Supersonic commercial travel is on the horizon. NASA awarded Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) Skunk Works® a contract to design, build and flight test the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator, an X-plane designed to make supersonic passenger air travel a reality.
Lockheed Martin Skunk Works will build a full-scale experimental aircraft, known as an X-plane, of its preliminary design developed under NASA’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) effort. The X-plane will help NASA establish an acceptable commercial supersonic noise standard to overturn current regulations banning commercial supersonic travel over land.
Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and NASA have partnered for more than a decade to enable the next generation of commercial supersonic aircraft. NASA awarded Lockheed Martin Skunk Works a contract in February 2016 for the preliminary design of the supersonic X-plane flight demonstrator.
The aircraft will be built at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California, and will conduct its first flight in 2021.
The aircraft will be designed to cruise at 55,000 feet (16.7km) altitude at 940mph (1512km/h). The contract began this week and will run until the end of 2021, and is valued at $247.5m. The schedule will see Lockheed Martin hand the aircraft over to NASA at the end of the period, and NASA plans to begin the flight and data collecting phase of QueSST in mid-2022.