NASA Armstrong Accomplished Numerous Milestones in 2021

Joby eVOL acoustic test (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — This year marks 75 years of flight research at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California and 2021 adds to those achievements. 2021 continued to be challenging while working in a mostly virtual environment, but progress was surely made.

NASA’s next supersonic X-plane, the X-59, is taking shape for upcoming flights; NASA’s first all-electric X-plane, the X-57, completed ground testing to prepare for flights; several Earth science missions were completed around the globe; and many other goals were met to prepare NASA Armstrong for a successful 2022 and beyond.

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NASA’s X-59 Kicks Off 2022 in Texas for Ground Testing

NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology aircraft (QueSST) is pictured here at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in California, wrapped up in preparation for its move to Texas. The X-plane will undergo ground tests to ensure it can withstand the stresses of flight before returning to California for completion. (Credits: Lockheed Martin)

PALMDALE, Calif. (NASA PR) — 2021 saw significant milestones achieved in the assembly of NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology aircraft (QueSST), and all eyes now look forward to a pivotal 2022. Following the X-plane’s temporary move from Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works in California to their facilities in Texas, the X-59 is set to start 2022 with critical ground testing, as progress continues toward NASA’s target of the aircraft’s first flight later this year.

While in Texas, ground testing of the X-59 will be done to ensure the aircraft can withstand the loads and stresses that typically occur during flight. The team will also calibrate and test the fuel systems before the X-59 makes the journey back to California for more tests and completion.

The X-59 is designed to reduce the loudness of the sonic boom, which occurs when an aircraft flies faster than the speed of sound, to a gentle, quiet sonic “thump”. The X-plane will demonstrate this in flights over communities around the U.S. starting in 2024, as NASA collects data that could open the future to commercial supersonic flights over land.

NASA Glenn Continued Research in 2021 for Space Exploration and Next-Gen Aeronautics

Credit: NASA

CLEVELAND, Ohio (NASA PR) — Looking deeper at the way fire behaves in space, Glenn researchers delivered the fifth in a series of NASA investigations in January. The Spacecraft Fire Safety Experiment-V (Saffire-V) successfully tested larger, more dynamic fires for over 26 hours inside Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft.

As NASA Glenn continued to manage the difficulties of the pandemic, scientific and technology research continued at a rapid clip this year with an eye toward the future.

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NASA’s 2021 Achievements Included Mars Landing, First Flight, Artemis, More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.

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JAXA Teams with NASA & Boeing to Validate Design of X-59 Low-boom Supersonic Demonstrator

Illustration of the completed X-59 QueSST landing on a runway. (Credits: Lockheed Martin)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has teamed up with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Boeing Company (Boeing) on joint research to validate the low sonic-boom design of X-59, NASA’s low boom flight demonstrator.

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Virgin Galactic Pivots High-speed Aircraft Program in a Crowded Field

Credit: Douglas Messier

Virgin Galactic’s record of delays and broken promises raises doubts about its ambitious supersonic aircraft project as company founder Richard Branson fights to save his struggling empire in the midst of a global pandemic.

Updated on 10/27/20 at 12:39 p.m. PDT to include spending comparison of Virgin Orbit to Rocket Lab.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Richard Branson’s dream of a suborbital Virgin Galactic vehicle zipping passengers between distant cities at hypersonic speeds above Mach 5 (6,174 km/h, 3,836 mph) is dead. At least for now.

In August, the space tourism company he founded pivoted to a slower supersonic Mach 3 (3,704 km/h, 2,302 mph) business jet. Virgin Galactic unveiled a mission concept for an aircraft that would carry 9-19 passengers at a cruising altitude of 60,000 ft (18,288 m).

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NASA Takes Delivery of GE Jet Engine for X-59 Supersonic Demonstrator

The F414-GE-100 engine, which will power NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane (QueSST) in flight, is unboxed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The engine, one of two delivered by GE, is approximately 13 feet long, and will power X-59 on missions to gather information about how the public perceives the sounds of quieter supersonic flight. (Credits: NASA / Ken Ulbrich)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Mark the big one-of-a-kind engine, designed and built just for NASA, as delivered.

Nearly 13 feet long, three feet in diameter, and packing 22,000 pounds of afterburner enhanced jet propulsion, the F414-GE-100 engine is now at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base in California.

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X-59 QueSST More than the Sum of Its Parts

NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology aircraft is being assembled at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® factory in Palmdale, California. (Credits: Lockheed Martin)

PALMDALE, Calif. (NASA PR) — A time-honored tradition employed by the aerospace community for decades is continuing with the assembly of NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology aircraft at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® factory in California.

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X-59 QueSST Wing Assembly

X-59 wing (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

The X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology, or QueSST, wing assembly is lifted by a crane and moved to another area of the manufacturing floor in preparation for wing skin installation. The aircraft is under construction at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® in Palmdale, California, and will fly for the first time in 2021. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

NASA’s X-59 Quiet Supersonic Research Aircraft Cleared for Final Assembly

Illustration of the completed X-59 QueSST landing on a runway. (Credits: Lockheed Martin)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s first large scale, piloted X-plane in more than three decades is cleared for final assembly and integration of its systems following a major project review by senior managers held Thursday at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

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