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This experimental NASA plane will try to break the sound barrier—quietly

The X-59 QueSST—a mashup of Quiet Supersonic Technology—made the trip from California to a Lockheed Martin facility in Fort Worth, Texas, to undergo what’s known as a proof test. “The airplane has been designed with some fairly sophisticated tools,” says Walt Silva, a senior research scientist with NASA and the program’s structures lead. “And so now that it’s built, the goal really is to prove that it can handle the loads that it’s going to encounter during flight.”

“You want to do that on the ground,” he adds, “to make sure that the structure is worthy and sound.” 

The proof test process also gives them a chance to gather data. “That data is used to make sure that it compares well with all the computational models that have been used to date to design and build it,” Silva says.

This year could be a big one for a unique aircraft called the X-59. The plane is a collaboration between Lockheed Martin and NASA, intended to break the sound barrier as quietly as possible. The space agency recently shared a picture of the flying machine wrapped in a pretty blue covering—complete with a red bow on top—from when it was prepped to move from California to Texas. It’s currently in the Lone Star State for structural testing.

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