Lockheed Martin Skunk Works began manufacturing the first part for the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology aircraft, marking a milestone to bring supersonic commercial travel over land one step closer to reality.
«The start of manufacturing on the project marks a great leap forward for the X-59 and the future of quiet supersonic commercial travel», said Peter Iosifidis, Low Boom Flight Demonstrator program manager Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. «The long, slender design of the aircraft is the key to achieving a low sonic boom. As we enter into the manufacturing phase, the aircraft structure begins to take shape, bringing us one step closer to enabling supersonic travel for passengers around the world».
Earlier this year, NASA selected Lockheed Martin to design, build and flight test the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator. The X-59 will conduct its first flight in 2021. It will be used to collect community response data on the acceptability of the quiet sonic boom generated by the aircraft, helping NASA establish an acceptable commercial supersonic noise standard to overturn current regulations banning supersonic travel over land.
X-59 is designed to cruise at 55,000 feet/16,764 meters at a speed of about 940 mph/1,513 km/h and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom.
Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently performed a series of flight tests demonstrating how a System of Systems (SoS) approach enables seamless – and rapid – integration across air, space, land, sea and cyber in contested environments.
The demonstrations held at the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California, were part of a five-year DARPA program called System of Systems Integration Technology and Experimentation (SoSITE). The flight tests demonstrated interoperability between a ground station, flying test bed, a C-12 and flight test aircraft, and proved the ability to transmit data between those systems using STITCHES, a novel integration technology.
The test used the Skunk Works developed Enterprise Open System Architecture Mission Computer version 2 (EMC2), known as the «Einstein Box», as the open computing environment, providing security protections between systems. The Einstein Box enables rapid and secure experimentation before deploying the capability to operational systems. The team successfully demonstrated four key capabilities:
The ability to automatically compose and transmit messages between systems, including those using legacy datalinks;
The first use of Non-Enterprise Data Links to create new, rich information exchanges in-flight through Link-16, enabling greater speed, agility, modernization and effectiveness;
The ability to link ground-based cockpit simulators with live aircraft systems in real time to demonstrate how a SoS approach reduces the data-to-decision timeline;
Integration between the APG-81 radar, currently used on the F-35, and DARPA’s Automatic Target Recognition software to reduce operator workload and to create a comprehensive picture of the battlespace.
Demonstrating rapid and affordable integration of mission systems into existing and new architectures, SoSITE will help U.S. forces maintain their advantage in today’s dynamic world.
«The successful demonstrations focused on advancing integration technologies to increase capabilities of systems in operation today, enabling our warfighters to use those systems in unexpected ways», said Justin Taylor, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works Mission Systems Roadmaps director. «The SoS approach is essential for allowing U.S. forces to rapidly reconfigure systems and prevail over any threat».
The project was led by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in partnership with the U.S. Air Force and support from industry partners Apogee Research, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, BAE Systems, Phoenix Flight Test, General Dynamics and Rockwell Collins.
Skunk Works’ expertise in open system architecture spans more than a decade. The success of SoSITE is a critical step to enabling multi-domain operations and maintaining superiority in the future battlespace. In its 75th year, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works is proud to advance SoS integration in partnership with DARPA as they celebrate 60 years of creating breakthrough technologies and capabilities for national security.
Supersonic commercial travel is on the horizon. On April 3, 2018, NASA awarded Lockheed Martin 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.
«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».
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.
«We’re honored to continue our partnership with NASA to enable a new generation of supersonic travel», said Peter Iosifidis, Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator program manager, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. «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».
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.