NASA's supersonic plane is now one step closer to its flight demonstration over U.S. communities.
The X-59 supersonic plane of NASA's Quesst mission just got its 13-foot-long engine, according to a recent announcement from the space agency. This crucial piece of hardware will deliver 22,000 pounds of thrust and fire up the X-59 to fly faster than the speed of sound. NASA hopes the data collected during flight, sometime around 2025, will prove that its new supersonic technology will produce just a "thump" as heard by people on the ground, and not a sonic boom. This will then be brought to regulators to change rules about how fast a plane can be allowed to fly over land, and perhaps get used on future applications of commercial aircraft to reduce travel times, according to NASA.
The engine comes from General Electric Aviation (opens in new tab), a subsidiary of General Electric. According to a Nov. 14 update (opens in new tab) from NASA, the engine will deliver X-59 to speeds up to Mach 1.4 and altitudes around 55,000 feet (16,764 meters).
"Through Quesst, NASA plans to demonstrate that the X-59 can fly faster than sound without generating the loud sonic booms supersonic aircraft typically produce. This thunderous sound is the reason the U.S. and other governments banned most supersonic flight over land," NASA officials wrote in a mission description (opens in new tab) back in May.
But Quesst is still just in its first phase, focused on assembly. Engine installation happened at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California in early November.
"The engine installation is the culmination of years of design and planning by the NASA, Lockheed Martin, and General Electric Aviation teams," Ray Castner, NASA’s propulsion performance lead for the X-59, states in the November update. "I am both impressed with and proud of this combined team that’s spent the past few months developing the key procedures, which allowed for a smooth installation."
The Quesst mission will end in 2027, when the data collected from the flights across yet-to-be-announced U.S. communities is brought to regulators in the U.S. and internationally, according to NASA.
"With the information gathered during the Quesst mission," space agency officials wrote in May, "the hope is to enable regulators to consider rules based on how loud an aircraft is, not based on an arbitrary speed."