back to article What's silent but violent and costs $250m? Yes, it's Lockheed Martin's super-quiet, supersonic X-plane for NASA

Supersonic air travel over land has been stymied since the 1960s due to the rather annoying sonic booms generated by speedy airplanes. Now, NASA, having given it some thought, has ordered a new airframe that could reduce the noise levels down to those of standard street traffic. If successful, Uncle Sam's boffins want to …

  1. Dr_N Silver badge
    Go

    SIG!

    Is that Destiny Angel in the cockpit?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: SIG!

      Beat me to it... it does look like something out of a Gerry Anderson production with all those little fins, doesn't it.

    2. Sam Therapy
      Pint

      Re: SIG!

      Well spotted. Have a beer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: SIG!

        Wasn't the SIG hypersonic? It's been a long time since I watched Thunderbirds/stingray/Joe 90 etc.

        I also thought a lot of the fuss around Concorde and the subsequent restrictions were US sour grapes that they couldn't get it working. I'm not saying the sonic boom wasn't loud, I heard it a couple of times as a kid but that on its own wasn't enough to make Concorde a lost cause.

        It still seems a little sad to me that it no longer flies and hasn't been replaced by something better. Even is this new one takes off (I don't often make jokes but that one was rather good) it'll still be slower than Concorde.

        1. Steve Todd

          Re: SIG!

          The US government basically turned their public against supersonic flight by deliberately flying military aircraft at supersonic speed, multiple times per day, across high population areas to see if they would object.

          At the kind of level that Concorde cruised (around 55,000 feet) the noise wasn't too bad. While it was subsonic and in/outbound from an airport the noise was much worse (the Olympus turbojet, especially running with reheat, was in no way designed to be quiet).

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: SIG!

            Yes and no.

            They did turn the public off by running fighters supersonic over high population areas but they also did a bucket load of research over more isolated areas (mostly Edwards AFB) using the XB70 Valkerie - which was a particularly loud aircraft due to the waverider configuration but useful for data gathering.

            It was clear that 1960s tech would result in unacceptably loud booms even at cruising altitude and the fact that Concorde had to go subsonic over Arabia following a shit load of complaints from desert dwellers underscores that point.

            What really killed Concorde was its lack of range. Being able to reach london/Paris to Seattle/SFO/LAX or go transpacific in one hop LAX to Tokyo would have resulted in more sales.

            The fuel tank vulnerability was already well known and should have been addressed long before the Paris crash. There's video footage from the 1980s of emergency services at Harewood (Christchurch NZ) responding to a multithousand litre incident caused by the underwing being hit by a ladder during and overnight stay.

            That same vulnerability is believed to have downeed at least one concordski and that's despite the soviets attempting wheel/undercarriage design tweaks from the outset to prevent blown tyres flinging crap or runway FOD into the underside of the aircraft.

            1. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

              Re: SIG!

              "The fuel tank vulnerability was already well known and should have been addressed long before the Paris crash."

              What, by fitting rubber mats as spall liners inside the tanks like British Airways did, even though it added a significant amount of weight and therefore increased fuels costs? Apparently a few BA Concordes suffered wing strikes but the liners did their jobs and the aircraft survived. Unlike Air France who decided the bottom line was more important.

              Not quite sure which part of Arabia was crossed when flying across the Atlantic between Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle and John F Kennedy airports though...

              1. ChrisC

                Re: SIG!

                "What, by fitting rubber mats as spall liners inside the tanks like British Airways did, even though it added a significant amount of weight and therefore increased fuels costs? Apparently a few BA Concordes suffered wing strikes but the liners did their jobs and the aircraft survived. Unlike Air France who decided the bottom line was more important."

                Umm, are you quite sure you've got your timelines the right way around here? BA fitted tank liners as a direct response to the AF crash.

                "Not quite sure which part of Arabia was crossed when flying across the Atlantic between Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle and John F Kennedy airports though..."

                Probably that bit of Arabia either crossed whilst flying into Bahrain, or whilst transiting through the area en route to Singapore... The history of Concorde operations is far more interesting than it merely being a rather fast transatlantic business shuttle.

            2. Mike Richards Silver badge

              Re: SIG!

              'What really killed Concorde was its lack of range. Being able to reach london/Paris to Seattle/SFO/LAX or go transpacific in one hop LAX to Tokyo would have resulted in more sales.'

