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Time to fasten seatbelts for low-boom supersonic flight

It is doubtful if the previous generations ever had access to the kind of facilities and conveniences people enjoy today. Technology and human willpower have literally transformed every sphere of life, from healthcare and education to banking and transportation.

But there were instances of climb-down in the history of humanity, wherein advancements in certain areas of development were stalled and projects were scrapped for various reasons.

One such incident was the downing of Concorde in 2003, the world’s first supersonic passenger aircraft, winding up more than thirty years of its service. British Airways and Air France, the aviation companies which owned the luxury airplane, took the drastic decision after passengers started shunning the service en masse following a massive crash.

In the following years, the aviation industry noticed a spate of speculations about the revival of the supersonic flight project, though many believed it was the end of flights that travel faster than sound. However, current developments give renewed hopes that supersonic air travel would become a reality in the coming years.

In a ground-breaking initiative, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) this week roped in leading defense technology company Lockheed Martin (LMT) to build the next generation of commercial supersonic flight. The supersonic X-plane, to be called QueSST, will be a lot different from Concorde. The most striking distinction is that QueSST will not produce a sonic boom, one of the factors that made its predecessor nonviable.

NASA has roped in Lockheed Martin to build the next generation of commercial supersonic aircraft

Under the $250-million contract, Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division will design and build a demo version of the ‘quiet’ supersonic plane. The project had found a place among the proposals sanctioned in the latest U.S. budget.

NASA claims to have tackled most of the technical problems associated with high-speed aviation, before venturing into the project. In order to reduce sonic boom, the aircraft is designed with a longer and thinner body compared to conventional airplanes.

The first test flight of the plane, which is designed to achieve speeds of up to 990 mph at altitudes of about 55,000 feet, is tentatively scheduled for 2021. Once launched, QueSST will be capable of taking passengers from London to New York within three hours.

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