Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works segment has begun assembly work on an experimental supersonic aircraft for NASA after completing the critical design review process.
NASA said Wednesday that manufacturing activities for the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology aircraft is taking place at Lockheed’s Palmdale, Calif. facility. This experimental aircraft, which is designed to prevent sonic boom disturbances, will be flown over various U.S. locations to help inform the development of supersonic flight regulations.
The announcement comes after Lockheed secured a potential $247.5M contract for the design, development and testing of X-59 in 2018.
“The purpose of us building the X-59 at the Skunk Works isn’t really for us to pioneer new manufacturing technologies,” said Mike Buonanno, an aerospace engineer at Lockheed. “It’s to use what we know works well to get the airplane built and flying for our customer.”
NASA and Lockheed expect to commence initial flight tests in 2021. The team will then proceed to validation activities and presentation of data to the Federal Aviation Administration and international regulators in 2023.