              Surely it was the 1973-74 recession and the spike in oil prices that killed Concorde's sales? The plane was launched with a long line of customers signing on the dotted line between 1963 and 1967 including Pan Am, Continental, United, TWA, Qantas, Air India, JAL, Air Canada and Lufthansa. There were more than 100 orders for the plane, all cancelled within months of one another during 1973.

              1. Roland6 Silver badge

                Re: SIG!

                > There were more than 100 orders for the plane, all cancelled within months of one another during 1973.

                Probably attributable to political pressure (from the US) and the Export Import Bank's decision not to provide finance for European aircraft...

                Those, combined with the flight restrictions, would have been sufficient for Pan Am, Continental, United, TWA and Air Canada to cancel their orders...

        2. netminder

          Re: SIG!

          One problem with the sour grapes theory is that the US also outlawed military craft from generating booms over the US. I heard them as a kid and they would shake houses, you would not want 50 of those a day going overhead.

          What killed Concord was that it ate fuel it was oxygen so tickets had to be pretty expensive. Very few people were willing to pay the premium just to get there a couple hours earlier. If half this thing is going to be nose economic viability is in doubt.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: SIG!

            "What killed Concord"

            ... another thing was technology in the form of laptops. Part of the rationale for Concorde (moving business executives between London and New York as fast as possible to minimize non-productive travel time) was undermined if the business executive could travel in conisderably more comfort in first class on a 747 and be able to work on a laptop during the additional travel time.

        3. Floydian Slip
          Coat

          Re: SIG!

          SIG = Spectrum is Green, meaning all is OK and the aircraft were called "Angels" which is why the pilots were called Angels too.

          IMO Captain Scarlett was the first PC children's cartoon - female fighter pilots, disabled commander (Col. White), bi-racial communications office(Lt Green)

          Yes, I still enjoy Capt. Scarlet as a middle aged "adult. I'll get my coat - it's the one with an SPV in the pocket.

        4. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: SIG!

          >I also thought a lot of the fuss around Concorde and the subsequent restrictions were US sour grapes that they couldn't get it working.

          No it was much more about protectionism: how dare those Europeans build a civilian aeronautic industry and then add insult to injury by building such an iconic aircraft and wanting not only to fly it into US airports, but sell it to Boeing's customers (the Export Import Bank - Eximbank, which many airlines depended upon, refused to give out loans to airlines who wished to purchase European aircraft).

          The issues around ground noise from supersonic flight were simply a convenient stick to beat the Europeans with. Boeing being a "true American company" had no truck with this newfangled supersonic flight thing. The (sweet) irony was that the anti-supersonic flight lobby were so successful, Congress refused to create a loophole to allow US manufacturers to develop supersonic aircraft - forcing Boeing to stop their own development...

          >It still seems a little sad to me that it no longer flies and hasn't been replaced by something better.

          It is interesting that whilst there is still a market for the Concorde class of service, no airline or manufacturer are interested in addressing this market. Probably in part because of the huge upfront capital investment required compared to the slightly less risky mass market commercial aircraft that both Boeing and Airbus currently produce. Plus the noise issue isn't going to go away in a hurry.

  2. LisaJK

    Typo... shouldn't "unusually long noise assembly" be an "unusually long nose assembly"?

    However if the long nose stretches the sonic boom then long noise may be appropriate!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Perhaps the solution is merely to remove the noise assembly. This isn't rocket science.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My favorite conspiracy: George H Bush, while VP under Reagan, flew to Iran in a blackbird to conspire with the Mullahs. The Clinton justice department actually interviewed a con man in the Mussouri state prison who concocted this story. One hopes they made the trip solely for the entertainment value.

      1. asdf Silver badge

        Plenty of shady stuff in George H Bush past besides grabbing asses though even if this one was nothing. US weapons were sold to Mullahs after all.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "US weapons were sold to Mullahs after all"

          Funded by the sale of hundreds of tons of cocaine imported into the USA on CIA aircraft and kickstarting the crack epidemic.

          Resulting in Ronnie announcing the gearing up of the 'war on drugs' whilst simultaneously being one of the largest suppliers of said recreational chemicals.

          Not a conspiracy theory. This came out in court as proven during the Iran-contra trials.

