NASA's new X-plane: The next sonic boom

This week we're getting an idea of what it'll be like to travel at supersonic speeds thanks to NASA's newest initiative. They've awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin Skunk Works to create the next X-plane. This experimental craft is aimed at 55,000 feet above the earth at a speed of about 940 mph – but without the big boom. Their aim is to make this X-plane fly at supersonic speeds without so much of the big boom of sound that's always come with said speeds.

NASA previously awarded Lockheed Martin Skunk Works a contract back in February of 2016 for a very early design of this supersonic X-plane demonstrator. The contract NASA awarded Lockheed Martin Skunk Works this week was to design, build, and flight test this Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator X-plane. It's the next step in NASA's journey toward the next generation in commercial supersonic flight.

Above you'll see a video from NASA showing what this experimental supersonic aircraft will do. "We're honored to continue our partnership with NASA to enable a new generation of supersonic travel," said Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator program manager Peter Iosifidis of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. "We look forward to applying the extensive work completed under QueSST to the design, build and flight test of the X-plane, providing NASA with a demonstrator to make supersonic commercial travel possible for passengers around the globe."

Next you'll see a video that shows commercial supersonic flight in the past and in-effect here with NASA in the present. Beware: this video is especially fancy, with all kinds of effects that probably came with whatever video editing suite the creator had on-hand. This video also comes from NASA.

The sound level these folks are going for is 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB). That's "about as loud as a car door closing." Reaching 940 mph, that low a level of sound isn't going to be easy. Thus the contract, thus the importance of this announcement.

The final video here – above – comes from NASA's official press conference announcing the most recent contract. This contract will have Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, California work with a $247.5 million Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator contract which will remain in effect through December of 2021.