The wing and cockpit sections of NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) are coming together at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works® factory in Palmdale, California. Major structural components still to be added include the long, forward nose and rear section – known as the empennage – that includes the tail and single jet engine. Nearby, although not seen in this picture, Lockheed Martin technicians and engineers are completing other assembly tasks, with fabricating the composite wing skins with the help of a sophisticated robot already done.
When complete, Lockheed Martin and NASA will put the X-59 through a series of ground and test flights to ensure not only its air worthiness, but also its ability to create a sonic boom that can barely be heard – if at all – by people on the ground while it flies supersonic at a cruise altitude overhead.
The X-59 will then be flown over select communities in the United States – still to be chosen – so residents can help provide information to NASA about their reaction to the sound of the sonic “thump.” This scientifically gathered data will be presented to regulators with the hope they will change rules that currently prohibit commercial supersonic air travel over land.
Image credit: Lockheed Martin / Garry Tice