          Saint Ronald of the republicans. The greatest narcobaron of all time. It's little wonder Escobar and friends were so fearless.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            >Saint Ronald of the republicans. The greatest narcobaron of all time.

            Wasn't Ronnie that took care of the Noriega loose lips problem. I dare say his VP who also happen to head the CIA in the 70s might have had him beat and been the hand up the senile puppet's butt in these matters.

          2. Alistair Silver badge
            Windows

            @Alan Brown:

            Saint Ronald of the republicans. The greatest narcobaron of all time. It's little wonder Escobar and friends were so fearless.

            I rather prefer Saint Ronald of the trees. I just wish I could find an audio copy of the "Its the trees you idiot" line.

        2. Alistair Silver badge

          Plenty of shady stuff in George H Bush past besides grabbing asses though even if this one was nothing. US weapons were sold to Mullahsanyone that would buy them after all.

          Cleaned that up for ya.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hmm... a lengthened and very slim nose may stretch out the duration of the initial boom, but not by very much in real terms - the nose on the aircraft in the headline pic looks to be ~10m, so if the a/c is flying at 940 mph...

      940 mph = 420.2 m/s, so with a nose length of 10m, the initial boom could potentially be stretched to 10m / 420.2 m/s = 0.02349 seconds = 1/42th of a second.

      However, I don't think it will be possible to design a nose that will work at different supersonic speeds - it'll have to be designed for one speed only, and the a/c will have to stick to that speed pretty closely.

      I can't see anything that they may do to the rest of the airframe making much difference to the boom because the 'boom' comes from the two ends of the a/c - the nose and tail. The main purpose of the canards in the design shown in the headline pic will be to generate vortices over the wing to reduce take-off and landing speeds; the ogi wing in Concorde effectively gave it very long leading edge extensions, which did the same thing, but the TU 144, which had a very similar planiform to the a/c in the pic, had to use canards too.

      No idea why they need that little wing on the tip of the fin though - maybe artistic license - won't be surprised if it's omitted on the actual a/c.

      The only certain way to reduce the loudness of sonic booms is to move their source further away = fly higher. Ok for cruise, but still noisy while climbing and gaining speed.

      Never heard Concorde supersonic but by crikey, those military spec engines, derived from the TSR-2 project, were bloody loud - I attended quite a few IT (it was DP back then, of course) training courses at a certain establishment in Windsor and when a Concorde was climbing out to the West, and passed over at ~2k ft, trying to talk and be heard was impossible - if the trainer was talking they'd simply have to stop for about ten seconds or so, but everyone got used to it pretty quickly.

      But despite the shattering noise, it was still a beautifully elegant thing to see.

      1. Mark 65 Silver badge

        I remember when I stayed a my Gran's house as a kid I used to go outside around 5-6pm (vaguely from memory) to watch Concord fly over. Never tired of hearing the noise and seeing something so different to all the other aircraft.

        1. dvd

          I remember seeing Concorde flying overhead in the early '80s and being almost unable to hear it at all. Dunno what all the fuss was about.

          Mind you I was at the Reading rock festival at the time.

        2. Jan 0

          Oooh look, there goes concorde again!

          NH

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Never heard Concorde supersonic

        The initial test flights ran up & down the Irish sea, I remember going outside to listen for the double boom. It was very distinctive, but didn't seem loud enough to be a problem. There were a few complains about cracked greenhouses, though.

        when a Concorde was climbing out to the West, and passed over at ~2k ft,

        It was even better on the perimeter road at the end of the runway, when the reheat was still active. Made the world shake.

        1. David Knapman

          I remember it from a few air shows I went to back in the 90s. It was a joyous noise to experience - the sheer loud growl as it went past and shook the ground, followed by the simultaneous setting off of all of the car alarms in the car park.

        2. Natalie Gritpants

          In Weston-super-Mare used to hear the thump-thump around 5pm every day, sounded like distant thunder but then it generated when Concorde was over the Atlantic (ocean, not hotel)

        3. Mike Richards Silver badge

          The boom caused by the Air France flight from JFK used to rattle the window frames about 9pm each night when I was growing up in Cornwall. It was one of those comforting noises that said everything was okay and the future would be faster and Gerry Andersonesque.

