NASA’s experimental X-59 supersonic jet returns to California for assembly

Lockheed Martin engineers just unpacked an airplane-sized package in California.

NASA’s new X-59 supersonic jet arrived at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works plant in Palmdale this month for assembly, ahead of a scheduled flight test this year.

The plane’s last stop had been Fort Worth, Texas, where it had been stress-tested since December to take advantage of the specialized equipment available in the Lone Star State. (The alternative would have been an expensive rebuild of the same equipment in Palmdale.)

In picture : Incredible X-Planes from X-1 to XV-15

The X-59 is lowered to the ground at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works plant in Palmdale, California, after a crane operation to remove it from the rear of its carriage. (Image credit: NASA/Lauren Hughes)

“With its return to California, the X-59 will undergo further ground testing as it nears full development completion and continues to progress toward its maiden flight,” NASA said in a statement dated 18. April, shortly after the plane’s arrival. .

The X-59 represents NASA’s latest effort to reduce sonic booms associated with supersonic aircraft. As these vehicles move rapidly through the air, the cost is vibration and noise as aircraft exceed the speed of sound. At worst, the sound waves can damage or break the glass.

This meant former supersonic pilots, like the iconic Concorde which retired in 2003 after a generation of service, had to be very careful about where they were flying. Its maximum sound reached 105 decibels, about as loud as a nearby clap of thunder.

By contrast, the X-59, NASA said previously, should be no louder than a car door slamming at 20 feet (6 meters).

The X-59 is packaged for protection during a crane operation at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works plant in Palmdale, California. (Image credit: NASA/Lauren Hughes)

Assuming the flight program goes as planned, NASA aims to test its X-59 over communities across the United States beginning in 2024.

“NASA’s goal is to collect and deliver data to regulators that could finally solve the sonic boom challenge and unlock the future of commercial supersonic flight over the earth, dramatically reducing flight times,” the agency said in the same statement.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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