Skunk Works rolls out X-59 supersonic test aircraft

A Lockheed Martin X-59 supersonic test aircraft
Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® (NYSE: LMT) has rolled out the X-59, a unique supersonic experimental aircraft designed to quiet the sonic boom, at a ceremony in Palmdale, California.

The ceremony marked a significant milestone in Lockheed Martin’s and NASA’s decades-long journey to solve one of the most persistent challenges of supersonic flight – the sonic boom.

The Sonic Boom Problem

As we approach the entry into a new commercial supersonic air travel era, we do so with a shifting world focus on environmental concerns, which include issues of both atmospheric and noise pollution.

Supersonic flight has long been synonymous with disruptive sonic booms, restricting its use over populated areas.

Lockheed Martin’s X-59, however, aspires to change this narrative by mitigating the traditional deafening noise associated with breaking the sound barrier.

John Clark, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, expressed enthusiasm about the joint venture with NASA.


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“We’re thrilled to take on this challenge alongside NASA, whose quiet supersonic technology mission will have lasting, transformational impacts for people around the world,” he stated.

This collaboration exemplifies the industry’s ingenuity, pushing boundaries and redefining what is possible, in the face of changing industry pressures and issues.

Unveiling Technical Advancements

Rollout ceremonies of this kind are more than just aviation traditions; they typically also herald technical advancements, collaboration, and innovation.

The X-59, a one-of-a-kind technology demonstrator, promises to reduce sonic booms to a mere gentle thump, revolutionizing the way we perceive supersonic travel.

Greg Ulmer, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, applauded the collective effort: “The entire X-59 team leaned into the expertise of both legendary organizations, NASA and Lockheed Martin, to ensure success for this program.”

This acknowledgment underscores the significance of teamwork in achieving significant milestones.

The ceremony was attended by key figures, including NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy and California’s Senior Economic Advisor Dee Dee Myers.

The next phase for the X-59 involves rigorous ground tests, engine-run evaluations, and taxi tests before its much-anticipated first flight later this year.

Potential of Quiet Supersonic Flight

Once validated in initial flight tests, the X-59 will enter the acoustic testing phase, including flights over populated areas.

This crucial step aims to provide regulators with statistically valid data, paving the way for new rules that could permit quiet commercial supersonic flight over land.

This breakthrough has the potential to cut commercial flight times in half, transforming global travel as we know it.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 3 Min Read
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