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NASA approves final assembly for Lockheed's quiet, supersonic X-plane

An artistic illustration shows what the new X-plane will look like once constructed. Photo by Lockheed Martin

By Brooks Hays, UPI

After a project review, NASA officials have approved the final assembly of the X-59 QueSST, the quiet, supersonic X-plane designed by Lockheed Martin.

With the review, called the Key Decision Point-D, now complete, engineers can begin putting together NASA's first X-plane in more than 30 years.

NASA awarded Lockheed a contract to begin preliminary designs on the X-plane in 2016. Now, more than three years later, the plane is almost a reality. Officials will meet again in late 2020 to consider plans for the plane's first test flight.

"With the completion of KDP-D we've shown the project is on schedule, it's well planned and on track. We have everything in place to continue this historic research mission for the nation's air-traveling public," Bob Pearce, NASA's associate administrator for Aeronautics, said in a NASA news update.

With the design and construction of X-59, NASA and aeronautics and defense company Lockheed Martin hope to make supersonic travel much kinder on the ears.

"X-59 is designed to cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 miles per hour and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel, instead of a sonic boom," according to the defense contractor.

The plane will be assembled at Lockheed's Skunk Works factory in Palmdale, California. The plane's main fuselage, wings and tail will be built separately before being combined and integrated with the airplane's systems. The assembly is expected to be completed by late 2020.

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Technology News: NASA approves final assembly for Lockheed's quiet, supersonic X-plane
NASA approves final assembly for Lockheed's quiet, supersonic X-plane
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