NASA unveils the stunning X-59: a unique, experimental supersonic aircraft

NASA unveils the stunning X-59: a unique, experimental supersonic aircraft

The term “spaceplane” conjures up all sorts of images, and NASA, with their new X-59 (even the name sounds vague) certainly didn’t disappoint.

Their new supersonic aircraft is designed to reduce the sonic boom it creates when you exceed the speed of sound. It will fly at 1.4 times the speed of sound and is scheduled to make its maiden flight later this year.

The aircraft is the result of a joint project between NASA and Lockheed Martin and has a simple but ambitious goal. The dream is to revolutionize air travel by producing a new generation of commercial aircraft that can travel at supersonic speeds.

It is important to note that these will be the next generation of supersonic aircraft because the Tupolev TU-144 (first flight on December 31, 1968) and Concorde (first flight on March 2, 1969) were the first.

Supersonic flight is the ability to fly at speeds exceeding the speed of sound. The value of the speed of sound varies depending on the density of the air, but at sea level it is 1224 km/h. Fly slower than this and the flight will be subsonic, fly faster and you will become supersonic. Airplanes that break the sound barrier produce the famous sonic boom, but this does not happen at the moment the object crosses the sound barrier.

A sonic boom, which is the result of compressed shock waves, is a continuous sound that occurs the entire time the plane is moving at supersonic speed. For observers on the ground, you only feel the explosion when the pressure waves pass over you. The sound can be very annoying, so the X-59 hopes to address the annoyance it causes.

The design of the X-59 looks like it was taken from a science fiction movie. It is 30 meters long and 9 meters wide. It has a thin, pointed nose that takes up about a third of the total length, and will hopefully significantly refract the shock waves that create the sonic boom.

Because of the design and long nose, the pilot sits about halfway up, making it difficult to get a proper forward view out the window. To address this issue, high-resolution cameras feed the signal to 4K displays located in the cockpit as part of the outside vision system.

The Concorde was withdrawn from service in 2003 after flying for 27 years. Since then, we have been limited to subsonic flights and ocean crossings lasting several hours. In comparison, Concorde could complete the Atlantic crossing from JFK to Heathrow in just under three hours, while today’s planes take about seven hours.

If test flights of the X-59 later this year are successful, perhaps we can all look forward to faster travel times around the world in the coming years.

This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.

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