NASA's First X-Plane is a Bold Step Towards the Resurrection of Supersonic Air Travel

By Darren Orf on at

NASA has been on a years-long mission to replace the Concorde, which was decommissioned in 2003 over concerns that it was uneconomical and too loud. But the agency's new series of bullet-shaped “X-planes” could make the super-high-speed phoenix rise from Concorde's ashes.

The X-plane itself is a concept for the first plane using what NASA calls Quiet Supersonic Technology (or QueSST). Designers Lockheed Martin will receive $20 million over the next 17 months for preliminary design work with the hopes of having a complete design by 2017 and a working aircraft as early as the autumn of 2019, according to USA Today. However, these test aircraft will only be half the size of commercial airliners and will only have room for the pilot, hence why the above image looks so small. But the goal is to fly at Mach 1.4 or 1,100 mph (almost double the speed of current airliners) and be completely inaudible when cruising at 40,000 feet.

Of course, NASA’s had a long history of wanting to create a new Concorde for the next generation of air travel, and that ambition has come with some equally ambitious designs. Hopefully, the QueSST jet is the one that will finally get off the ground. [NASA via The Guardian]