NASA’s X-59 QueSST Quiet Supersonic Aircraft Cleared for Final Assembly


Illustration of the completed X-59 QueSST landing on a runway. Credit: Lockheed Martin

NASA’s first large scale, piloted X-plane in more than three decades is cleared for final assembly and integration of its systems following a major project review by senior managers held Thursday at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

X-59 Main Assembly

Image of the X-59 main assembly coming together. Credit: Lockheed Martin

The management review, known as Key Decision Point-D (KDP-D), was the last programmatic hurdle for the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft to clear before officials meet again in late 2020 to approve the airplane’s first flight in 2021.

“With the completion of KDP-D we’ve shown the project is on schedule, it’s well planned and on track. We have everything in place to continue this historic research mission for the nation’s air-traveling public,” said Bob Pearce, NASA’s associate administrator for Aeronautics.

The X-59 is shaped to reduce the loudness of a sonic boom reaching the ground to that of a gentle thump, if it is heard at all. It will be flown above select U.S. 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 cost-plus-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.

X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology Demonstrator

This “four-view” of the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology Demonstrator provides specifications of the piloted vehicle that is being built by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. The X-59 is an experimental aircraft only; it is not a prototype design for a commercial airliner and will never carry passengers. Its unique shape and set of technologies reduce the loudness of a sonic boom reaching the ground to that of a gentle thump. Starting in 2023, it will be flown above select U.S. communities to collect data from residents responding to the X-59’s sonic thump. Credit: NASA

Management of the X-59 QueSST development and construction falls under the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator project, which is part of NASA’s Integrated Aviation Systems Program.

6 Comments on "NASA’s X-59 QueSST Quiet Supersonic Aircraft Cleared for Final Assembly"

  1. ‘Standard Day fuel’ translates to the same old concentrated exhaust trail of refined kerosene soot.

    More of the same petroleum-powered aircraft destroying our atmospheric envelope, that we ALL need to have stay in tact! Now farther out.

    Whatever happened to LH2 for the fuel? This is across the board with all aircraft. If NASA is able to come up with this, they sure as hell can design a non-polluting version.

    “Sonic boom to a ‘gentle thump'”? Now, times that by hundreds of these aircraft in the sky.

    Because in no time flat, with the advent of metallic 3D printing, we will be hearing the so-called ‘gentle thumping’ all of the time!

    And, we really have no idea the environmental impact that’s ahead to the upper atmosphere, with this type of aircraft? Where is the unbiased 3rd party testing report on what kerosene-fueled aircraft is doing to our atmosphere, and contributing to acid rain?

    Here is Boeing’s answer. Fueled by LH2. It may not be as fast, but much quieter. And water vapor out the tail pipe.

  2. Sounds like you are right.

  3. In all fairness this is an airframe study, not propulsion. I am with you on the carbon issue but this bird is all about aerodynamics/low boom.

  4. Standard day has nothing to do with the type of fuel only the weather conditions prevalent wherever the aircraft is located. As fuel temperature goes up, it expands and therefore there is less fuel weight available per cubic unit. You cannot make the tanks bigger, only make the fuel more dense. Time to get out of the basement and get some vitamin D. You have no idea what this research may lead to.

  5. The GOPAL system would be an excellent option. It would fit the HP issue right away.

  6. Richard Loewenhagen | December 26, 2019 at 3:26 pm | Reply

    The truth is: there is no-way we commit $270 million + to ‘Thump Detection’… come on, get real.. this has serious military implications or perhaps commercial applications, but it sure as hell has more than ‘Thump Detection’ implications at this price-tag! R. L. Loewenhagen, Lt Col, USAF (Ret), Systems Engineer, Logistics Engineer with 30+ years weapons system development and support experience

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