NASA's Supersonic Jet Could Take to the Skies by 2021

Illustration of the X-59 QueSST as it flies above NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.

Illustration of the X-59 QueSST as it flies above NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. Lockheed Martin

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It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology aircraft!

NASA announced Monday that it has officially committed to a three-year development timeline with Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works team to build the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology aircraft.

The aircraft will be able to fly at an altitude of 55,000 feet and at a speed of 940 miles per hour, much faster than the speed of sound. And due to its long, narrow shape, the aircraft will be able to zoom by without the sonic boom that typically follows. 

NASA plans to test the aircraft's quietness by flying it over select communities in the U.S. and then surveying residents to determine public perception of the noise. That data will be used by regulators to determine new rules that would permit supersonic air travel across land. 

Eventually, this could mean much faster commercial air travel for everyone.

"This aircraft has the potential to transform aviation in the United States and around the world by making faster-than-sound air travel over land possible for everyone,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We can’t wait to see this bird fly!”

Lockheed Martin