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Lockheed Martin developing ‘low boom’ supersonic jet for NASA

Lockheed Martin’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) concept’s unique design would allow it to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight, resulting in a soft thump rather than a disruptive bang.
Lockheed Martin’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) concept’s unique design would allow it to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight, resulting in a soft thump rather than a disruptive bang. Courtesy photo

Remember the Concorde, the supersonic passenger jet that was all the rage back in the 1970s?

First flown in 1969, with its first commercial flight in 1976, the Concorde flew at twice the speed of sound and could carry passengers from New York to London in about 3  1/2 hours, compared to about seven hours on conventional aircraft, according to Business Insider. It stopped flying in 2003.

But NASA took steps this year toward returning to the speed of sound when it awarded a $20 million contract to a team of scientists led by Lockheed Martin engineers to complete a preliminary design for a new “low boom” flight demonstration aircraft using Quiet Supersonic Technology, or QueSST.

Aircraft are prohibited from breaking the sound barrier over the United States because of the sonic boom that is created. After doing feasibility studies and working to understand more acceptable sound levels nationwide, NASA will ask industry teams to submit design concepts for a test aircraft that creates a supersonic thump — or “heartbeat” — rather than a disruptive boom.

Calling it an “exciting program,” Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said Thursday at Texas Christian University’s Tandy Executive Speakers Series.

Carvalho said he can picture the technology transitioning to the commercial market. It would be used in smaller corporate jets before “revolutionizing” larger, commercial airliners, he said.

“Just like it did when it went from propeller-based airplanes to jet engines, now we go from jets to supersonic engines and now all of a sudden going across the country goes from being a five- to six-hour flight to a two- or three-hour flight,” he said.

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

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