Lockheed Martin: On The Quest For A Quiet Supersonic Jet

Supersonic passenger jets are soon to be flying above our heads once again thanks to NASA and Lockheed Martin’s work on Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-Plane. This jet is currently seeing its first wind tunnel tests at NASA’s Glenn Research center in Cleveland.

Lockheed was chosen last March by NASA to build a manned demonstrator aircraft that would make supersonic air travel quiet enough to fly over land. After eleven months of hard work the engineers at Lockheed are testing their technology on a nine percent scale model. This metal model will be subjected to various test over the next eight weeks in an 8 x 6 ft Supersonic Wind Tunnel. This tunnel is capable of subjecting QueSST to wind speeds between Mach 0.3 and 1.6, which the engineers will continue to adjust as they learn more about the aircraft’s aerodynamics and propulsion systems.

The tests will include various measurements of QueSST’s lift, drag and side forces as well as testing how air moves around the engine nacelle. The engineers hope to test all conditions of the plane’s flight from take off, to supersonic flight and finally landing using the capabilities of Glenn Research Center’s wind tunnel. The purpose of these tests is to develop a supersonic airplane that is able to spread its shockwave so when heard from the ground, it sounds like a thump instead of an ear shattering boom.

The wind tunnel tests will be ongoing until the middle of the year. If successful and the proper money is available, the updated design will go on to its final stages including fabrication and testing. Dave Richwine, NASA’s QueSST preliminary design project manager stated “This test is an important step along the path to the development of an X-plane that will be a key capability for the collection of community response data required to change the rules for supersonic overland flight.” (http://bit.ly/2lPh8ZI)

The QueSST design is one of the many X-Plane series developed as part of NASA’s New Aviation Horizons Initiative that aims to reduce fuel use, emissions and noise. These developments are being made through various innovations in aircraft shape, performance and flight systems that depart from the popular tube and wing design method in place today. The multiple design and phases for this project will be segmented through several years with the low boom demonstrator starting its flight campaign in 2020.

With the proper funding the rest of the X-Plane designs will also be tested and with globalization growing ever present, it is becoming even more necessary to improve flight technology. Supersonic jets could cut travel times in than half or even more thanks to the hard work by these engineers. The QueSSt is just one of the many X-Planes to see an amazing step forward in design, check out our article on the “Double Bubble” by Aurora Flight Sciences. http://mfgtalkradio.com/aurora-flight-sciences-awarded-contract-d8/