Many have joined the race to bring back supersonic travel, from the Overture to the Spike S-512. However, one of the most impressive models in the running has to be NASA’s X-59 jet as part of their Quesst mission.
Commercial planes are currently prohibited from traveling faster than the speed of sound because of the sonic boom. Therefore, if the X-59 can safely and quietly fly over several U.S. cities and receive positive feedback from the public, supersonic commercial travel could become the new way to get to your destination much quicker.
On Friday, January 12th, 2024, NASA will reveal the jet to the public for the first time in a teleconference. Interested viewers can stream the live coverage on NASA+ streaming service, NASA Television, the NASA app, YouTube, and on NASA’s website.
All features of the X-59 will work to quiet the boom. Its shape is designed to spread out supersonic shockwaves to create just a “sonic thump.” The single, high-thrust engine, also used in fighter jets, will be located atop the plane to revert the sound away from people on the ground. At 29.5 meters (99.7 feet) long and 9 meters (29.5 feet) wide, its “swept-back” wings will minimize air drag.
The X-59’s first flight had originally been scheduled for 2023, but has since been pushed to as early as 2024 due to various technical challenges. Over the past year, NASA completed the X-59’s tail structure and electrical wiring. However, before flying, the jet must complete integrated testing and flight readiness review.
Though you won’t be able to climb aboard the X-59’s first flight IRL, you can sign up to get a virtual boarding pass that will digitize and download your name onto a storage device that will be on the X-59 pilot during the first flight.
If you want to analyze the speed of current commercial flights to supersonic jets, those flying from LA to NYC on a commercial plane will get there in five hours. Supsersonic speed would cut that time in half, bringing passengers across the country in just 2.5 hours.
Separately, NASA is continuing to push the boundaries studying the limits of supersonic travel with a flight from NYC to London that would take 90 minutes. The theoretical plane would have to travel at Mach 4 (about four times the speed of sound). From their market research, NASA found 50 possible established routes that would interest potential passengers.
Similar research was conducted for the Quesst mission. Overall, “These new studies will both refresh those looks at technology roadmaps and identify additional research needs for a broader high-speed range,” said Lori Ozoroski, project manager for NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project.