Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works has begun production of its experimental jet capable of flying at supersonic speeds without making much noise.
The company announced Friday that it had begun manufacturing the first part of the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology aircraft.
NASA awarded Lockheed a $250 million contract in April this year to design, build and flight test the plane. Lockheed expects to conduct its first flight in 2021 and gather community response data on the acceptability of the “quiet sonic boom” the plane creates.
“The long, slender design of the aircraft is the key to achieving a low sonic boom,” said Peter Iosifidis, Low Boom Flight Demonstrator program manager at Lockheed Martin.
“As we enter into the manufacturing phase, the aircraft structure begins to take shape, bringing us one step closer to enabling supersonic travel for passengers around the world,” he said.
The X-59 will cruise at a speed of about 940 mph and an altitude of 55,000 feet. Lockheed says it will create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, instead of a deafening sonic boom.
Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, previously known as Lockheed Advanced Development Projects, has developed aircraft previously, including the U-2 and SR-71.