NASA to design quiet supersonic planes for passenger travel. Video.

Supersonic passenger travel is one step closer to reality with NASA's preliminary design of a low boom flight demonstrator aircraft. (NASA)

NASA is giving Lockheed Martin about $20 million in a preliminary design contract to demonstrate a “low boom” aircraft.

When planes exceed the speed of sound — 767.269 mph — they generate what NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden described as an “annoying boom” at a news conference Monday. Because of this, supersonic flight is generally prohibited over the United States. 

NASA envisions a plane that emits a quieter sonic boom, more like a subtle thump. If supersonic flights were quiet enough to be allowed widely, the appeal of shorter flight times would likely be appealing to travelers.

“We will be able to achieve the full potential of revolutionary technology and designs that lift aviation to the next level of flying higher, safer and faster,” said Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s association administrator for aeronautics research.

There have been other efforts at supersonic flight since the sound barrier was first broken in 1947, but none have taken hold.


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