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Super-quiet supersonic jet design approved

Supersonic plane
The preliminary design for NASA’s Low Boom Flight Demonstration aircraft has been cleared for takeoff. (NASA / Lockheed Martin Illustration)

NASA says it’s cleared a significant milestone on the path to reviving supersonic passenger jet travel in the U.S. with the completion of the preliminary design review for its low-boom experimental airplane.

The Low-Boom Flight Demonstration X-plane, or LBFD, is designed to create a soft “thump” rather than the loud sonic boom typically associated with supersonic airplanes. The boom is what led federal authorities to ban supersonic passenger flight over land in 1973.

The initial design stage for the LBFD is known as Quiet Supersonic Technology, or QueSST. NASA’s plan, drawn up with Lockheed Martin as the lead contractor, calls for transforming QueSST into the LBFD and flying the plane over communities to collect the data that regulators would need to ease the ban.

The June 22 preliminary design review was a key step in the process.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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