        4. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

          > It was even better on the perimeter road at the end of the runway, when the reheat was still active. Made the world shake.

          It was a lot of fun when you were queued up behind one at Heathrow in something little like the smaller versions of an A320.

        5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "The initial test flights ran up & down the Irish sea... It was very distinctive, but didn't seem loud enough to be a problem."

          Agreed. I remember Shorts testing SkyVans at the more or less the same time. Ugly but if unladen I got the impression they'd be quite good at aerobatics.

          "It was even better on the perimeter road at the end of the runway, when the reheat was still active. Made the world shake."

          And if you were queued up behind one at take-off.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        NASA boom mitigation

        They've been working on this with modified fighters (F15s) for 25 years.

        You can't remove the boom but you can both spread it and direct it. What NASA found was that a basin shaped bottom and a sharp edge to the top half and a very long snout resulted in a much broader and quieter boom pattern underneath.

        The program culminated in the Quiet Spike research but goes back further.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: NASA boom mitigation

          Somehow posting on the mobe ate half what I sent.

          Yes, the US Gov pissed off the public by running fighters low over cities, but they also did useful research with the cancelled XB-70 before retiring it, flying it on a large range of flight profiles and heights over Edwards for months and measuring the boom patterns as well as similar tests in the midwest.

          The Valkerie was huge plane and a spectacularly loud boomer (much louder than it should have been for its size) thanks to the Waverider layout. It gave a lot of valuable data and showed that 1950s-60s designs were simply too loud to be tolerable even at 50-60,000 feet over land - which was quickly proven on those Concorde flights into Bahrain/Singapore.

          If Boeing hadn't been set a target by the US Government of building something significantly faster than Concorde they might have succeeded. Bigger and more range was relatively easy but the extra speed meant the thing got so hot that it needed new materials which simply weren't available.

          Even Concorde was pushing normal materials limits and you can't build a civil transport that leaks fuel like a plastic bag full of nails when it's on the tarmac like the SR71s did (not to mention the fun they had acquiring Soviet titanium). No matter for Boeing, as the entire enterprise was funded by Uncle Sam and the backstop program turned into a roaring commercial success. If the SST had succeeded, we may have never seen low cost mass transport from the 747 (which at its core is a 707 scaled up 50% for freight work, with an elevated flight deck to both protect the pilots from shifting cargo and allow a nose door to be fitted without disconnecting/reconnecting/recalibrating all the flight controls every time it's opened. Everything else is evolution)

          Without some magic way of reducing friction, supersonic doesn't gain much for your money unless you're going at least 6-9 hours conventionally and then you really want hypersonic or skipping, else fuel will be 90% of your MTOW. Reaction Engines might still have their day for 4 hour London-Sydney vomit rides.

          As for booms - there's no way the public will put up with more than a even a couple of quiet booms a day - particularly in quieter areas. Making them unnoticable in urban areas isn't as important as making them unnoticeable when people are in the suburbs or rural locations. (In a quiet location you can hear a 747-400 flying past at 35,000 feet, as the daily transpolar flights to Argentina did over my parents place when I was in my 20s. It can't be any louder than that). I heard Concorde boom once. You could put up with that once a day on a predictable pattern but every other flight at effectively random intervals would trigger murderous rampages in a lot of people (chinese water torture...)

    4. PhillW

      Or just "unusually long assembly time" costing the US Govt $millions per year, forever..........

  3. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

    Potential

    awarded a $247.5m contract by NASA to build a potentially successor:

    My reading comprehension fail again.

    Potentially build a successor. Or a potential successor?

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Re: Potential

      Well, forget Concorde. Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works, makers of the iconic SR-71 Blackbird, was today awarded a $247.5m contract by NASA to build a potential successor: the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane by 2022. The 94ft-long airframe has a wingspan of 29.5ft and is designed to fly at Mach 1.4, or 940 mph, at an altitude of 55,000 feet.

      That should clear up your reading ... you should get your eyes checked...

      That said... how is this a successor to a spy plane that flew many times faster?

      1. MrDamage

        Re: Potential

        If the pair of you read the paragraph in relation to the rest of the articles it makes sense.

        If you insist on reading the paragraph as a standalone block of text, then reading comprehension failure can be expected.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best thing, the Skunkworks is back in business. Here's to hoping they can channel a bit of Kelly Johnson and get us something that makes sense for use. But I want to fly in a giant version of an SR-71. Now that would be impressive on the runway!

