AF-2, Major Ryan "Gunner" Reinhardt, Pattern Work & Taxi, 28 November 2012

NASA’s LBFD to make supersonic flight possible on land.

NASA’s aviation innovators are leading government and industry leaders to collect data that can enable supersonic aircraft to fly over land and greatly reduce travel time in the United States or anywhere in the world.
The low-arms flight demonstration mission has two goals:

  1. Design and manufacture manned, supersonic, large-scale X-planes, which use technology to reduce the volume of the sonic boom to the level of a soft boom.
  2. The United States selects an X-plane that was flown over a designated community to collect data on human response to small boom flights and submit the record to the U.S. and international regulatory agencies.
    With this data, it is possible to write and adopt new sound-based ground supersonic flight rules, which opens the door to new commercial passenger and cargo markets, so that the flight speed is faster than the sound.
    NASA’s small boom mission component is organized under the agency’s two aviation programs (Advanced Aircraft Program and Integrated Aviation System Program) and managed by the System Project Office, whose members cover these two programs and all four NASA’s aviation research program field centers – Langley Research Center in Virginia, Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and Ames Research Center and Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.

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What is the project Low Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) is about?

The Low Altitude Flight Demonstrator (LBFD) project will showcase supersonic bombers with greatly reduced noise, paving the way for commercial supersonic flight on the ground.
LBFD is responsible for managing the construction of the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) test aircraft and demonstrating its ability to generate sound “bursts” instead of annoying sound fluctuations.
After proving its readiness, another project will use X-59 to fly offensive in various communities in the United States. Once it is proved that it is ready, X-59 will be used in another project to fly in various underground communities.

Low Boom Flight Demonstration2
NASA Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator

X-59 QueSST

Lockheed Martin’s X-59 QueSST (“Quiet Supersonic Technology”) is an American supersonic experimental aircraft developed at the Skunk Factory in the United States for NASA’s low-altitude flight demonstration program. The preliminary draft started in February 2016, and the X-59 is scheduled to be delivered in the second half of 2021 so that flight tests can begin in 2022. It is expected to travel at 1.42 Mach (1,510 km/h) and 55,000 feet (16,800 ft) m, which will produce a low perception level of 75 decibels (PLdB), which is used to evaluate the acceptability of supersonic transportation.

LBFD Project’s Goals

Design, build and test experimental aircraft with low-noise sonic booms that can be accepted by the public and comparable to future civil supersonic aircraft.

It shows that this aircraft named X-59 QueSST can generate a predictable range of acoustic wave arm signals, which can be used to verify low-noise acoustic wave tree construction tools and improve the understanding and prediction of boom signals.

Deploy X-59 QueSST, which can support successful flight movements to collect community response data and help regulators develop noise-based standards for commercial supersonic flights on the ground.

The vehicle used in this LBFD Project

NASA’s first supersonic X aircraft specifically manufactured in decades is about to rise. The final planning, construction and assembly of the vehicle should be completed before 2021. The pilot will fly 29.5 feet and 96.8 feet. The foot-wide airplane of a single-engine jet has a design speed of Mach 1.42 or 940 mph at 55,000 feet.

x 59 overview3 1
X-59 Overview Image from NASA

X-59 QueSST Specification

Control Surfaces

  • Stabilator – 39.9 square feet/+20/-15 degree
  • T-tail – 5.7 square feet/+10/-0 degree
  • Aileron – 12.9 square feet/+35/-25 degree
  • Rudder – 8.5 square feet/+25/-25 degree
  • Flap – 12.4 square feet/+30/-3 degree
  • Wing span – 29’6”
  • Wheel track – 7’10”
  • Primary wheel to secondary wheel distance – 17’6”
  • Overall length – 99’7”
  • Overall height – 14’

Configuration C612

  • Payload – 600 lbs
  • Loudness – <75 PLdB
  • Landing Gear – F-16 Blk25 NLG and F-16 Blk25 MLG
  • MDGW – 25,000 lbs
  • Design Mach – 1.4
  • Engine – 1xF414-GE-100
  • Max Fuel – 8,700 lbs

This “square” supersonic X-59 silent technology demonstrator provides the performance specifications of a manned car produced by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. The X-59 is just a test aircraft; it is not a prototype of an aircraft and will never carry passengers. Its unique shape and technical package reduces the volume of the sound shock, making the sound shock to the ground. The community collects data from residents who responded to Sonic Boom X-59.

The Science behind this LBFD Project

NASA’s legacy of studying supersonic flight can be traced back to 70 years ago. This accumulated knowledge, especially in understanding and muting the sonic boom, is the core of the mission. The latest wind tunnel tests, advanced computer simulation tools, and actual flight tests make it necessary for you to use a full-size X-aircraft to test theories in the air.

lbfd conops
NASA’s LBFD to make supersonic flight possible on land. Image Nasa

Mission Timeline

Phase 1 (2018-2023) Aircraft development:

NASA expects the first performance and safety demonstration flight (also known as “shell expansion”) to take approximately 9 months. After successfully completing these flights, NASA will officially take over the Lockheed Martin aircraft in early 2023.

Phase 2 (2023) Acoustic tests:

In 2023, NASA will conduct a Super X-59 flight in the supersonic test area, and the test range exceeds the Armstrong Flight Research Center and the Edwards Air Force Base in California to prove that the supersonic silent technology works as expected and the performance of the aircraft is stable in the real atmosphere. And X-59 can safely fly in the national airspace system.

Phase 3 (2024-2026) Research on “Community Response”:

The agency will use X-59 to collect data on the effects of small boom technology on the public. For this, they will take off from some selected cities in the United States from the beginning of 2024 and ask residents to share their reactions to the X-59 sound.

Phase 4 (2027) Final Control Data:

In 2027, NASA will provide U.S. and international regulators with a comprehensive analysis of community response data to consider new sound-based regulations for supersonic silent flight on the ground. Such regulations can allow the emergence of new commercial freight and passenger markets faster than air traffic sounds. It will be delivered after the task is over.

LBFD Project Flights

After being built and delivered to NASA in 2021, this new X-plane will undergo a series of flights over the next three years, first proving that the supersonic silent technology is working as expected, and then flying in multiple cities in the United States along with measure public response. At the same time, flight tests of other NASA aircraft will continue to provide researchers with more data on supersonic booms and quieter supersonic technology.


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