Cruising at 55,000 ft. at a speed of around 940 mph, the X-59 is said to create a sound far quieter than a regular sonic boom, thanks largely to a new design. The X-59’s long nose and highly swept wings gradually increase the pressure around the airframe and decrease the shockwaves as the aircraft passes through supersonic speed. Advances in the use of composite technologies, instead than titanium, is part of the reason why the new quieter design is now possible.

The tech being pioneered by the X-59 could resurrect supersonic travel. If you ever wondered why Concorde only ever flew across the Atlantic Ocean between New York/Washington and London/Paris, it was the loud supersonic boom caused by turbulent airflow along the span of the wing. Supersonic airplanes are consequently presently banned from flying over populated areas.

Cue this new technology from NASA and Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, whose Low-Boom Flight Demonstration experimental airplane (LBFD) is part of its Quiet SuperSonic Technology Preliminary Design (QueSST) project. It seeks to reduce the sonic boom to sonic ‘thump’. The X-59 QueSST is shaped to reduce the loudness of a sonic boom to that of a gentle thump, if it’s heard at all.