NASA’s experimental X-59 Supersonic Jet

Issue: 2 / 2020Photo(s): By Lockheed Martin

NASA’s new experimental supersonic Xplane is on a fast track to flying. The plane, officially named X-59 QueSST in 2018 and often referred to as just X-59, was cleared for final assembly during a critical design review in 2019. With this plane, NASA aims to create an ultra quiet craft that can travel over land faster than the speed of sound. The X-59 is shaped to reduce the intensity of the sonic boom reaching the ground to that of a gentle thump, if it is heard at all. It will be flown above select US communities to generate data from sensors and people on the ground in order to gauge public perception. That data will help regulators establish new rules to enable commercial supersonic air travel over land. Construction of the X-59, under a $247.5 million costplus- incentive-fee contract, is continuing at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company’s Skunk Works factory in Palmdale, California. Three major work areas are actively set up for building the airplane’s main fuselage, wing and empennage. Final assembly and integration of the airplane’s systems including an innovative cockpit eXternal Visibility System, is targeted for late 2020.