The return of civilian supersonic travel just took a big step closer to reality. NASA recently announced that it has completed a preliminary design review of its Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) aircraft, clearing the way to construct the experimental X-plane.

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Senior experts and engineers from NASA and Lockheed Martin, the lead contractor on the project, concluded on Friday that the design is capable of achieving supersonic speeds while avoiding the sonic boom that limited the Concorde to overseas flights because of the Earth-shattering noise. If the new design works, it should deliver a soft “thump” that will allow the plane to quietly fly over populated areas on land.

Related: NASA identifies 219 new planet candidates – and 10 potential ‘Earths’

NASA, supersonic, X-plane, QueSST

NASA’s project team can now move forward with soliciting proposals and awarding a contract to build the piloted, single-engine X-plane. According to NASA, flight testing could begin as early as 2021.

“Managing a project like this is all about moving from one milestone to the next,” said David Richwine, manager for the preliminary design effort under NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project. “Our strong partnership with Lockheed Martin helped get us to this point. We’re now one step closer to building an actual X-plane.”

+ NASA Aeronautics

Via New Atlas

Image via NASA