CINCINNATI – GE Aviation designers based in Cincinnati will contribute work to a new supersonic plane, NASA announced this week.
The aircraft will be the first in a series of demonstration “X-planes” developed for NASA’s New Aviation Horizons initiative. Officials aim to bring back supersonic passenger planes like the Concorde, but with quieter, “low boom” designs.
The Cincinnati team will be subcontracting for Lockheed Martin, which NASA is paying $20 million for preliminary design work on Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST), which officials said will make a “heartbeat” instead of the sonic boom usually associated with supersonic flight.
"Developing, building and flight testing a quiet supersonic X-plane is the next logical step in our path to enabling the industry's decision to open supersonic travel for the flying public," said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission.
The project will also include validation of community response” to the quieter QueSST design, officials said.
The X-planes will likely be about half-scale of a production aircraft, officials said. Depending on funding, they could see flights by 2020.
In addition to the new quiet technology, NASA’s New Aviation Horizons initiative aims to reduce fuel use and emissions, using “design that departs from the conventional tube-and-wing aircraft shape.
"NASA is working hard to make flight greener, safer and quieter – all while developing aircraft that travel faster, and building an aviation system that operates more efficiently," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "To that end, it's worth noting that it's been almost 70 years since Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 as part of our predecessor agency's high speed research. Now we're continuing that supersonic X-plane legacy with this preliminary design award for a quieter supersonic jet with an aim toward passenger flight."