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NASA awards $20 million supersonic aircraft contract

Supersonic flight might become a reality for commercial airlines.

NASA awarded a $20 million contract to Lockheed Martin, GE Aviation and Tri Models, Inc. to develop a supersonic aircraft design in the next 17 months, reported Geektime.

The grant comes as the White House announced that it earmarked $790 million for aeronautics research in the 2017 fiscal budget, according to Bloomberg.

“We’ve got the technology now in hand, where we can actually see supersonic [technologies] built again and being flown over land,” said NASA spokesman J.D. Harrington in an interview with the news source.

The research – the first stage of the Quiet Supersonic Technology program – will be conducted at Langley Research Center in Virginia.

The project is hoped to revive GE Aviation, based in Cincinnati, which laid off 300 workers at the end of January, according to Geektime.

Bloomberg noted that several private sector firms are also researching supersonic technologies, including Nevada-based Aerion. The company is developing a small supersonic business aircraft and is aiming to hold its first flight in 2019. None of the big four commercial aircraft manufacturers have yet announced that they are developing a supersonic model.