NASA's 'quiet' X-59 supersonic plane is coming together as space agency chases faster flight
NASA engineers are building a next-generation supersonic plane that will produce a barely audible thump instead of the infamous boom that can rattle furniture and break glass.
Science & Tech
Supersonic planes are notoriously noisy, but NASA engineers think they can reduce the thunderous boom these planes produce into a barely audible thump by cleverly shaping the aircraft to minimize how it reflects sound waves.
The raw structure of a prototype of such a plane, the X-59, has just been assembled at the facilities of NASA contractor Lockheed Martin in Palmdale, California. The 99-foot-long (30 meters), 24,000-pound (10,000 kilograms) one seater might take to the sky as early as the end of 2022, paving the way for a new era of supersonic aviation.
There is no way of not noticing a supersonic fighter jet zooming over your head; the sonic booms are not only loud, but they create vibrations that you can feel. As the plane bursts through the air, it creates soundwaves. But because the plane travels faster than the speed of sound, it surges ahead leaving the waves in its wake crashing into each other. The boom the waves produce, akin to a gunshot, can rattle furniture and even shatter glass.