With spinning skyscrapers and now the possibility of supersonic air travel, we may be about to enter the future The Jetsons promised us.
NASA has been using a high-speed wind tunnel to test models of a new supersonic ‘X-plane’ jet with a Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) which will allow the aircrafts to break the speed of sound without people on the ground hearing the sonic boom.
Naturally, that would mean air travel would be much faster (though probably a lot more expensive, we’ll see about that later) and we could theoretically travel between New York and London in three hours instead of around seven.
During the next eight weeks, engineers will expose a 9% scale model of Lockheed Martin’s design to wind speeds ranging from Mach 0.3 to Mach 1.6 (approximately 150 to 950 mph) to understand the aerodynamics of the X-plane design as well as aspects of the propulsion system.
“We need to see how the design performs from just after takeoff, up to cruising at supersonic speed, back to the start of the landing approach,” said David Stark, the facility manager.
“The 8-by-6-foot supersonic wind tunnel allows us to test that sweet spot range of speeds all in one wind tunnel,” said Peter Iosifidis, QueSST program manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works.
“Our unique aircraft design is shaped to separate the shocks and expansions associated with supersonic flight, dramatically reducing the aircraft’s loudness.
“Our design reduces the airplane’s noise signature to more of a ‘heartbeat’ instead of the traditional sonic boom that’s associated with current supersonic aircraft in flight today.”
We probably won’t be boarding the X-plane this year, but the white coats predict we could be thinking about it properly by 2020.
In the meantime, get excited about new horizons and possibilities by watching the X-plane process below: