Supersonic travel has been the dream of the aviation industry ever since the famous Concorde rolled off the tarmac nearly fifty years ago. However, issues surrounding feasibility and pricing raised major sustainability concerns, which were worsened by the inescapable sonic boom produced by supersonic flight. Sonic booms are loud noises generated by shock waves left in the wake of objects travelling faster than the speed of sound. They awaken people and cause minor damage to some structures and so, governments strictly prohibit supersonic flights over populated regions. But NASA is looking to overcome this problem by building a plane that promises to push the boundaries of aeronautical engineering.
NASA’s experimental X-59 QueSST aircraft is being developed with an aim to make supersonic flight as quiet as possible. It promises to be unlike any jet anyone has ever seen. It would have a large 4K screen instead of a front window. That screen would be fed by external cameras as well as instruments for terrain mapping. The pilot would still have side windows to look outside. Conventional cockpits have a curved front window that allows pilots to see in front. The reason for removing the front window in the X-59 is to make the plane as aerodynamic as possible, and that demands some major design innovations.
The quarter of a billion dollar contract to develop the one-of-a-kind X-59 was awarded to Lockheed Martin as part of NASA’s wider efforts to develop a quieter supersonic plane.