Read More: Space.com
NASA has taken a huge leap forward in its quest to create an aircraft that can travel faster than the speed of sound without causing the ear-splitting sonic boom. The space agency announced today (April 2) that it has awarded the aerospace company Lockheed Martin a $247.5 million contract to design and build a new X-plane, known as the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD), which may soar silently over the U.S. by 2022. Today's announcement comes less than two weeks after President Donald Trump signed a federal budget for FY2019 that fully funds the LBFD. In his budget proposal, Trump noted that the X-plane "would open a new market for U.S. companies to build faster commercial airliners, creating jobs and cutting cross-country flight times in half." But don't expect to board a supersonic passenger jet anytime soon; Lockheed Martin's LBFD won't be built for transporting people. Before any supersonic planes will be allowed to fly over land, NASA and Lockheed Martin must prove that it's possible to break the sound barrier without the sonic boom. "This piloted X-plane would be built specifically to fly technologies that reduce the loudness of a sonic boom to that of a gentle thump," Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, said during a news conference today.