April 3 (UPI) -- NASA has chosen Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company to design, build and test a quieter supersonic aircraft. The Low-Boom Flight Demonstration contract is valued at $247.5 million.
As contract winner, Lockheed Martin is tasked with building the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration X-plane, an experimental airplane that will reach supersonic speeds but not trigger a supersonic boom. Instead, the quieter supersonic jet will produce a "thump." The name for LBFD technology is Quiet Supersonic Technology, or QueSST.
According to NASA, the X-plane will cruise at an altitude 55,000 feet and a speed of roughly 940 miles per hour -- and "create a sound about as loud as a car door closing."
Lockheed was the favorite to win the LBFD contract, as the company had previously worked with NASA to produce a preliminary design for the X-plane. The aerospace company also recently put out ads for several new LBFD-related jobs.
NASA hopes the LBFD project will pave the way for the introduction of supersonic jets to the airline industry.
"Commercial supersonic flight represents a potentially large new market for aircraft manufacturers and operators world-wide," NASA wrote in an LBFD status report.
Lockheed is expected to hand over the X-plane model in 2021. Beginning in 2022, NASA will conduct several more flight tests.
"The Flight Demonstration will culminate in a series of campaigns in which the QueSST aircraft will be flown over communities," NASA wrote in a paper. "Surveys will be conducted to develop a database of public response to the sounds."