by the government. The X-59 QueSST will be as quiet that people on land will hear a sound no louder than a car door closing.

"With the X-59 you're still going to have multiple shockwaves because of the wings on the aircraft that create lift and the volume of the plane. But the airplane's shape is carefully tailored such that those shockwaves do not combine," explained Ed Haering, a NASA aerospace engineer.

"Instead of getting a loud boom-boom, you're going to get at least two quiet thump-thump sounds, if you even hear them at all."

NASA plans to fly the X-59 QueSST in late 2022 over several cities in the country to test if the plane, indeed, achieves the purpose of quietly speeding over land. Responses from the communities will be collated with the goal of helping the government design new regulations over supersonic flights.

Ultimately, the test flights can hopefully open a new market for commercial supersonic air travel, according to NASA.

Test Flights Over Galveston, Texas

While the X-59 QueSST remains in production, NASA, meanwhile, will be conducting supersonic test flights in November using the F/A-18. The trials will be conducted over the Gulf of Mexico, off Galveston Texas.

At least 500 resident volunteers will be surveyed for their feedback on what they heard, what they felt while the F/A-18 was flying. There will also be audio sensors assembled around the city to measure the decibels in numerical values.

All data to be acquired during the test flight in November will be used to design the questionnaires for a separate survey when it is time for the X-59 QueSST to fly over land by late 2022.

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