NASA Achieves Engine Milestone in Quiet SST Project

Nearly 13ft (4m) long, 3ft (1m) in diameter and packing 22,000lbs of afterburner enhanced jet thrust, NASA has taken delivery of the engine it will use to power its X-59 QueSST aircraft 

The F414-GE-100 engine – which has been manufactured by General Electric – was delivered to the agency at its Armstrong Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base in California. 

X-59 GE Aviation
The F414-GE-100 engine sits in the assembly area at GE Aviation’s Riverworks facility in Lynn, Massachusetts as it prepares for initial checkout tests. GE Aviation

It will now undergo some checks before being thoroughly inspected and transported to nearby Palmdale for eventual installation into NASA’s X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft, which is now under construction at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works factory. 

“Taking delivery of the engine from General Electric marks another exciting, huge milestone for us in building the X-59,” said Raymond Castner, the propulsion lead for the X-59 at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. 

The X-59 QueSST is attempting to reduce the sonic boom down to a series of 'thumps'. Lockheed Martin

“This just adds even more anticipation as we look forward to seeing that big flame come out the back of the aircraft as it takes off for the first time,” Castner added. 

What is the X-59? 

In 2018, NASA announced that it was working with American aerospace and defence company Lockheed Martin, to produce a technology demonstrator X-plane that can travel at supersonic speeds without creating loud sonic booms. 

“With the X-59 you’re still going to have multiple shockwaves because of the wings on the aircraft that create lift and the volume of the plane. But the airplane’s shape is carefully tailored such that those shockwaves do not combine,” said Ed Haering, a NASA aerospace engineer at Armstrong.

X-59 Groundshot
The X-59 QueSST is now under construction at Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works factory. Lockheed Martin

Once built, and its quiet supersonic technologies are confirmed, NASA intends to fly the X-59 over several US towns and cities to gather data from residents on the ground about their perception of the sound the supersonic aircraft generates. 

The researchers are confident that the resulting data will enable federal and international lawmakers to write new regulations that allow supersonic flight over land, and thus open a whole new market for commercial supersonic air travel. 

If you’d like to find out more about the X-59 QueSST, there’s a 12-page exclusive in the September issue of AIR International, which goes on sale on August 27.