We’ve had access to supersonic travel since the 50s, so why isn’t it mainstream? Well the population of Oklahoma city in the 60s could have told you the reason why. Over six months the airforce trialed sonic booms over the city eight times a day.
This led to shop windows exploding, peoples belongings getting shaken off their mantelpieces, and just general carnage. Over 14,000 damage claims were made; that’s a lot considering it took 18 pages of forms to make just one claim.
So supersonic commercial travel fell out of favour, but now NASA is reconsidering the advantages of being able to travel at sonic speeds, with the caveat being that the vehicle doesn’t scare away the city’s population of pets in the process. Lockheed Martin has stepped up to the plate with the X-59 QueSST, otherwise known as the “Quiet Supersonic Transport”.
With a cruising speed of Mach 1.42 (1,510 km/h) at an altitude of 55,000 ft, QueSST will be 1/1000 as loud as current supersonic aircraft. At ground level that translates to about the loudness of a car door closing. The odd shape and design is specifically designed to stop shock waves from forming.
Critical design planning will commence later this year with test flights expected to commence in 2021.