US President Donald Trump has given NASA the go-ahead to put a new supersonic plane known as the ‘Son of Concorde’ into production.
The aircraft proposed by NASA is dubbed the Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) low-boom flight demonstrator and will make its first flight in 2021 according to plans.
The space agency is paving the way to a new era of travel with the supersonic planes which are quicker and quieter – so quiet that it aims to eradicate the sound of the sonic boom that echoed out above cities in the age of the original Concorde.
The plane, despite keeping the volume down, will travel at speeds of 1,100 miles per hour (1,700km/h or Mach 1).
If all goes to plan it is estimated QueSST could more than halve travel times – London to New York could be possible in just three hours!
NASA’s proposals were approved in the latest proposed US budget that was released by the Office Of Management And Budget in Washington, DC.
In total the space agency was awarded $19.9 billion (£14.3 billion) as their spending budget for next year; $500 million (£360m) more than they were given in 2018.
The report states:
The Budget continues strong programs in science and aeronautics, including a supersonic X-plane, planetary defence from hazardous asteroids, and potentially a bold mission to retrieve pieces of Mars for scientific study on Earth.
As it pioneers the space frontier, NASA supports growth of the Nation’s space economy, increases understanding of the universe and America’s place in it, and advances America’s aerospace technology.
The Budget fully funds the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator, an experimental supersonic (faster than the speed of sound) airplane that would make its first flight in 2021.
This “X-plane” would open a new market for US companies to build faster commercial airliners, creating jobs and cutting cross-country flight times in half.
The Budget also increases funding for research on flight at speeds more than five times the speed of sound, commonly referred to as hypersonics.
Hypersonics research is critical to understanding how crewed and robotic spacecraft can safely enter and exit the atmospheres of planets. Hypersonics also has applications for national defence.
Although it is not known exactly what proportion of this will be spent on QueSST, late last year NASA said it was ready to take bids to raise the £287 million needed to construct a demonstration aircraft.
The QueSST technology is being used in a new ‘X-plane’ that is currently being tested in a high-speed wing tunnel at Langley Research Centre.
Engineers have been conducting several tests to predict how the plane will perform in flight.
— NASA (@NASA) September 24, 2017
The plane they are currently testing is one in a series NASA envision will help to reduce fuel use, emissions and noise.
Although the overall goal is improved quality of life for those on the ground and those in the air, the big step in the near term is to show we can beat the boom.
To accomplish this, a unique X-plane, one that uses distinctive shaping – a long nose, highly swept wings, etc – is being designed.
This piloted X-plane will look to prove that sonic booms can be turned into sonic thumps, and eventually help make the case for updating the rule against supersonic flight over land.
Hopefully it won’t be long until the plan is up in the air.