    1. MercenaryGman

      If you think the Skunkworks isn't already working on the 'next thing', you're kidding yourself.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm lots of US government money seems to going into that, don't think Boeing will be bleating if they get the benefits.

    What do you think Airbus ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What Do You Think Airbus

      I think Airbus should ask the Chinese for the plans once it becomes a reality.

      1. naive

        Re: What Do You Think Airbus

        Yeah, the Chinese are a free backup utility for the plans and designs of Western companies.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: What Do You Think Airbus

        "I think Airbus should ask the Chinese for the plans once it becomes a reality."

        Maybe the Chinese will be fed fake plans as the Russians were for Concorde - allegedly.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Hmmm lots of US government money seems to going into that, don't think Boeing will be bleating if they get the benefits.

      Seeing as Lockheed has got the contract, how will Boeing benefit? Anyway, this is from NASA's tiny budget. The real money flows from DARPA's conveniently non-discretionary teat.

  6. ITnoob

    "Almost imperceptible"....

    So quieter than our LG dishwasher then.

  7. DougS Silver badge

    Only Mach 1.4?

    Hardly worth it except on very long flights. Since the boom is just where it transitions, can't they shoot for Mach 2.5 so it can make a real dent in flight times for the sort of flights most of us regularly take?

    Though I suppose given the hassle of getting to the airport, then all the TSA groping, even if the flight took three seconds it would still take hours to get anywhere!

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Only Mach 1.4?

      This is test design to work out the design not a production design. It needs to go comfortably supersonic to test the design. Many of the Skunkwork's projects are test/prototype designs intended to figure out how to solve a problem for a later full scale design.

    2. hugo tyson

      Re: Only Mach 1.4?

      Pretty sure the boom is anywhere the craft passes at faster than mach 1, not just at transition.

    3. Steve Todd

      Re: Only Mach 1.4?

      Compared to a normal cruise of Mach 0.88? That's a 6 hour flight taking only 4, or a 10 hour taking 6:20

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Only Mach 1.4?

      "Though I suppose given the hassle of getting to the airport, then all the TSA groping, even if the flight took three seconds it would still take hours to get anywhere!"

      Yep, the cheapest way to massively reduce flight times is to clear away the useless bits of the security theatre (that's probably most of it) and stream line what's left.

  8. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Marshalls of Cambridge

    Manufactured the nose and visor for Concorde.

    Nez Basculant

    https://www.heritageconcorde.com/nose-and-visor-design-and-manufacture

    Sir Arthur Marshall

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1545763/Sir-Arthur-Marshall.html

    Somewhere I read of a reference to Sir Arthur Marshall which said that he was very proud of the fact that the first part of Concorde to reach anywhere was the part built by Marshalls of Cambridge.

  9. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Pint

    Even if it comes to pass..

    ..the Concorde was faster. (and just plain cooler)

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Even if it comes to pass..

      There was no way that a plane in regular commercial use, that could both outdrag and outlast pretty much every military fighter at the time, was not going to be cool.

      It's just that I've never forgiven one of my colleagues who met me in NYC one fine day, having been sent over with something urgent on Concorde - I never got to fly it, to my lasting regret.

      1. ChrisC

        Re: Even if it comes to pass..

        "I never got to fly it, to my lasting regret."

        You didn't miss out on much. Aside from experiencing the relentless shove in the back as it accelerated along the runway. And feeling as if you were lying flat on your back as it climbed skywards, still accelerating like nothing else the civil aviation world has given us. And seeing the mach indicator tick over to 2.00 whilst gliding along so smoothly it felt unreal. And looking at a deeper darker blue sky than I've ever seen out of an airliner window (aside from whilst playing with the LCD window shades on a Dreamliner). And being plied with more champagne in the course of 90 minutes than I've ever drunk in the rest of my near 45 years on this planet...

        ...sorry, this probably isn't helping. To redress the balance, I should point out that the cabin was rather cramped, the inflight entertainment system was a pile of tosh, and... umm... no, sorry, I cannot lie. It was truly one of the most memorable experiences of my entire life, right up there with watching a shuttle launch, getting married and seeing my kids being born.

