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MM Blog: NASA Looking At Supersonic Jets Again

A look at NASA's planes to design supersonic passenger planes with a softer boom.

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It's been more than a decade since the demise of the Concorde signaled the end of supersonic passenger air travel. But NASA — whose predecessor helped break the sound barrier nearly 70 years ago — hopes that a new design will once again allow travelers to move at supersonic speeds. Agency officials this week selected a Lockheed Martin team to draw up a new jet as part of its aviation innovation initiative.

Backers hope that the aircraft's Quiet Supersonic Technology will generate a soft thump when the jet eclipses the sound barrier, instead of a sonic boom — one of the key drawbacks to supersonic flight. NASA will award another contract for the detailed design and construction of a prototype, which will be about half-scale of a production aircraft. The agency expects the design's first flights to take place around 2020 if sufficient funding is available.


Will the elimination of a sonic boom be enough to encourage supersonic air travel? Or will the cost and fuel issues that plagued the Concorde resurface in coming years as well?

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