How is the X-59, the supersonic and silent aircraft that NASA is building

How is the X-59, the supersonic and silent aircraft that NASA is building

One of the reasons why Supersonic planes don’t fly anymore It is because of the great noise they made when breaking the sound barrier. Thus, aircraft such as the Concorde or the Russian Tupolev 144 who at the beginning of this century left the heavens of the world.

Now, NASA’s new X-59 supersonic aircraft, also called “son of Concorde” It is conducting its latest tests to fly at the speed of sound, but without emitting high levels of noise.

The X-59 QuessT (“Quiet SuperSonic Technology”) is an experimental jet that It aims to reduce the amount of sonic boom produced by aircraft breaking the sound barrier.

Instead of the rumble that shakes the ground produced by jets reaching the speed of sound, or Mach 1, the X-59 is expected only generate a bang similar to the sound of a nearby car door slamming shut, that is, only 75 decibels of perceived level (PLdB). To contrast these numbers, a conversation stands at about 60dB, while a vacuum cleaner reaches 90dB.

Lockheed Martin, which is building the aircraft through its Skunk Works advanced aircraft manufacturing facility in Palmdale, California, shared a video this week showing the X-59 leaving the hangar looking almost ready to be tested in the skies.

As you can see in the video, The aircraft has the entire fuselage complete and assembled. Among its dimensions are 29 meters long and a wing area of 9 m. Its maximum take-off weight will be 14,700 kg and it is estimated that the aircraft will be able to reach a cruising speed of Mach 1.42 (1510 km/h) at 55,000 feet (16,800 m). Through its unconventional design, a Long and narrow fuselage and canards (side ailerons) to prevent shock waves from fusing together by the physical reaction called coalescence, the plane’s noise from the ground is expected to be around 60 decibels.

By this, in addition, the explosion or sonic boom should feel like a blow of approximately 75 decibels perceived level, compared to 105-110 decibels of perceived level that were experienced with the Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde aircraft.

Science defines “Sonic boom” or also known as “Sonic boom”, such as the sound produced by an object exceeding the speed of sound.

While an airplane travels at speeds lower than those of sound (sub-sonic speeds), the device compresses the air in its front part, and this causes that the faster it travels, more resistance exists to its advance, which makes it increasingly difficult to increase speed, is for this reason that the speed of sound was called the “sound barrier”. The sound waves overlap each other more and more the faster the plane travels.

But in a supersonic aircraft, at the instant when the aircraft exceeds the speed of sound, these waves are behind the device (because they travel slower) and All compressed waves are those that are heard as an explosion.

Thus, all the energy that is instantly converted into sound, causes a drop in pressure that causes water vapor to condense very quickly forming very small droplets that can be seen as a cloud around the device.

NASA’s new star is born from the program Low Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD), which, as the name implies, seeks to demonstrate that it is possible to fly at supersonic speeds without the characteristic rumble.

In February 2016, NASA awarded Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division a contract on the preliminary design of such an aircraft and in 2017 they began evaluating a scale model of the aircraft, about 9% of its actual size, Inside the Supersonic Wind Tunnel from the John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

The scale model was tested at speeds between Mach 0.3 to Mach 1.6 in order to understand the aerodynamics of the aircraft’s design, as well as the aspects of its propulsion.

The first parts of the aircraft were manufactured in November 2018 and in May 2019 they began arriving at the Lockheed Martin production plant. In June of that year the assembly of the aircraft began and in August 2019, the External Visibility System of the aircraft began to be tested.

In 2020 it was completed with the initial assembly of the wings and nose, and in 2021, NASA test pilots began flight testing the Air Location Integration Geospatial Navigation System (ALIGNS), designed to improve aerial positioning in supersonic flight.

Its construction and final flight seeks to gather enough information to determine the Feasibility and acceptability of reintroducing supersonic commercial aircraft for passenger air transport, something that disappeared after the retirement of the Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde in 2003.

The images show the unique geometry of the X-59, which features a sharp, extended nose section measuring 11.5 meters long. However, due to the length of this section of the nose, pilots flying the X-59 will not be able to see accurately from the front of the cockpit, which doesn’t even have a forward-facing windshield.

To remedy this, The experimental jet It features what NASA calls an External Vision System, or XVS, which is essentially a closed-circuit video system consisting of a forward-facing camera and a cockpit-mounted display in front of the X-59’s pilot. The system uses “custom image processing software and camera systems to create an augmented reality view of the X-59 pilot’s forward line of sight along with graphical flight data overlays.”

Now that the X-59 is assembled, teams from NASA and Lockheed Martin will conduct ground tests to ensure the aircraft is safe and ready to fly.

Once it’s ready for flight tests, the plane will fly over residential areas to analyze how people on the ground react to its sonic boom. Planned Reduced. Once the data is available, NASA will pass it on to regulatory agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to seek approval for commercial supersonic flights.

Supersonic flights over land and within some distance of the U.S. coast have been banned since 1973, according to the FAA. But now, with the potential success of the X59, NASA hopes to develop aircraft that enable quieter supersonic flight, which could one day halve the world’s air travel times.


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