        1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

          Re: Even if it comes to pass..

          > You didn't miss out on much.

          As my Aunt, who flew it out to NY quite a number of times put it.

          "It wasn't very comfortable, but it wasn't very comfortable for not very long, so better than all the other planes"

          She was flying on before the days of modern full lie flat business & first class seats.

          BA's cattle+ seats are basically the old business class ones.

        2. ukgnome Silver badge
          Devil

          @ChrisC

          I have upvoted you because you have made it sound rather splendid - however this doesn't mean I don't think you are an utter bastard.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Even if it comes to pass..

        "I never got to fly it, to my lasting regret."

        I think the was a day once when, I think due ot a Barry McGuiggen fight in Belfast, BA were maximizing number of people they could fly LHR-Belfast and were switching larger aircraft to that rotue + flying more flights they announced that as a result they had a shortage of planes for other routes and they were having to use a "spare" concorde for the London/Edinburgh shuttle that day - at the tiome this was running very much as a turn up at the gate and buy a ticket service. Someone I knew from school who was an aviation nut explaiend at a later reunion how he'd heard the news and as he was at University in London he immediately took the tuibe to Heatrow, bought a shuttle ticket and fulfilled one of his ambitions by flying on Concorde to Edinburgh (totally subsonically of course) and then got a train back to London (this was in the dim and distant past when trains were cheaper that planes ... try telling that to the youth of today!)

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I'm sure an AI headline writer would have come up with "Silent by deadly" or isn't that an expression that crosses the pond?

    1. Alister Silver badge

      or even "silent but deadly" possibly?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Damn keyboard. First it was the space bar. Then it was the n which seems to have fixed itself. Now it's errm the key betweeny and i. And damn again, there goes the space bar.

        1. Alister Silver badge

          I can recommend the IBM Model M - if the keys stick, just hit them with a hammer...

          :)

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
            Unhappy

            "I can recommend the IBM Model M"

            Doesn't fit on a laptop.

            1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

              You need a bigger laptop.

            2. Alister Silver badge

              Doesn't fit on a laptop.

              I'm sure if you hammer the nails in hard enough it will...

        2. Simon Harris Silver badge
          Devil

          Who needs a full keyboard?

          Just use ALT and the numeric keypad, and try to remember all the ASCII codes.

        3. Colin Wilson 2

          New Macbook Pro?

  11. Tim99 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Only $247.5m?

    Shirley, just the first payment? Total budget a minimum of $25 billion? Or is this an exception after the military get to give their input?

    1. Schultz

      Re: Only $247.5m?

      This is just an exploratory project, so I expect that they'll be allowed to glue a long nose onto an existing military propulsion system. Also, from the pictures, I'd expect this to be a small scale model, so the pilot and copilot will have to stand in for first and second class passengers.

      1. GrumpyOldBloke

        Re: Only $247.5m?

        $247.5m Enough to make a video, stock up the drinks cabinet, call the girls and begin lobbying for the real money.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Only $247.5m?

        "This is just an exploratory project"

        Exactly. You can only go so far by modifying the snout and underside of a Northrop F5E as NASA have been doing in their research with Honeywell since the 1990s.

        The engine geometry is fundamentally limitiing for starters and this thing appears to be the next big step (moving engine intakes/exhausts on top is a logical step to quieting noise)

        Here's what the old plane looked like in 2003 (this is prior to the quiet spike research, but feeds intro it). I'm surprised they didn't call it Pumba. https://www.nasa.gov/aero/sonic_boom_takes_shape.html

        Also at https://www.airplane-pictures.net/photo/46101/74-1519-nasa-northrop-f-5e-tiger-ii/

    2. teknopaul Bronze badge

      Re: Only $247.5m?

      I notice the term "at scale" is now used to mean "lots of money "

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Number of Passengers

    Article doesn't say. Honestly... who is the Reg Editor and is she/he dead?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Number of Passengers

      Fron the dimensions given, I imagine this is just a proof of concept and just a pilot/crew - unless it is unmanned.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    Yes after 6 decades they've come up with something slower than Concorde. But......

    If it works then people will at least consider a large passenger jet at > M1.

    OTOH if the hooter needs to be that long to cut the boom for M1.4, what will it be like at M2? Or M2.5? Or 3.

    This is the first project I've seen for a long time which really does need a backronym.

