The NASA and Lockheed Martin X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) research aircraft is moving toward final assembly and “stand[ing] on its own,” NASA reported. To be used to conduct noise trials involving quiet supersonic technology, the X-59 was recently removed from the jig and will be tested for its structural soundness and readiness for final assembly.
According to NASA, the aircraft will have its first “power-on” to test internal systems and then head to Lockheed Martin’s facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, for structural testing. First flight is planned for 2022.
Construction of the vehicle began in 2018 at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California, but preparations have been ongoing for more than a decade involving research of quiet supersonic technology. “It’s pretty simple to move the jig away,” said David Richwine, NASA’s X-59 deputy project manager for technology. “It’s the preparation that’s more time-consuming.”
The aircraft will be flown to gather data on public reactions to the so-called supersonic “thump,” a quieter supersonic technology than the boom that has long been associated with such travel. NASA plans to furnish its findings to regulators internationally as they contemplate rules surrounding supersonic flight over land.