NASA To Test 'Quiet' Supersonic Booms Over Texas 

The era of commercial supersonic flight could be just around the corner (again).

This November, residents will get to hear “quiet” sonic booms as military jets race above the skies of Galveston, Texas, said NASA.

NASA research pilot Jim “Clue” Less stands next to an F/A-18 that he is flying to help test low-boom flight research. (Source: Maria Werries/NASA)

Part of the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration program (LBFD), the space agency recently awarded Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works a $247.5-million contract to design, build and flight test a low-boom X-plane that could produce a quiet supersonic aircraft in the next three to five years.

The experimental aircraft dubbed X-59 “QueSST,” is scheduled to take to the skies in 2021 with a top velocity of 1.5 times the speed of sound, or about 990 miles per hour at an altitude of 55,000 feet. The jet will only have room for a pilot, as it tests design principles that soften the sonic boom.

Artist drawing of the X-59 “QueSST” (Source: NASA)

“It is super exciting to be back designing and flying X-planes at this scale,” said Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics. “Our long tradition of solving the technical barriers of supersonic flight to benefit everyone continues.”

The news comes about four months after President Trump signed the federal budget deal, which funds the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD) program. In the budget proposal, the Trump administration noted that the X-plane “would open a new market for U.S. companies to build faster commercial airliners, creating jobs and cutting cross-country flight times in half.”

While the X-59 is more of a concept than reality, NASA will use McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornets over Galveston to imitate the sonic profile of the X-plane while residents and sound recording sensors document the sonic booms overhead — if there are any.

During the tests this fall, F/A-18 Hornets will perform dives at supersonic speeds, making powerful sonic booms over the Gulf of Mexico and quieter booms over the coastal city. Simultaneously, a network of “audio sensors strategically placed around the city” will provide scientists with a decibel reading of how loud the sonic booms were, said NASA. About 500 local volunteers will be dispersed around the region to document their experience. The combination of audio sensors and the "human factor" will give scientists a better understanding if the LBFD program can produce “quiet” sonic booms.

According to NASA, the Gulf Coast city was selected because of its location near the Gulf of Mexico, allowing the F/A-18s to keep its louder sonic booms (near the dive point) out to sea, while sending muffled sonic thumps [X-59 supersonic profile] towards the city.

“We’ll never know exactly what everyone heard. We won’t have a noise monitor on their shoulder inside their home,” Alexandra Loubeau, NASA’s team lead for sonic boom community response research at Langley, Virginia, said in a statement. “But we’d like to at least have an estimate of the range of noise levels that they actually heard.”

The technology behind the X-59’s noise-reducing ability is its uniquely shaped structure, designed so that supersonic shockwaves do not build up into strong sonic booms.

“With the X-59 you’re still going to have multiple shockwaves because of the wings on the aircraft that create lift and the volume of the plane. But the airplane’s shape is carefully tailored such that those shockwaves do not combine,” said Ed Haering, a NASA aerospace engineer at Armstrong.

“Instead of getting a loud boom-boom, you’re going to get at least two quiet thump-thump sounds, if you even hear them at all,” he said.

“This is why the F/A-18 is so important to us as a tool. While construction continues on the X-59, we can use that diving maneuver to generate quiet sonic thumps over a specific area,” Haering added.

The X-59 is expected for delivery by the second half of 2021. Once the prototype is built and its “quiet” sonic booms confirmed, NASA stated it would conduct test flights across the United States.

Sonic booms have been a problem for aeronautical engineers for decades. In 1973, the U.S. banned commercial supersonic flights over the mainland for concern that sonic booms posed an extreme public nuisance. This was a significant challenge for the Anglo-French Concorde project to expand, which ultimately led to its retirement in 2003.

While commercial supersonic airliners have been around for decades, commercial flights were halted following the Year 2000 crash of Air France Flight 4590. However, the Trump administration is making a move to reintroduce these planes by the mid-2020 period. That is, assuming “quiet” sonic booms can be confirmed via NASA.

Meanwhile, the real test is about a decade later, because it is around early 2030 or mid-2030s when hypersonic airliners are expected to be introduced to the public domain. When that happens, and assuming commercial flight is cost-effective, it would spark the next "travel" revolution around the world.


Adolfsteinbergovitch Lost in translation Fri, 07/06/2018 - 03:10 Permalink

What a shitty design. Gee this is fucking ugly. Canards everywhere whereas the Concorde had such a clever design that they managed to get rid of them. At least they could have stolen the idea. 

Mach 1.4? Give me break. That's only 50% faster than normal commercial tincans. The Concorde blew that number out of the water. Obviously America was not pleased to see that Europe went farther and better than them, that's why they banned supersonic flights on ther excuse that it made too much noise. I'm still surprised they didn't invoke the fact that their reactors ate baby geese alive and that the species was threatened. That would have been so much more honest. If they really cared about the noise they would have outlawed the shitty Harley Davidson motorbikes long ago. Bwahaha. 

The aeronautic industry is very well known internally for its psycho rigidity and blunt refusal to innovate. That's a running gag. Ask anyone you know in this industry and you'll discover the cutting edge thing is to cut the butter only. The rest is sheer marketing to justify the money they charge. 

In reply to by Lost in translation

bluez HowdyDoody Fri, 07/06/2018 - 08:12 Permalink

This has to be physically impossible. How the hell do you get two shock fronts with one plane? The air may reach supersonic speed at somewhat different times on different parts of a plane's skin as it accelerates, but there will only be one shock front. When a plane exceeds the speed of sound, it simply pushes the air forward faster than the speed of sound waves, so all the sound of the turbulence collapses into one loud clap. This cannot be fixed. It's just like trying to power a car using "water energy". Even Elon Musk wouldn't touch it. So NASA is again pretending to do it. (Remember the weird "space noise" you always hear when the astronauts talk? Well that's bullshit -- their telemetry provides HiFi audio that would be the envy of anyone who put out $10,000 for a sound system.) This is just so that rich bastards can "boast" that they are scaring the bums down below them. And of course, the poor bums have to pay for these thunderous joy rides via their high taxes.

In reply to by HowdyDoody

PorscheNoSub bluez Fri, 07/06/2018 - 10:38 Permalink

It's the difference between normal (blunt) shock waves and oblique shock waves. Oblique shock waves allow smaller steps in energy change in the fluid across the shock boundary and hence reduced "sonic booms". And I would suggest visualizing not the sound, or compression wave, through the fluid, but an object passing through a stationary fluid and the fluid not being able to get out of its way fast enough.


The idea will be to "bleed" off the energy of the air through oblique shock waves in steps instead of all at once in a big normal shock wave (and big "boom").


This research is over 10 years old and started with a modified boom on an F-15.


In reply to by bluez

bluez PorscheNoSub Fri, 07/06/2018 - 15:27 Permalink

Oh shit not this again:
"The idea will be to "bleed" off the energy of the air through oblique shock waves..."

You can always count on engineers to say anything to protect their "turf" (jobs). For example, nuclear engineers commonly believe in "radiation hormesis":
"Radiation hormesis is the hypothesis that low doses of ionizing radiation (within the region of and just above natural background levels) are beneficial, stimulating the activation of repair mechanisms that protect against disease, that are not activated in absence of ionizing radiation." -- Wikipedia. Just about any biologist will tell you that "a little radiation" is bad for you. Like cigarette smoke. That's kind of like saying that we will soon be able to power a car using "water energy".

This "oblique shock waves" and whatnot sounds like a load of crap. The aviation engineers will keep getting fat paychecks while the rest of up get jolted and dumbed-down with shock waves (and fluoridated water).

In reply to by PorscheNoSub

PorscheNoSub bluez Fri, 07/06/2018 - 18:00 Permalink

I am not protecting anything - just trying to explain the actual physics since you seemed confused. Neither did I say it will work or not be expensive. Obviously someone thinks it is worth putting money behind - not all the government research is solely funded by taxpayers. Winglet research would be a good example of a public-private partnership/funding and the fuel savings are real - ask any airline, in the US or Europe.


The concept of "stealth" started with "not reflecting EM radiation back to the source" so "bleeding off energy" sounds like a similar valid starting point especially since it is already a proven phenomenon for engine inlets during supersonic flight. A turbine engine needs sub-sonic air flow to operate which would involve, (*shocker*) oblique shock waves.


I doubt engineers degreed in the nuclear field would make such a claim since it would be out of scope for the field (some Fine Arts Biology major is who you are talking about). It sounds more like you have a deep resentment or jealousy for engineers in general and no amount of fluid dynamics can help you with that.

In reply to by bluez

silverer Al Gophilia Fri, 07/06/2018 - 07:07 Permalink

Just another tremendous waste of money and resources. How many people's time is so valuable they have to have a physical presence at a certain location an hour or two sooner? And to do what? Race to the next shithole faster than a person using a more conventional means to arrive at Stinkville for what important purpose? To visit the government homogenized population, that now is that same everywhere because the elites ran the planet through a political blender? Sit down, relax. Humanity is going nowhere fast and everybody is beginning to figure that out.

In reply to by Al Gophilia

cooky puss MuffDiver69 Fri, 07/06/2018 - 04:48 Permalink

Meh, I'll get downvoted for this but I don't care:

Suppressing the sonic boom is already a thing thanks to magnetohydrodynamic (MHD), the ionization of air surrounding your vehicle (true in any fluid); which is why underwater, torpedos supercavitation (with a gaz reserve to reduce friction) is obsolete.


Basically, you're telling the fluid you're travelling-in (which becomes plasma near your craft) that you're "coming through", way before "you're there" so it gets moved out of your way, actually "sucking" you in your travel direction (that's right bitchez, the UFOs sightings where manoeuvrability looks out of this world without sonic bangs).


This was achieved canceling (plasma's) velikov instability in parietal MHD converters in the 70s and I'm PISSED due big Gov. and petrol cartels I'll never get to see the civilian applications of this in my life. I suggest checking French Jean-Pierre Petit's work:

Now downvote me away motherfuckers. I dare you.…

In reply to by MuffDiver69

Davidduke2000 Thu, 07/05/2018 - 23:41 Permalink

the us is in a panic because of Russia's fancy new nukes, they keep announcing stuff that may or may not work or ready in 20 years. the newer engineers are not programmed for war machines.

TeraByte Thu, 07/05/2018 - 23:45 Permalink

What a giant step for general population. In years to come 1% can cut their useless travel time by 50%, when paying ten times more than for seating in   ordinary economy class.

Yen Cross Thu, 07/05/2018 - 23:46 Permalink

  These guys have no intention of making a supersonic aircraft for public use.

  The prototype has just enough room for a pilot "equipment package", for initial testing purposes.

  This is going to be a supersonic drone, and will never make it to production for commercial use.

  Just for 10 seconds, turn the light bulb on. The ROI on a project like that would be 10x more cost prohibitive than the Ponzi Tesla.

  Numbers don't come close to adding up, and there's no fucking way, in a tightening economy VC morons are going to finance something like this.

  A G-650 is roughly $70mm new, and flies at just under mach-1.

MK ULTRA Alpha Yen Cross Fri, 07/06/2018 - 02:42 Permalink

There is now a large market for supersonic business jets.  A firm owned by a billionaire from Texas is about to begin or has already begun production. There is a backlog of orders.

This is the first time since an idea was floated during the Reagan era for a supersonic commercial jet liner for the US to Australia transportation market. Nothing happened because the government wasn't willing to subsidize and NASA wasn't business oriented back then as it is today. It would have required NASA R&D and strategic planning for a group of aviation industry players.

I did a little check on the web, it's strange, the billionaires company Aerion is going to receive data from these test for the design of the supersonic business jet.

This is a big winner, orders are already sold. It's supposed to be the next big step in corporate business travel.

I wanted to say, the artist rendering looked just like the Aerion design. It looks like the same model from 2015 but smaller. There is most likely a connection with Lockheed's recent federal government contract of over a quarter of billion dollars for R&D in the supersonic design arena and Aerion partnership with Lockheed and the recent Goldman funding.

Manufacturing tax credit with instant write off of one year on all capital expenditure. This firm is going to be a major US based aviation firm.

In reply to by Yen Cross

Yen Cross MK ULTRA Alpha Fri, 07/06/2018 - 03:07 Permalink

  lol!  How much Tesla stock do you own?

  Ever heard of "Face Time~" on a phone?

  Yes, I realize there's times when meetings do need to be conducted in person, but that's mostly personal, if you know what I mean?

   Thought of mentioning Aerion  earlier. That Skunk plane looks eerily similar.

  There's absolutely zero market for an aircraft in that size and price-range. One of the biggest complaints from Concord passengers was lack of space.

  Very few people that can afford that, let alone maintain it.

In reply to by MK ULTRA Alpha

MK ULTRA Alpha Yen Cross Fri, 07/06/2018 - 03:33 Permalink

There is a market of just over 1000 supersonic luxury business jets at around $120 million each. I'm not sure 100%, but I thought I read, there was already a backlog of orders, around 100 if I remember correctly, but it was 2015 when I read about the firm.

