NASA’s X-59 Quiet Supersonic Research Aircraft Cleared for Final Assembly


Illustration of the completed X-59 QueSST landing on a runway
Illustration of the completed X-59 QueSST landing on a runway.
Credits: Lockheed Martin

NASAs first large scale, piloted X-plane in more than three decades is cleared for final assembly and integration of its systems following a major project review by senior managers held Thursday at NASA Headquarters in Washington.


Image of the X-59 main assembly coming together.
Image of the X-59 main assembly coming together.
Credits: Lockheed Martin

The management review, known as Key Decision Point-D (KDP-D), was the last programmatic hurdle for the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft to clear before officials meet again in late 2020 to approve the airplanes first flight in 2021.

With the completion of KDP-D weve shown the project is on schedule, its well planned and on track. We have everything in place to continue this historic research mission for the nations air-traveling public, said Bob Pearce, NASAs associate administrator for Aeronautics.

The X-59 is shaped to reduce the loudness of a sonic boom reaching the ground to that of a gentle thump, if it is heard at all. It will be flown above select U.S. communities to generate data from sensors and people on the ground in order to gauge public perception. That data will help regulators establish new rules to enable commercial supersonic air travel over land.

Construction of the X-59, under a $247.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, is continuing at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Companys Skunk Works factory in Palmdale, California.

Three major work areas are actively set up for building the airplanes main fuselage, wing and empennage. Final assembly and integration of the airplanes systems including an innovative cockpit eXternal Visibility System is targeted for late 2020.

Management of the X-59 QueSST development and construction falls under the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator project, which is part of NASAs Integrated Aviation Systems Program.

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