NASA’s supersonic aircraft preparing for take-off, could go from New York to London in 90 minutes!

PALMDALE, Calif. — NASA’s new supersonic aircraft, which some call the “son of Concorde,” could turn a flight from New York to London into a 90-minute trip. Now, this plane is taking one step closer to making this a reality.

NASA’s X-59 has been moved to the paint barn at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ facility in Palmdale, California. Once painted, the team will take final measurements of its weight and exact shape to improve computer modeling.

The supersonic passenger plane aims to fly faster than the speed of sound, at almost twice as fast as the original Concorde aircraft. Engineers are also aiming to reduce the sound of the typical sonic boom to a sonic “thump” to minimize disruption to people on the ground.

NASA’s X-59
NASA’s X-59 quiet supersonic aircraft has been moved to the paint barn at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ facility in Palmdale, California. (Credit: SWNS)

NASA said in August 2023 that they have identified potential passenger markets in about 50 established routes that connect cities. It is hoped one route would see flights from New York City to London up to four times faster than what’s currently possible.

NASA says the aircraft made the move to the paint barn on Nov. 14.

“The X-59’s paint scheme will include a mainly white body, a NASA ‘sonic blue’ underside, and red accents on the wings,” the space agency writes in a statement. “The paint doesn’t just add cosmetic value. It also serves a purpose – the paint helps to protect the aircraft from moisture and corrosion and includes key safety markings to assist with ground and flight operations.”

NASA's X-59 in a hangar
Archive picture, taken April 2022, shows the X-59 being lowered to the ground at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California. (Credit: SWNS)

“We are incredibly excited to reach this step in the mission. When the X-59 emerges from the paint barn with fresh paint and livery, I expect the moment to take my breath away because I’ll see our vision coming to life,” adds Cathy Bahm, the low boom flight demonstrator project manager. “The year ahead will be a big one for the X-59, and it will be thrilling for the outside of the aircraft to finally match the spectacular mission ahead.”

The aircraft is the centerpiece of NASA’s Quesst mission, through which NASA will fly the X-59 over several yet-to-be-selected U.S. communities and gather data about people’s perceptions of the sound it makes.

NASA will provide that data to regulators, which could potentially adjust current rules that prohibit commercial supersonic flight over land. Earlier this year, the space agency investigated the business case for supersonic passenger air travel aboard aircraft that could theoretically travel between Mach 2 and Mach 4 (1,535-3,045 mph at sea level).

By comparison, today’s larger airliners cruise at roughly 600 mph or about 80 percent of the speed of sound. Concorde had a maximum cruising speed of 1,354 miles per hour, or Mach 2.04.

You might also be interested in:

South West News Service writer Dean Murray contributed to this report.

YouTube video