There was plenty of space in this model. It's a plane for billionaires, lease firms, private airlines both big name with an extra service, supersonic flight, and private aviation firms servicing supersonic routes and US corporate and government travel for overseas rapid deployment of leadership, materials, specialist etc.

It's wild, having a supersonic bomber like speed in a business jet.

What's 1000 times $120 million? $120 billion I need to check my zeros, 120,000,000,000, been up too long, "Yippie Kai Yeah" it's $120 billion worth of manufacturing in Texas. Of course parts will be sent from all over.

We may see an expedited accelerated R&D and production, it's all going Space Force with Trump, and NASA is open for business as Trump stated. In the early 2020's we may see supersonic business jets.

In reply to by Yen Cross

Golden Showers Fri, 07/06/2018 - 00:34 Permalink

Um, Ok.

Jeff's not the only Clueless wonder here. I hear sonic booms often. I see sorties. Few weeks ago a boom knocked shit off our shelf.

You really want to buttfuck about an f-18 joke, the concord, and some artist renderings of a quietus aeroplane? Don't bother to Xplane. Nigga, please.

Have a discussion about subsonic ammo. Pros. Cons.

Ask yourself how funny and satirical this website is for your pleasure.

It's a fucking airplane with a lisp.

A cleft sphincter.

CF Jesus Built My Hotrod:

SantaClaws Fri, 07/06/2018 - 00:38 Permalink

"The X-59 is expected for delivery by the second half of 2021."  And by then the Chinese and Russians will have had all of the classified plans for 2-3 years.  What's left of the Clinton Foundation has probably already set up another bathroom server and is accepting bids.

UncleChopChop Fri, 07/06/2018 - 02:08 Permalink

Off topic - but a (humorous, maybe?) question for ZH folks...

considering the nature of newspeak.. 'Patriot Act', 'Freedom Tower', etc.. all lyinig and covering up horrific atrocities..

is there an alernate history with the Statue of Liberty? this hit me the other day when someone asked me about the 'freedom tower' - built as a monument to re-writing history with a bullshit narrative.


OneOfUs Fri, 07/06/2018 - 03:41 Permalink

When they say "quiet" supersonic booms what they meant was "How much abuse can humans take?" and not so much a breakthrough in silent supersonic flight.

Basically they sat test subjects in a room lined from floor to ceiling with  an array of woofers and assaulted them with noise in order to find out how much they could take. What they most definitely DID NOT DO is factor in any sort of measure for annoyance from a constant or frequent sound say for instance a commercial flight path. They just went BOOM "Did that bug you? No" and not rumble rumble up and down and up and down for months and years followed by "How's your sanity Bob? I'll fucking kill you!" Just look what happened to people who live near Wind turbines for an idea of what I'm talking about.

just the tip Fri, 07/06/2018 - 04:19 Permalink

the good:  that test pilot's call sign is the best ever.

the bad:  that french plane, as the link indicates, suffered from yet another action by the snakebit DC-10.  this time the DC-10 did not take the lives of its own passengers.  and yet this was during a twenty year run of not a single mishap TO a DC-10.

the stupid:  this idea is an accident waiting to find a place to happen.  and it will.  as crowded as the skies are over the US at any time of day:

that link will show all of the aircraft in US airspace regardless of the time you click the link.

these supercruise aircraft will travel at altitudes in excess of 50,000 feet.  they will have to because of the heat generated on aircraft surfaces in supercruise flight.  so one of these aircraft leaving JFK going to LAX and leaving 2 hours after a conventional aircraft leaves JFK will overtake and pass the conventional aircraft.  this will result in LAX center inserting the descending supercruise aircraft, on approach, ahead of the conventional aircraft, as well as other aircraft that are of conventional design.  and some godcomplex pilot will undoubtedly bring up the, "why does he get to go first" complaint.  this is just an accident waiting to find a place to happen.

send these aircraft on overseas routes.  this has nothing to do with the save the whale crowd or any other banana cause.  the skies of the US and central europe are too damn crowded.  even as i type this at 3am.

PorscheNoSub just the tip Fri, 07/06/2018 - 18:11 Permalink

Air traffic is already on its own "train schedule". The departure and arrival times will already be established before the plane even takes off. Pilots already request changes in-flight from ATC but aren't always given based on the traffic along the route.


No one is taking off and trying to race to get to the destination airport before "the other guy".

In reply to by just the tip