NASA awards contract to build 'X-plane' for supersonic air travel

NASA awards contract to build 'X-plane' for supersonic air travel
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NASA has granted Lockheed Martin a $247.5 million contract to design and construct an airplane for supersonic commercial air travel, the space agency and defense company each announced on Tuesday.

Lockheed will work on the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration, also known as the X-plane, through the end of 2021.

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"It is super exciting to be back designing and flying X-planes at this scale," Jaiwon Shin, NASA associate administrator for the aeronautics research mission directorate, said in a statement.

"Our long tradition of solving the technical barriers of supersonic flight to benefit everyone continues."

NASA said it would conduct its own tests on aircraft, which will fly at approximately 940 miles per hour at a height of 55,000 feet, upon Lockheed’s completion of the plane. 

The aircraft will fly over specific cities in the United States in 2022 to analyze how the public reacts to the flights, the space agency said.

"We're honored to continue our partnership with NASA to enable a new generation of supersonic travel," Peter Iosifidis, the program manager of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator, said in a statement.

"We look forward to applying the extensive work completed under QueSST to the design, build and flight test of the X-plane, providing NASA with a demonstrator to make supersonic commercial travel possible for passengers around the globe."

The plane’s design is meant to decrease the noise of a sonic boom, which occurs when an aircraft travels faster than the speed of sound.