NASA's silent supersonic X-Plane could replace Concorde

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NASA has started production on the X-Plane, a revolutionary new plane which it hopes will replace the Concorde, bringing supersonic speeds back to the travel industry.

Like the Concorde, the X-Plane will be able to fly faster than the speed of sound (1234.8 kilometres per hour) but, unlike its predecessor, it will be almost silent, producing sonic booms that are almost unnoticeable from ground level thanks to its uniquely-shaped hull. This is a huge leap forward for supersonic travel, as the Concorde was so loud that most overland flight paths were banned, severely limiting its commercial application.

According to NASA, the X-Plane will first take to the skies in 2012 and should be ready for commercial use by 2025. "It is super exciting to be back designing and flying X-planes at this scale," said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for aeronautics at NASA. "Our long tradition of solving the technical barriers of supersonic flight to benefit everyone continues."

The X-Plane is expected to have a top speed of around 990 mph (1593 kilometres per hour) and will have a cruising altitude of 55,000 feet. It's unclear at this stage how many people the plane will be able to hold during commercial flights, but based on the renders and its 28-metre-length, expect this to be a very exclusive way to travel.

Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Tags: nasa, travel