A new supersonic airplane design unveiled by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics will start a new era in the supersonic boom. The X-59 is a demonstrator built to be as affordable as possible.
In partnership with NASA, the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works team is solving one of the most persistent challenges of supersonic flight – the sonic boom. NASA awarded Lockheed Martin Skunk Works a contract in February 2016 for the preliminary design of X-59, designed to reduce a sonic boom to a gentle thump.
In 2018, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works was selected for the design, build and flight test of the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD). The X-59 aircraft will collect community response data on the acceptability of the quiet sonic boom generated by our design, helping NASA establish an acceptable commercial supersonic noise standard to overturn current regulations banning supersonic travel over land. This would open the door to an entirely new global market for aircraft manufacturers, enabling passengers to travel anywhere in the world in half the time it takes today.
Conceived in 1943, the Skunk Works division—a name inspired by a mysterious locale from the comic strip Li’L Abner—was formed by Johnson to build America’s first jet fighter. German jets had appeared over Europe. As with virtually all Skunk Works projects that followed, the mission was secretive and the deadline was remarkably tight. Johnson promised the Pentagon they’d have their first prototype in 150 days. His engineers turned one out in 143 days, creating the P-80 Shooting Star, a sleek, lightning-fast fighter that went on to win history’s first jet-versus-jet dogfight over Korea in 1950.
X-59 is designed to cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom.