NASA has announced the construction of its X-59 Quiet SuperSonic aircraft at Lockheed Martin has reached a milestone. The milestone was reached on November 5 when the team building the aircraft at the Lockheed Martin Skunkworks factory in Palmdale, California, completed major work on the aircraft’s wing. That major milestone was adding the wing skin to the wings covering the fuel tanks of the aircraft.
NASA says the skin was added over the fuel tanks, which are never expected to be touched by human hands again. A senior Lockheed Martin manager on the project, Steve Macpherson, said that the key milestone reminded the team that the X-59 is coming together. The aircraft is being constructed under a contract with NASA worth $247.5 million.
The wing is the first major component of the aircraft to reach a milestone in assembly. The wing milestone allows other key elements of the airplane, such as the fuselage and tail assembly, to be joined together. Lockheed Martin is currently expected to finish assembly, conduct flight tests, and deliver the aircraft to NASA between now and sometime in 2023.
The X-59 Quiet SuperSonic aircraft is designed to generate supersonic soundwaves, so quiet people on the ground hear them as sonic thumps if they hear anything at all. At some point in the future, the aircraft will fly over some communities to measure public perception of sound. The testing results will be turned over to regulators in the hope that new rules governing commercial faster-than-sound air travel over land can be formed.
Noise regulations currently prevent the majority of supersonic air travel over land in the US. Key to the quiet sonic booms the aircraft will generate is the aircraft’s shape and wing contours, particularly the lower surface. The entire aircraft is being assembled by hand and is more akin to a work of art than a traditional aircraft build. The next major milestone for the aircraft is expected to be reached next summer.