NASA is pursuing a “high-speed strategy” to drastically reduce the air travel time between London and New York, potentially shrinking the eight-hour journey to just 90 minutes. This ambitious initiative is part of NASA’s Quesst mission, which involves developing a supersonic aircraft capable of commercial travel at unprecedented speeds.
The supersonic aircraft, known as X-59s, is being developed by NASA’s Advanced Air Vehicles Program (AAV). Currently, commercial passenger planes cruise at speeds of around 600 mph. However, NASA is exploring the feasibility of creating a supersonic jet that can travel at speeds ranging between Mach 2 and Mach 4, equivalent to 1,535-3,045 mph.
NASA’s Glenn Research Center recently conducted a study examining the potential of commercial flights traveling at over 3,000 miles per hour (Mach 4). The study suggested that there are “potential passenger markets… in about 50 established routes,” with transoceanic routes being particularly favorable due to bans on overland supersonic flight in countries like the US, which are intended to mitigate sound pollution.
To realize this ambitious goal, NASA’s Quesst mission focuses on developing the X-59 supersonic aircraft with technology that minimizes the loudness of a sonic boom. The agency aims to use this technology to convince regulatory bodies to change overland supersonic flight rules.
The project is now entering its next research phase, where NASA will contract companies to design and develop the necessary technology to achieve Mach 2-plus travel. The research efforts will be split between two teams, one led by Boeing and the other by Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems.
Mary Jo Long-Davis, manager of NASA’s Hypersonic Technology Project, highlighted that the new phase will consider various factors, including safety, efficiency, economics, and societal considerations.
Lockheed Martin recently completed the construction of NASA’s X-59 test aircraft, and plans for ground tests and a first test flight are scheduled for later this year. The project holds the promise of revolutionizing air travel by drastically reducing travel times between major cities and potentially reshaping the aviation industry’s future.