Nasa is moving closer to building a plane capable of flying faster than sound but without the sonic boom that ended up grounding Concorde.
According to the agency, its X-59 space plane has been cleared for final assembly and is now ready for ‘integration of its systems.’
It will be the first large-scale, piloted plane that Nasa has built for 30 years – although it is being put together by aerospace company Lockheed Martin.
If all goes to plan, the supersonic plane will be ready for its first test flights next year. It’s fully-fledged launch may come the year after in 2021.
Dubbed the ‘son of Concorde’ after the Mach 2 airliner, the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) is will cruise at Mach 1.42 (1,090 mph/1,754 km/h) and is designed for supersonic flight while preventing its sonic boom from being heard on the ground.
If successful, the craft could one day travel from London to New York in just over three hours, while transcending objections to supersonic air travel over land.
Passing the ‘Key Decision Point-D’ management review — which was held at Nasa’s Washington headquarters on December 12, 2019 — was the last administrative hurdle for the X-59 QueSST project.
‘With the completion of the Key Decision Point-D we’ve shown the project is on schedule, it’s well planned and on track’ said Bob Pearce NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics.
‘We have everything in place to continue this historic research mission for the nation’s air-travelling public.’
At Lockheed Martin’s so-called ‘Skunk Works’ factory in California, three major work areas have been set up for the construction of the X-59.