It’s almost time for NASA and Lockheed Martin’s X-59 supersonic jet to make its public debut! NASA will provide live coverage when it reveals its X-59 aircraft at 4pm EST on Friday, January 12, as part of the agency’s QueSST mission to make commercial supersonic flight possible. It is the latest aircraft to take shape at the Skunk Works, a renowned Lockheed Martin division that for the past 76 years has used a unique approach to design and manufacturing that has resulted in the production of the most advanced airplanes in the United States.
The plane will be unveiled at a ceremony hosted by prime contractor Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, California so for the first time the public will be able to see the plane painted in its white, red and blue colors. The ceremony and aircraft launch will be live streamed on the NASA+ streaming service . Coverage will also air on NASA Television, the NASA app , YouTube and the agency’s website , including social media.
As we have already written, NASA’s Once the X-59 supersonic jet completes testing, NASA’s QueSST team will select several U.S. communities to fly the plane and collect data on how people perceive the sound it produces. The agency will provide that data to U.S. and international regulators to potentially adjust current rules that ban commercial supersonic flight over land.
In fact, let us remember that today commercial supersonic flight is only possible over the sea. That ban went into effect in 1973 and has plagued commercial supersonic ventures ever since, limiting faster-than-sound travel to flights over the ocean only. British Airways and Air France flying the Concorde were two airlines that offered this service between 1976 and 2003.
Last June 19, the X-59 supersonic jet was moved from the factory to the flight line at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California, now virtually complete. The 99.7-foot-long, 29.5-foot-wide aircraft is powered by a single F414-GE-100 jet engine built by General Electric Aviation. NASA’s X-59 is designed to reach a speed of Mach 1.4, about 1,488 km/h, while flying at an altitude of 55,000 feet (16,764 meters).
The most distinctive detail of this aircraft, which is by far one of the most incredible-looking flying machines currently around, is certainly the pilot’s cockpit. The latest photos provide perhaps the best view yet of the pilot’s forward vision system and reveal that the pilot effectively has no conventional means of looking forward at the outside world, only sideways.
The pilot, in fact, will see the sky in front of him through a monitor with 4K resolution, which will show complex computer-processed images through two cameras mounted above and below the nose of the advanced computer science. NASA calls this system XVS – eXternal Vision System. However, the two portals and the traditional roof are real windows and help the pilot to see the horizon. Additionally, displays beneath the XVS will provide a variety of aircraft systems and trajectory data for the pilot to fly safely.
The XVS serves as an additional safety aid to help the pilot maneuver safely through the skies and for airport approaches, landings and takeoffs. This cutting-edge vision system is necessary because the desired shape and long nose of the X-59 will not allow for a protruding cockpit canopy. The X-59’s unique shape controls how air moves away from the plane, ultimately preventing a sonic boom from disturbing communities on the ground.