NASA has two words for the future of supersonic travel: Low boom. The aeronautic agency is betting that quieter sonic booms will make travel at faster than the speed of sound more attractive to the consumer set and is aiming at flights that start not with a bang but a sound closer to “a car door closing.” On Tuesday, NASA announced it is awarding Lockheed Martin a $247.5 million contract to design, build, and test a supersonic aircraft that “reduces a sonic boom to a gentle thump.” The contract runs through Dec. 31, 2021.
Lockheed Martin’s entrant into the supersonic market will be the X-plane, which NASA says will cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and feature the less-dramatic low-boom car thump instead of the familiar sonic boom. If all goes well, the X-plane will start flying over select cities in mid-2022 to see whether it is in fact quiet enough to fly over America’s heartland without disturbing the neighbors. NASA will collect data about the public’s reaction to the flights in hopes of convincing regulators to craft new rules regarding supersonic flight over land. In short, see you on the new Concorde in 2023!