NASA is currently working on a supersonic plane shaped like a pencil which doesn’t have a front-facing window for the pilot to look out of.
This seemingly flawed concept will be mitigated by the installation of a 4K ultra high resolution TV screen showing a live feed from two cameras mounted on the front of the plane.
The system is called the eXternal Visibility System (XVS) and will combine terrain data and visual input to create a comprehensive image of the plane’s location.
Known formally as the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST), it has garnered the nickname ‘son of concord’ and could be ready for test fights by 2021 and could one day fly from London to New York in just three hours.
The pilot’s lack of a window will be solved by the installation of a 4K ultra high resolution TV (artist’s impression, pictured) screen showing a live feed from two cameras mounted on the front of the plane
NASA is currently working on a supersonic plane shaped like a pencil which doesn’t have a front-facing window for the pilot to look out of (pictured). Known formally as the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST), it has garnered the nickname ‘son of concord’
NASA revealed the design quirk in a statement, and it states: ‘The 4K monitor, which is part of the aircraft’s eXternal Visibility System, or XVS, displays stitched images from two cameras outside the aircraft combined with terrain data from an advanced computing system.
‘The two portals and traditional canopy are real windows however, and help the pilot see the horizon.
‘The displays below the XVS will provide a variety of aircraft systems and trajectory data for the pilot to safely fly.
‘The XVS is one of several innovative solutions to help ensure the X-59’s design shape reduces a sonic boom to a gentle thump heard by people on the ground.
‘Though not intended to ever carry passengers, the X-59 boom-suppressing technology and community response data could help lift current bans on supersonic flight over land and enable a new generation of quiet supersonic commercial aircraft.’
Nasa began supersonic tests in November on its next-generation passenger airliner, dubbed the ‘Son of Concorde’ by aviation fans.
The interesting system concept is called the eXternal Visibility System (XVS) and will combine terrain data and visual input to create a well-rounded image of the plane’s location
WHAT IS NASA’S ‘SON OF CONCORDE’ X-PLANE?
Nasa is developing a 1,100mph (1,770kph) aircraft that has been dubbed the ‘son of Concorde’.
The vehicle is the first in a series of aircraft Nasa is developing with Lockheed Martin in a quest to build a commercially viable supersonic jet.
It is designed to fly at Mach 1.4 (1,100mph / 1,700 kph) at an altitude of 55,000 feet (10 miles).
Dubbed the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST), the research craft aims to cut out the sonic booms associated with supersonic travel.
Pictured is an artist’s impression of the Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) low-boom flight demonstrator (LBFD)
The aircraft is shaped to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight to reduce the volume of the shaped signature, and was developed by Lockheed’s Skunk Works over 20 years.
The team is hoping to achieve a sonic boom 60 dBA lower than other supersonic aircraft, such as Concorde.
Recent research has shown it is possible for a supersonic airplane to be shaped in such a way that the shock waves it forms when flying faster than the speed of sound can generate a sound at ground level so quiet it will hardly will be noticed by the public, if at all.
Nasa is developing the aircraft with Lockheed Martin’s aeronautics branch with test flights planned for 2022. The plane is dubbed the Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) low-boom flight demonstrator (artist’s impression)
The plane, officially known as the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST), will fire off ‘quiet’ sonic booms. It has the potential to take people from New York to London in just three hours and has earned the name ‘son of concord after the famed pane (pictured)
The plane, officially known as the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST), will fire off ‘quiet’ sonic booms.
The first flight of the X-59, which could one day fly from London to New York in just three hours without giving off a loud sonic boom, is scheduled for 2021.
The craft could become the first commercial supersonic aircraft to carry passengers since iconic Anglo-French jet Concorde was decommissioned 15 years ago.
Ahead of this the space agency will use a modified combat jet to check the ‘acoustic signature’ of the engines to be used in the airliner, by sending it into a series of dives.
It has recruited 500 people on the ground to then answer surveys about the noise generated by the the F/A-18 Hornet, to ensure the flight is quiet as it flies over Texas.
Before the aircraft takes to the skies, NASA is investigating whether members of the public are put off by the noise produced by X-59 when it breaks the sound barrier.
Tests scheduled for November will see an F-18 fighter jet conduct dive manoeuvres off the shores of Galveston, Texas – an island city near Houston.
The plane will rapidly descend from almost 50,000 feet (15,200 metres), briefly going supersonic and firing off the sound likely to come from X-59 aircraft.
The noise, which Nasa calls a ‘sonic thump’, should sound more like a car door slamming as opposed to the booms produced by existing supersonic aircraft.
The agency will measure the sounds using sensors on the ground while gathering public reaction through a series of surveys.
Alexandra Loubeau, Nasa’s team lead for sonic boom community response research at Langley, said in July: ‘We’ll never know exactly what everyone heard.
‘We won’t have a noise monitor on their shoulder inside their home.
‘But we’d like to at least have an estimate of the range of noise levels that they actually heard.’
X-59, which Nasa is developing with Lockheed Martin’s aeronautics branch, is scheduled to make its first flight in 2022.
Originally named the Low-Flight Flight Demonstrator by Nasa, the agency announced in June that the aircraft was to be called X-59 QueSST going forward.
The US Air Force made the name change in-part as a hat tip American X-plane history, which began in 1947 with the world’s first supersonic plane, the the Bell X-1.
‘For everyone working on this important project, this is great news and we’re thrilled with the designation,’ Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for Nasa’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, said in a statement in June.
The X-59 project aims to cut out the noisy sonic booms that echoed above cities in the era of Concorde, while travelling at speeds of 1,100mph (Mach 1.4 / 1,700 km/h).
Flights conducted by Nasa will study the US public’s reactions to ‘quiet’ supersonic noises above their homes. Pictured is an artist’s impression of the Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) low-boom flight demonstrator (LBFD)
The loud booms that rang out whenever a Concorde broke the sound barrier were often described as ‘unsettling’ by members of the public, which ultimately limited the aircraft to flights over the Atlantic when it began carrying passengers in 1976.
X-59 is designed to stop shockwaves triggered by the movement of air particles when an aircraft breaks the sound barrier from merging – a phenomenon that gives off the telltale sonic boom of supersonic aircraft.
Nasa hopes to reduce the sound of the sonic boom to a quiet thud, similar to the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance or a neighbour closing their door.
‘With the X-59 you’re still going to have multiple shockwaves because of the wings on the aircraft that create lift and the volume of the plane,’ said Ed Haering, a Nasa aerospace engineer at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.
‘But the airplane’s shape is carefully tailored such that those shockwaves do not combine.
‘Instead of getting a loud boom-boom, you’re going to get at least two quiet thump-thump sounds, if you even hear them at all.’
HOW WILL NASA REDUCE THE SOUND OF SONIC BOOMS?
In a conventional supersonic aircraft, shockwaves from the nose, cockpit, inlets, wings and other features come together as they move through the atmosphere into strong shocks emanating from the nose and tail.
These are known as bow and tail shocks, respectively.
As these shockwaves pass over the ground, air pressure rises sharply, declines, then rises rapidly again.
It’s this that produces the classic ‘double-bang’ sonic boom.
In a conventional supersonic aircraft, shockwaves from the nose, cockpit, inlets, wings and other features come together as they move through the atmosphere into strong shocks emanating from the nose and tail
Reshaping the aircraft to produce a longer, more slender shape is the best way to generate shockwaves of lower, more equal strength that do not form into such strong bow and tail shocks.
Nasa and other organisations are working on creating shapes to reduce sonic booms.
Stretching the nose to break the bow shock into a series of weaker shockwaves is particularly effective.
This lowers and spreads that initial pressure peak and softens the first bang of the sonic boom.