NASA is working on a new passenger jet that could fly from New York to London in just 90 minutes, four times faster than the speed of sound. The project aims to develop a quiet supersonic aircraft that would avoid the loud sonic boom that usually accompanies breaking the sound barrier.
The project involves two teams of companies that will design and study the feasibility of a Mach 4 aircraft, which could reach speeds of up to 3,045 miles per hour. Boeing will lead one team, partnering with GE Aerospace, Georgia Institute of Technology’s Aerospace Systems Design Lab and others. Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems will lead the other team, working with Blue Ridge Research and Consulting and Boom Supersonic. Rolls-Royce North American Technologies will work on both teams.
The teams will have 12 months to complete their concept designs and technology roadmaps, identifying any risks or challenges of flying at such high speeds. NASA said it has been conducting studies on about 50 commercial routes to gather data on how humans respond to the sound generated during supersonic flights. The agency said it will use the results of these studies to guide its future research efforts and inform regulators about the potential benefits of allowing supersonic flights over land.
NASA is also working separately on its Quiet Supersonic Technology (Quesst) mission, which aims to build and demonstrate the X-59 research jet with technology that reduces the loudness of a sonic boom to a gentle thump for those on the ground. The X-59 is equipped with a GE Aerospace F414-GE-100 turbofan engine that was developed through a NASA research collaboration that began in 2002. The X-59 is expected to fly over some U.S. cities starting in 2025 and ask residents to share how they respond to the sound.
The last time civilian passengers traveled between continents on a commercial supersonic aircraft was in 2003, when the Concorde landed for the final time. The Concorde, which was jointly developed by the British and French over 60 years ago, had a cruising speed of around 1,350 miles per hour and could fly from New York City to Paris in just under three hours. A Mach 4 aircraft would cut that time by two-thirds.
NASA said it hopes to create a new era of supersonic travel that would benefit both passengers and the environment. The agency said it wants to enable faster and more efficient transportation while reducing noise and emissions.