NASA will test the supersonic and silent X59

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Will there still be a successor to the Concorde?

NASA will test the supersonic and silent X59

The presentation of a new supersonic (passenger) aircraft has been coming for some time. A collaboration between NASA and Lockheed Martin that could lead to the return of supersonic passenger flights, more than two decades after the Concorde was forced into early retirement. A few days ago, the next phase in the development of the device, the X59, became official presented. Will this be the ‘successor’ to the Concorde? If NASA and Lockheed Martin are in charge, yes. In any case, the two have done everything they can to solve some of the disadvantages of the Concorde, such as noise and kerosene consumption.

X59 is quieter and more economical

With a length of 30 meters, the X59 is about half the size of the Concorde (almost 62 meters). The wingspan is also considerably smaller at approximately nine meters than that of the Concorde (more than 25 meters). Another important change is the placement of the jet engines. On the X59, these are located on top of the wing, which should result in a much less loud sonic boom when the device breaks the sound barrier. The maximum relative cruising speed of the X59 is about 1,500 kilometers per hour. The Concorde reached Mach 2 (almost 2,400 kilometers per hour). In short, the X59 is the smaller, slower sister. But one that is more economical, cheaper and quieter.

It is also striking that the cockpit of the X59 has no windows. The long pointed nose limits the pilots’ view too much if they were to look through a window. This was also the case with the Concorde, but an adjustable nose was chosen for that aircraft. It could be tilted downwards when the plane had to land or take off. The X59 has a different solution for this: cameras ‘in the nose’ and screens in the cockpit.

It will take a while before the X59 takes to the air with passengers. There will be plenty of testing in the coming months (and perhaps years). Including above inhabited areas to test the public’s reaction to this new supersonic jet. And especially the sound of it.

Concorde was expensive, noisy and drank like a Templar

Unfortunately, I have never had the pleasure of taking a flight in a Concorde. The tickets were quite expensive – a return ticket from London to New York cost more than 11,000 euros – and by the time I could possibly have afforded them, the supersonic passenger plane had been taken off the air.

The Concorde had two major disadvantages, besides the exorbitant ticket prices. He drank like a Templar and made more noise than a concert by The Alexi Lalas band (look it up 😉 ) At the end of 2003, the last Concorde flew from London to New York. That was the end of supersonic passenger aviation.

The Concorde flew between 1976 and 2003. Much of that period was geopolitically characterized by the cold war between the West and East (the USSR and its allies). The ‘Russians’ won the first space race, lost the race to the moon and of course also wanted to make a supersonic passenger plane. That became the Tupolev TU-144. However, his years of success were short-lived. The TU-144 flew between the end of 1975 and June 1978. Excessive costs, but mainly two accidents, were to blame.

The X-59 isn’t the only new supersonic passenger plane under development. Boom, an American aviation startup, also wants to bring supersonic flying back to civil aviation. They develop the Overture. It looks very similar to the Concorde, but this is also a completely different aircraft. It is much less noisy, a lot more economical and therefore much more durable.

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