Science & Tech

NASA's supersonic X-59 passes two key tests and is one step closer to its first flight

NASA and Lockheed Martin's X-59 is nearing its first flight.

A new video from Lockheed Martin provides a new update on the X-59 aircraft it is developing in collaboration with NASA — and the development seems to be ticking along nicely.

"Digital engineering" has been key to the development of X-59

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The X-59 aircraft is designed to produce a quieter sonic boom, allowing supersonic aircraft to accelerate to the speed of sound (767 mph) while flying over populated areas.

One of the issues with the Concorde, when it was operational prior to 2003, was the fact that its sonic boom was so loud it had to fly at lower speeds overpopulated areas — meaning it didn't fully tap into the reduced flight time potential of supersonic flight.

In Lockheed Martin's new video, X-59 Air Vehicle Engineering Lead Michael Buonanno says the X-59 has successfully undergone two crucial tests, a structural proof test and a fuel system test that showed the aircraft measures fuel accurately. And now it is readying for its first flight test.

"Digital engineering has been integral to the design of X-59 since its earliest stages," Buonanno explains. "Unlike traditional aircraft where we extensively used wind tunnels to shape and understand the flow around the configuration. We use thousands of computer simulations to characterize the nuance of every single flow feature on the aircraft."

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