4K video display to replace the cockpit window of NASA’s Supersonic X-59

At the Langley Research Center in Virginia, USA, NASA completed its final round of tests on the External Vision System (XVS) 4K video display for the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft from the ‘agency. The XVS is designed to replace the x-59’s forward-facing cockpit window and will offer “an augmented reality view of the pilot’s line of sight as well as graphical flight data overlays.”

Drop nose design

The drop nose design was one of the most distinctive features of the Anglo-French Concorde, a Franco-British turbojet supersonic airliner operated from 1976 to 2003.

When parked and during full flight, the Concorde’s nose rose to the conventional upright position and a glass heat shield slid into place, giving the aircraft the aerodynamics to fly faster than speed. sound. However, the nose must be lowered for takeoff, landing and taxiing, as it is almost impossible to look at the windshield with it because the view is blocked.

While the drop nose design was a brilliant solution to giving the flight crew a wider field of view, NASA takes a different approach.

Increased display

The X-59 will fly over land at supersonic speeds, but its wings and fuselage are designed to dispel the famous sonic boom unlike other supersonic aircraft. Thus, this sound is reduced to being no louder than closing a car door. Since this modification places many constraints on different parts of the aircraft design, a drooping nose could be a practical option.

Aerospace engineers consider windows to be a weak point of airplanes and, therefore, dislike them. That’s why NASA chose to address the vision problem caused by the X-59’s long nose and low cockpit by removing the front window entirely. Instead, they went for a 4K video display that gives the pilot a view of what to expect and provides flight data for takeoffs, approaches, and landings on an augmented screen.

Illustration of the cockpit of the X-59 with the XVS. (Credit: NASA / Lockheed Martin / Garry Tice)

Flight tests

The flight tests involved the installation of the XVS by NASA in a twin-engine Beechcraft King Air UC-12B turboprop, with a camera in the nose of the aircraft. In addition, the display was installed in the King Air cabin and the XVS pallet including computer processors, video distribution, network equipment and electrical distribution components.

Once the installation was complete, a pilot flew the aircraft while another pilot in the cabin observed the new XVS display. The King Air went through several flight scenarios with this setup, allowing engineers to make a side-by-side comparison of the two pilots by measuring the time it took each to press a button, indicating that they had seen a target.

4K video display to replace the cockpit window of NASA's Supersonic X-59
The XVS in a simulator. (Credit: NASA / Lockheed Martin / Garry Tice)

Installation plans

In addition to the successful flight tests, NASA also performed vibration tests of the vane to ensure that it could withstand the flight conditions expected in the X-59. Through these tests, NASA gathered information to perfect the overall design and construction of the system before installing it in the supersonic demonstration aircraft.

Now that the testing phase is complete, the XVS pallet has been shipped to Lockheed Martins’ Skunk Works plant in Palmdale, Calif., For installation in the X-59 supersonic.

4K video display to replace the cockpit window of NASA's Supersonic X-59
Loading the XVS pallet into a shipping box for delivery to Lockheed, California. (Credit: NASA / David Bowman)
4K video display to replace the cockpit window of NASA's Supersonic X-59
Construction of NASA’s X-59 supersonic. (Credit: NASA)
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