    SNAPE or DURANTE perhaps?

    1. itzman
      Coat

      Re: Yes after 6 decades they've come up with something slower than Concorde. But......

      PINNOCHIO.

      Long nosed vapourware.

      Seriously though, I suspect that what counts is the shape of the nose not its absolute length. One is trying to reduce the peak intensity of the 'boom' by 'smearing' it out over a few more milliseconds.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Yes after 6 decades they've come up with something slower than Concorde. But......

        CYRANO?

        BERGERAC?

        I'll get met coat

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Yes after 6 decades they've come up with something slower than Concorde. But......

          DEGAULLE?

  14. lglethal Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Thumping 'eck or Ecky Thump

    For everyone complaining that its slower than Concorde - this is a demonstrator! It's sole focus is on proving that a special body design can reduce Sonic Boom to acceptable levels. Sonic Boom occurs whenever an aircraft is travelling over Mach 1 and it really doesnt matter if its travelling at M1.4 or M40 if what you're trying to prove is that your design reduces the sonic boom by X percent.

    If you are trying to prove that a new car design handles better when travelling at 100km/h, then you do not need to design your car to be able to drive at 300km/h from the start... Have some perspective folks...

    1. Major N
      Coat

      Re: Thumping 'eck or Ecky Thump

      if you manage to break the sound barrier on the M40, then you're doing something very wrong :P

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Thumping 'eck or Ecky Thump

        Or alternatively, very very right

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Have some perspective folks...

      Well, if we must. But I'm not happy about it.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Thumping 'eck or Ecky Thump

      >If you are trying to prove that a new car design handles better when travelling at 100km/h, then you do not need to design your car to be able to drive at 300km/h from the start...

      However, having proven that your new car design handles better at 100km/h, don't be surprised when it's handling is sh!t at 300km/h. If in doubt I recommend some background reading on Thrust ssc...

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Thumping 'eck or Ecky Thump

        "having proven that your new car design handles better at 100km/h, don't be surprised when it's handling is sh!t at 300km/h."

        Yup, Case in point being the XB-70 Valkerie. Intended to fly at Mach3+ it took a brave pair of pilots giving 110% attention to get anywhere near that and was more than a handful over mach 2.5

  15. werdsmith Silver badge

    In the early days of supersonic travel, the Anglo-French Concorde was limited to only reaching top speed when clear of land due to the sheer noise of the thing.

    Because of the sonic booms. The "sheer noise of the thing" is a better description of Concorde taking off and climbing out over Surrey/Berks. When the thing was operating at 55-60,000 feet in super-cruise (reheat off) the only intrusive noise at sea level was two quick booms.

  16. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Perfect time

    to link to my favourite Concorde story.

    1. Norman Nescio Silver badge

      Concorde & SR-71

      Another nice Concorde story, with emphasis on story - plausible, but not necessarily true: Above Top Secret.com: SR-71 waits for Concorde

      It links to a (long*) thread on PPRuNe talking about Concorde: PPRuNe: Concorde Question

      *103 pages.

      ETA: I see Citizen99 beat me to it while I was called away in the middle of composing my post. Upvotes to him/her/it, not me, please.

      1. Citizen99
        Pint

        Re: Concorde & SR-71

        @ Norman Nescio

        Sir, you are a scholar and a gentleman. Have a pint :)

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          Re: Concorde & SR-71

          This leads to my favourite SR-71 story.

          *I would comment below Citizen99's post, but I prefer to keep a thread going.

  17. Citizen99

    This story also appeared on El Reg recently, found it again here -

    http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread978233/pg1

  18. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    Cheaper option

    or they could just give Burt Rutan 50 million and let him get on with it

  19. returnmyjedi

    Bleeding ears

    I'd prefer a tympanic wrecking sonic boom to that awful muzak Lockheed Martin chose to play over their fluffy video.

  20. steviebuk Silver badge

    So quiet...

    ..they had to ruin it by putting music on the video or is that to hide that actually it's loud.

  21. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Disturbed people

    NASA test pilots will fly it at altitude across sections of the US and see what kind of disturbance it causes people on the ground.

    I think it's pretty clear what will disturb people on the ground.

    "Arrggh, chemtrails!"

    "Run, it's the UFOs!"

