Image from NASA’s Low-Boom Flight Demonstration aircraft as indicated in the project preliminary design review in 2017.
The Trump of directors of the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal for NASA includes the full funding for an experimental supersonic aircraft that may one day transport on commercial airline passengers faster than the speed of sound.
Known as the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD), this X-plane is scheduled for its first test flight as early as 2021, and “opens a new market for AMERICAN companies to build faster, commercial aircraft, the creation of jobs and the cutting of cross-country flight times in half,” the White House budget request states.
The goal of supersonic aircraft, such as the LBFD is to commercial aircraft that can fly faster than the speed of sound without generating a loud and unpleasant sonic boom, a deafening noise associated with shock waves generated by an aircraft as it breaks the sound barrier. [Images: Airplanes of Tomorrow, NASA’s Vision of Future Air Travel]
While NASA has been breaking the sound barrier with his experimental aircraft since Chuck Yeager’s famous flight of the Bell X-1 in 1946, the sonic boom problem is the main reason why supersonic passenger planes are still not in use. (The Concorde, a now-retired supersonic passenger plane built in the 1970s, would only fly over the ocean for that reason.) Another problem is the fuel consumption, which is considerably less drag at supersonic speeds, NASA officials said in a statement.
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“The future supersonic aircraft to aim, low-tree, such as NASA’s LBFD, will appeal to a swept wing design to fly at supersonic speeds without the use of a loud sonic boom,” NASA officials said. “The swept wing design generally produces crossflow, which is a name for the airflow disturbances that runs along the span of the wing, resulting in a turbulent flow, increased drag and, ultimately, a higher fuel consumption.”
The agency has been testing the preliminary design of the LBFD X-plane. Last summer, on a scale model, which is known as the Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) aircraft was tested in a supersonic wind tunnel at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. With the financial support granted by the 2019 budget request, the agency would be able to start the construction of the full-scale LBFD with the goal of beginning flight tests in 2021.
“This budget maintains a robust investment of $633.9 million to improve the management of air traffic, progress integration of unmanned systems in the airspace, and the fund, an experimental supersonic aircraft and the increase of hypersonics research,” NASA Deputy Administrator Robert Lightfoot said during the annual State of NASA speech on Monday (Feb. 12).
The $633.9 million proposed budget for NASA’s aircraft division in fiscal year 2019 is $21.6 million less than the division got in 2018, representing a 3.3 percent decrease.
While NASA is working on her new supersonic aircraft, commercial space companies are working on similar concepts. Virgin Galactic and Tree-Technology are also working together to build a supersonic airliner that can travel at twice the speed of sound, or 1,451 mph (2,335 km/h), so that flights from London to New York City in about 3 hours.
Another company, Spike Aerospace, is developing the S-512 Quiet Supersonic jet, that same journey in time. With the contemporary passenger aircraft, that trip usually takes 6 to 7 hours.
Original article on Space.com.