NASA, Lockheed Martin To Build Supersonic Jet
NASA announced today that it has awarded Lockheed a juicy $247.5 million contract to produce a single “X-plane,” or experimental plane, meeting certain requirements by the end of 2021. The company created a preliminary design under a previous contract.
This is “NASA’s first X-plane in a generation,” a Lockheed Martin spokesperson told CNBC on Tuesday.
Of course, much of the engineering is up to Lockheed, but in the end the single-pilot craft will travel at some 940 MPH at high altitude — 55,000 feet — and produce around 75 perceived decibels at ground level.
The jet will have a fully fueled takeoff weight of 32,300 pounds. Propulsion will be provided by a single General Electric F414 engine, the same powerplant used by F/A-18E/F fighter jets. The single-seat cockpit is modeled after the design for the rear cockpit seat in a T-38 training jet.
Current regulations ban commercial supersonic aircraft from operating over land. But, Lockheed Martin and NASA want to advance the technology through noise reduction to overturn regulations. The new experimental plane is designed to return supersonic passenger air travel to routes over land.
After first flight in 2021, NASA plans to validate the aircraft and confirm it does in fact reduce the noise of a sonic boom. These validation tests will run into 2022, and then the survey flights will begin, with two tests per year for about three years.