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. Citizen99

    For a while I was involved with the (Concorde Air Intakes) Control Unit Test Equipment.

    It was CUTE.

    On a non-related project (1970s), a bunch of us visited an air museum near the Cape in Florida one weekend. There was a prototype of the US SST there. For display purposes it was wearing engines that looked as if they might have come off a 707 or similar.

  24. Michael Habel Silver badge

    So if this is forthe benifit of Airbus, under licence from Boeing... Why must the US Taxpayer get hooked for this?

    1. Killfalcon Silver badge

      Probably the same reason the US builds submarines it doesn't need - Strategic maintenance of skills.

      The US puts a heavy premium on knowing that next time there's a big dust up and suddenly they need a fighter jet to win a Real War, somewhere important and less middle-eastern, they have on speed dial the companies who have the skills for it.

      That's a lesson they learnt in WW2, better than almost anyone else: when it came down to it, their war engine was almost entirely repurposed civilian facilities and civilian expertise, and that's the only way you can scale up to a war footing from a peacetime economy. The alternative, perpetual military readiness, would make the current military-industrial pork-barrel look like a boardgame (one of those European ones with little wooden counters and rules built around maximising jobs in Iowa rather than building bombers).

      Also most of the US government are surprisingly easily sold on the idea of American Made Explosions.

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Strategic maintenance of skills.

        Sadly, not a lesson learned by the UK government, who have systematically wiped out heavy industrial skills from the workforce, to the point that when we wanted a new steam locomotive boiler, we had to get Germany to make it for us...

  25. arctic_haze Silver badge

    Arthur C Clarke, anyone?

    This plane looks like a spaceship from a cover of one of his first books. An absolutely 1950s Sci-Fi look.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Others Already In The Works

    Today's Wall Street Journal has an article on three other companies that plan to start delivering passenger aircraft in 2023 and 2025: some have already taken orders , one is faster than the old Concorde, and it appears all are addressing the noise issue to some extent in the same way as the one in this article.

    1. SloppyJesse
      Megaphone

      Re: Others Already In The Works

      I'd rather they concentrated on efficiency and pollution reduction, like these guys http://silentaircraft.org/design

      But that's not as sexy as going supersonic I s'pose.

  27. Richard 30

    Quibbling

    1) in what way was Concorde inefficient 1960's technology? Newer is not necessarily better.... It outran nearly everything else in its speed class until it was retired (and would knock the F35 into cocked hat today) while merely sipping fuel. It was a thirsty monster to get to that speed, admittedly, but that was 1940's technology (thank you, Vulcan).

    2) surely the proposed "nose job" is analogous to the new shinkansen train nose profile, for the Nozomi trains, which is one of the few good examples of biomimetic engineering. The inventor was allegedly inspired by the kingfisher's beak. The kingfisher solves the phase transition problem of diving from the air fast into water with a (poor attempt to use words instead of a picture) two-curved beak. The shinkansen needs this to reduce noise and resistance at tunnel mouths, where the train compresses the air in high speed running.

    1. Richard 30

      Re: Quibbling

      3) (more musing than quibbling and I missed the edit window to it in) my personal theory is that Concorde was withdrawn because, post 9/11, the USA refused to permit a civilian airliner / flying bomb that was so difficult to intercept (flying fast and high, descending steeply to land).

      1. Roger Kint

        Re: Quibbling

        Nah, no conspiracy theories needed, the biggest (almost insurmountable) issue was cost, just in terms of fuel it was six times more expensive than a 747, all the other reasons such as limited routes were just additional nails in the coffin, the order cancellations were as a direct result of the oil crisis, the very specific niche that Air France managed to fill with a (just) profitable route BA couldn't quite do

        People put up with cramped cabins, no in flight entertainment to get there twice as fast (and be really cool), but if time wasn't a factor or you were a regular flyer and didn't need the novelty, you could fly business or even first for less money and in far more comfort to *far* more places.

        That said, I'm sure "American Exceptionalism" could well carry it in the US if it was "theirs" flying under the stars and stripes, people in the US seem to tolerate pretty much anything in the name of national pride - there is still a niche transatlantic market gap left by Concorde, and if the sonic boom problem means transcontinental supersonic flights that could mean European and even Emirates, Etihad and Qatar customers markets could open in a way that Concorde just missed.

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