NASA Move Closer to Building Supersonic Prototypes to Halve the Length of Commercial Flights

By Spaceaero2 (File:Concord 1 94-9-5 kix.jpg) [CC BY-SA 3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

One small step for man, one giant leap for saving us time on our flights…

Nasa are set to start accepting proposals to build low noise supersonic passenger planes, being dubbed as ‘Concorde 2’. If put into production they will halve the length of current aviation journeys as they will be able to travel over twice the speed of sound (1,400 mph). At such speeds you could arrive in New York from London in just 3 hours.

Of course this would be the first supersonic commercial jet since Concorde was closed down in 2003 following the crash of Air France Flight 4590 in which all passengers and crews died. Furthermore the general changes in commercial aviation due to the 9/11 attacks and end of maintenance for Concorde also contributed to its retirement.

Until now and since its predecessor’s retirement, the issue as been the thunderous noise known as the ‘sonic boom’, which is the sound made when the jet reaches such supersonic speeds. The noise is so extreme it disturbed people on the ground, and caused issues with livestock and even damaged materials and buildings. This issue also contributed to Concorde’s downfall.

Working with ‘son of Concorde’ Lockheed Martin, the space agency has been successfully testing the new technology in wind tunnels using experimental scale model planes, and now believes it’s ready to design for commercial activity.

The design is set to be finalised over the new few months and undergo further static performance testing. They will then solicit proposals to contract and build the aircraft.

NASA believe the new plane will fly as high as 55,000 feet – with most airliners currently limited to 45,000 feet. Furthermore, the new plane is set to only create a sound of up to 60 decibels – significantly less than the 90 decibels made by Concorde and roughly in line with standard motorway noises.

Peter Coen, project manager for NASA’s commercial supersonic research team said, “Now you’re getting down to that level where, as far as approval from the general public, it would probably be something that’s acceptable.”

Coen continued, “Supersonic flight offers the potential to improve the quality of life of those that fly, by greatly reducing travel time.”

NASA and Martin say the QueSST (Quiet Supersonic Transport) designs will hopefully meet the necessary requirements, allowing test flights as early as 2021 and full-sized commercial jets to be available by 2022.

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