NASA believes supersonic planes should be seen and not heard.
The agency just released a plan to create the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) X-plane, a jet that’s fast enough to break the sound barrier without creating the troublesome sonic boom that keeps planes today barred from flying supersonic over land.
The design NASA and Lockheed Martin, the company contracted to build the LBFD plane, have come up with has a long body to avoid creating the quick, sharp changes of pressure (at the front of the vehicle and at the back) that jets and supersonic airliners of the past did.
The plane will be 94 feet long with a 29.5-foot wingspan and capable of reaching speeds of 990 mph (Mach 1.5). It will carry just a pilot.
NASA has put Lockheed Martin on schedule to deliver the new X-plane by 2021, after which time it will be used to test tolerable sonic boom volumes over land in order to create regulations for larger supersonic planes of the future that could transport passenger across the country at around half the flight time.
The Concorde supersonic airliner flew passengers from the 1970s until the early 2000s, but operation costs and limited, over-ocean flight paths forced the vehicle into retirement.
NASA and Lockheed now join a supersonic company called Boom, which is developing an airliner that focuses on lowering cost-of-flight, to bring supersonic passenger flight back and better than ever.