NASA is in the development stages of a supersonic passenger aircraft that promises to reach speeds of Mach 4, approximately 3000 mph. This aircraft will not only surpass the Concorde but also outpace the legendary SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, originally designed with a top speed of Mach 3.2, roughly 2500 mph. The anticipated supersonic jet aims to drastically reduce the travel time from New York to London to less than one and a half hours, in stark contrast to the current eight to nine-hour flights on conventional large passenger jets cruising at around 600 mph.

For perspective, the iconic Concorde, which retired two decades ago, could maintain Mach 2, equivalent to 1348 mph. The Concorde faced multiple challenges, including the sonic boom, contributing to its retirement. Supersonic air travel is prohibited in several countries due to the disruptive sonic boom generated when breaking the sound barrier. The United States is one such nation that restricts supersonic travel for civil aviation. Nonetheless, researchers have been diligently working to develop technologies that can effectively mitigate sonic booms. NASA’s Quesst Mission is a prominent research project that encompasses the creation of an experimental quiet supersonic aircraft known as the X-59.

NASA unveiled its plans for the supersonic passenger jet after identifying fifty established transoceanic routes that connect vital cities, primarily over the North Atlantic and Pacific. The limitation of causing a sonic boom is largely irrelevant when flying over oceans.

“To move forward with the development of the supersonic jet, NASA will issue two year-long contracts to aerospace firms to develop concept designs and roadmaps as part of its Advanced Air Vehicles Program,” the US space agency stated. Boeing will lead the first contract team, with additional contributors including Exosonic, GE Aerospace, Georgia Tech Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory, and Rolls-Royce North American Technologies. The second contract will be awarded to Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems, collaborating with Blue Ridge Research and Consulting, Boom Supersonic, and Rolls-Royce North American Technologies.

Both teams will delve into critical aspects such as airframe, power, propulsion, thermal management, and materials designs required for achieving Mach 4. Their goal is to create open-source designs for concept vehicles.

Mary Jo Long-Davis, manager of NASA’s Hypersonic Technology Project, emphasized the importance of these design concepts and technology roadmaps. She highlighted the need for responsible innovation, considering safety, efficiency, economic viability, and societal implications to ensure benefits for travelers while minimizing environmental impact.

By Impact Lab