15:28 GMT29 January 2020
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    As part of the goal to make supersonic passenger air travel over land a practical reality once again, NASA has announced the awarding of a $248 million contract to Lockheed Martin to build a demonstrator plane the size of an F-16 that will test the newest advances in supersonic-quieting technology.

    "It's time to cut metal and begin construction," the space agency said this week.

    "The key to success for this mission — known as the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator — will be to demonstrate the ability to fly supersonic, yet generate sonic booms so quiet, people on the ground will hardly notice them, if they hear them at all," NASA said in an April 3 announcement.

    The contract calls for Lockheed to complete the demonstration aircraft by the end of 2021.

    Lockheed's proposed plane is 94 feet long, has a wingspan of 29.5 feet, and weighs 32,300 pounds when taking off with a full tank of fuel. The goal for the contract is to gather data from the F-16-sized demonstrator for downstream applications in commercial aviation.

    "We've reached this important milestone only because of the work NASA has led with its many partners from other government agencies, the aerospace industry and forward-thinking academic institutions everywhere," Peter Coen, project manager for NASA's Commercial Supersonic Technology program, said in a news release.

    NASA completed flight tunnel laboratory testing at Glenn Research Center in early February, Sputnik reported.


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