NASA is developing something called an X-Plane that could potentially bring back supersonic speeds to the skies. Not only is that super-fun alliteration, but it is also very exciting for travelers wishing to get from New York to Los Angeles in two hours. The X-Plane travels at about 940mph and should be able to break the sound barrier without the pesky sonic boom thing that us mere mortals on the ground can’t stand. According to Wired, the sound will be more akin to “a car door closing” than a big ol’ boom.
How is NASA doing this? Well, they aren’t. They’re paying Lockheed Martin $245 million to turn their Low Boom Flight Demonstrator (catchy name!) into a supersonic plane. A key difference between this and a commercial plane is the fact that the Low Boom (for short) flies at 55,000ft in altitude, a full 4 miles higher than commercial aircraft. Which makes sense, as the technology, sadly, is mostly for science, as the Low Boom is only 96ft long and only holds one person. It could be 10 years until this technology hits us regular folk.
It might be hard to for our younger readers to imagine, but back in the sepia-toned 1980s when I was growing up we had these magical planes called Concordes that went 1,354mph—nearly 400mph faster than the X-Plane. The Concorde ceased production in 2003 due to “increasing maintenance costs” (and a high-profile crash outside of Paris in 2000).
No word on whether they’ll fly this supersonic over Seattle, as that’s about the only chance the city has of getting the Supersonics back.