NASA Taps Lockheed Martin to Build a New Quieter Supersonic Jet Without a Sonic Boom

Wednesday, 04 April 2018 - 11:36AM
Technology
Science News
Wednesday, 04 April 2018 - 11:36AM
NASA Taps Lockheed Martin to Build a New Quieter Supersonic Jet Without a Sonic Boom
< >
Image credit: YouTube
It's strange to think of a time in the past where accessible technology was somehow more convenient and speedy than what we currently enjoy.

With air travel, this was most certainly the case—once upon a time, a couple of decades ago, getting across the Atlantic ocean took far less time, thanks to the Concorde supersonic passenger jets that transported people between America and Europe. A number of factors, including serious safety concerns following a nasty crash in the year 2000, ultimately led to the planes being scrapped, and the minimum journey time between two continents gained a couple of hours.

The modern era has seen a renewed interest in faster-than-sound air travel. Many different companies and organizations, including NASA, have been looking at ways to make air travel more efficient through the use of advanced supersonic technology and new materials that can be used to make super speedy flight more secure.

While many parts of NASA's budget have been reduced in the wake of Donald Trump's ascension to the highest office in the land, it was recently announced that work on supersonic flight will continue. NASA has awarded a new contract to Lockheed Martin, as the company works to deliver the kind of comfortable, efficient, and safe supersonic travel that will likely become the next step in air travel.

Among the many challenges that Lockheed Martin faces with this new contract, one stands above the rest: somehow, the company's engineers have to figure out how to make a supersonic jet that doesn't cause a sonic boom as it travels.



When a plane (or car, or superhero, or blue cartoon hedgehog) travels at the speed of sound, the movement of airwaves creates an enormous, thunderous boom noise that most people don't particularly enjoy. For this reason, there are heavy restrictions placed on supersonic flights over the continental US that could potentially disrupt those on the ground with unwanted noise pollution.

Apparently, the plans for the brand new X-Plane that Lockheed Martin intends to create will involve reducing this boom as much as possible. It won't be feasible to make the planes completely silent, but the hope is that the noise could be reduced to a "gentle thump" that won't be quite as annoying or disruptive.

According to Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, the plan is test these planes in 2022, requesting public opinion on the subject so that NASA will be able to determine just how bothersome the noise of their quieter planes might be to citizens on the ground below.

If it's possible to make these X-Planes as quiet as NASA and Lockheed Martin are hoping, then there's the potential for reducing travel times across the United States by a significant amount. The only problem is the increased release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that this would trigger—planes aren't particularly environmentally-friendly at the best of times, let alone when they're screeching across the sky at supersonic speeds.

Reducing the thunderous noise pollution that comes with these planes will do nothing to help the more pressing issue of garden-variety fossil fuel pollution.
Science
NASA
Technology
Science News
No