In 2022, the Skunk Works-developed QueSST is anticipating a turbulent year. The experimental X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology plane built by NASA’s Skunk Works for structural testing is currently en route to Fort Worth, Texas, where it will be subjected to structural testing before a planned first flight next year.
The X-59, which is designed to carry laser weapons, will be trucked from Groom Lake to its Texas facility for structural examination before being returned to the United States Air Force’s Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, where it was under construction since 2018. It will conduct its first round of flight testing at the site where the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter line is located.
The X-59 Quiet Supersonic was created with the goal of lowering sonic booms to an inaudible sound thump. When the aircraft reaches speeds of 767 mph (1,235 km/h) or faster, its 30-foot-long nosedrops the noise of the sonic boom to a barely audible thud. Soon after takeoff, it will be able to attain supersonic speeds thanks to its structural design.
“We’ve now transitioned from being a bunch of separate parts sitting around on different parts of the production floor to an airplane,” NASA Chief Engineer for the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD) project Jay Brandon claimed.
The X-59, a single-seat plane with a 99.7-foot wingspan that flies at Mach 1.4 and has a 55,000-foot cruising altitude (16.7 kilometers), will be 29.5 feet wide (30 m by 9 m) and 99.7 feet long (30 m by 9 m). It will cruise at an altitude of 55,000 feet while moving at a speed of Mach 1.4, or 925 mph (1,488 km/h). The lack of a forward-facing window is one of its more curious characteristics. Instead, it will rely on the NASA-developed eXternal Vision System (XVS) for external vision.)
The majority of the design is simply modified. NASA plans to utilize repurposed components including an Air Force F-16 fighter’s cockpit canopy, a NASA T-38 trainer’s cockpit canopy, a U-2 spy plane’s propulsion system component, and an F-117 stealth fighter’s control stick in its newest aircraft. According to NASA, these are some of the recycled parts that may be used on the new airplane.
Lockheed will transport the X-59 to NASA after checkout and envelope expansion flights. NASA will then conduct test flights in the supersonic test range above California’s Armstrong Flight Research Center and Edwards Air Force Base, which is known as the world’s largest airplane flight testing facility.
The first flight testing, which will examine such issues as the aircraft’s airworthiness and basic operation, is expected to last nine months until 2023.
X-59 Quiet Supersonic will begin operations in 2024, flying over a number of US cities before receiving public input during the Community Response Study phase.