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Lockheed Martin / NASA X-59 LBFD

Subsonic Boom Technology Demonstrator Aircraft

United States | 2022

"The joint Lockheed-NASA LBFD technology demonstrator is set to launch a whole new era of X-plane development for the American space administration."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 01/06/2022 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
NASA has selected Lockheed Martin's "Skunk Works" division to design and develop the experimental "Low Boom Flight Demonstrator" (LBFD) aircraft. This air vehicle will be used to collect data on reduced-level sonic boom performance that currently restrict super-high-speed commercial passenger airliner travel over populated airspaces (this was one of the primary defeats of the European BAC/Aerospatiale "Concorde" supersonic airliner program). The LBFD will also be used to jumpstart a whole new generation of NASA-funded "X-planes", a long-running series of experimentals (some becoming record-setters) driven by the research branch that ultimately played a critical role in advancing American aerospace technologies during the Cold War period (1947-1991). The primary end-goal of the new program is to provide a standard data scheme for civilian airspace aircraft-makers to be referenced when designing their own ultra-efficient subsonic-level products.

When the project was first unveiled by NASA in August of 2017, no fewer than three firms shared interest but it was Lockheed that ended up the only party to submit a formal bid. The company has elected to construct the aircraft utilizing existing "off-the-shelf" systems taken from such types as the Northrop T-38 "Talon" carrierborne advanced jet trainer and the Boeing F/A-18 "Super Hornet" carrier-based fighter-bomber - not only will this accelerate manufacture of the flyable unit but also keep development costs in check.

Going by the presented concept artwork released by NASA, the LBFD will take on a sleek-and-slim overall shape with a finely-pointed, duckbill-like nosecone, delta-style wing mainplanes, and a rather unique tailplane arrangement. The cockpit will be seated at midships with limited forward and rearward viewing for the pilot due to the raised nature of the forward and rearward fuselage spine (this meant to break up the oncoming boom shock at very-high-speeds). To compensate for the restricted view, the aircraft will carry an XVS display system that includes a nose-mounted camera with color imagery relaying situational awareness to the pilot during critical take-off and landing actions. A "triple plane" design is seen for the overall shape of the aircraft - delta-like wing mainplanes are positioned just aft of midships with canards set forward and traditional tailplanes fitted aft. In addition to the traditional horizontal tailplanes there will be a smaller set of horizontal planes seated high atop the single vertical fin (similar to the "Multhopp Tail" adopted by many civilian and military aircraft). A tricycle undercarriage will be used for ground-running with these components taken from a Lockheed F-16 "Fighting Falcon". The T-38 will form much of the LBFD's cockpit section which will house a single pilot. Structurally, the aircraft's overall length will reach 94 feet from nose-to-tail.

The LBFD will have a speed capability approaching Mach 1.4 and fly up to altitudes of 55,000 feet requiring pressurization for the cockpit and life support systems for the pilot. Power is slated to come from a single General Electric GE F414 afterburning turbofan engine (the same as used in the Boeing F/A-18 "Super Hornet" line) and this installation will be aspirated by a diverterless supersonic intake scheme. Placement of the engine is key to the design and involves the unit being positioned well-aft in the fuselage with its edges finely-contoured to the existing airframe to maintain aerodynamic efficiency. The intake will be seen just above the aft-dorsal fuselage spine with a conventional exhaust ring featured at the fuselage's extreme end - as such, little to no ductwork will be required to funnel air through the unit.

With a design review forthcoming before the end of 2019, a first-flight is scheduled for sometime in mid-2021. Flight testing is then to arrive in 2023 and should continue into 2025 during which time public feedback will also be welcomed and assessed as the aircraft is test-flown over select populated areas across the United States.

The LBFD may very well help to introduce a whole new era of commercial flight and add to the already stellar legacy of contributions had by the United States in the aerospace field.

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January 2019 - It was announced that Rockwell Collins (under United Technologies) was selected to provide the avionics fit for the upcoming X-59A technology demonstrator aircraft.

February 2019 - Primary assembly of the supersonic X-59A air vehicle is set to begin May 2019. A first-flight is scheduled for sometime in 2021.

June 2019 - It was announced that Lockheed engineers had begun assembly of the X-59 demonstrator.

June 2019 - Lockheed has unveiled concept artwork related to a 40-seat passenger version of its X-59 SuperSonic Transport (SST) aircraft. Dimensionally larger than the X-59 demonstrator, the SST variant relies on a twin (side-by-side) engine configuration (at the tail section) and its fuselage is lined with passenger windows. The cockpit has been moved further ahead in the design.

May 2020 - NASA announced steady progress on its X-59A aircraft. Lockheed Martin has received, from General Electric, the proposed F414-100 turbofan engine to be used in the prototype.

June 2020 - NASA and Lockheed Martin are set to begin active supersonic flight-testing of their X-59A prototype sometime during 2021.

November 2021 - It was announced that the X-59A prototype had completed final assembly at the Lockheed Palmdale, CA facility. The structural testing phase awaits.

January 2022 - Structural testing on the X-59A prototype is set to begin. Flight testing is scheduled before year's end.

Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Lockheed Martin / NASA X-59A Low Boom Flight Demonstrator Subsonic Boom Technology Demonstrator Aircraft.
1 x General Electric GE F414-400 afterburning turbofan engine developing an estimated 22,000lb of thrust.
1,075 mph
1,730 kph | 934 kts
Max Speed
55,003 ft
16,765 m | 10 miles
Service Ceiling
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Lockheed Martin / NASA X-59A Low Boom Flight Demonstrator Subsonic Boom Technology Demonstrator Aircraft.
94.0 ft
28.65 m
O/A Length
Notable series variants as part of the Lockheed Martin / NASA X-59 LBFD family line.
X-59 LBFD ("Low Boom Flight Demonstrator") - Base Series Designation.
X-59A - Official first-prototype designation.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Lockheed Martin / NASA X-59 LBFD. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 0 Units

Contractor(s): Lockheed Martin (Skunk Works) / NASA - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 1100mph
Lo: 550mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (1,075mph).

Graph Average of 825 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
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Image of the Lockheed Martin / NASA X-59 LBFD
Image from official NASA-Lockheed Martin press release.
2 / 3
Image of the Lockheed Martin / NASA X-59 LBFD
Image from official NASA-Lockheed Martin press release.
3 / 3
Image of the Lockheed Martin / NASA X-59 LBFD
Image from official NASA-Lockheed Martin press release; passenger version showcased.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Lockheed Martin / NASA X-59 LBFD Subsonic Boom Technology Demonstrator Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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