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Southern California firm wins contract for quiet X-plane

April 4, 2018

PALMDALE, Calif. (AP) — Southern California’s famous Skunk Works has been chosen to build a supersonic X-plane to test whether sonic booms can be greatly reduced.

NASA announced Tuesday it has awarded a $247.5 million contract to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. of Palmdale.

The plane is expected to cruise at 55,000 feet (16,764 meters) at a speed of about 940 mph (1,512.7 kph), with a sonic boom that NASA describes as a gentle thump about as loud as a car door closing.

NASA plans to fly the plane over U.S. cities in 2022 to collect data about community responses in hope of setting standards that will allow commercial supersonic flights over land.

The Skunk Works nickname dates to its original location next to a smelly manufacturing plant amid World War II secrecy.

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