Boom Preps for Rollout of XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator

 - July 18, 2020, 8:00 AM
Boom Supersonic’s XB-1 demonstrator is near completion and will be rolled out publicly on October 7. Flight testing is scheduled to begin in 2021.

Boom Supersonic will mark a significant step towards the development of a supersonic airliner with a planned virtual rollout event for its XB-1demonstrator on October 7. Powered by three GE J85-15 engines, the XB-1 is a one-third scale demonstrator that will be used to pave the way for its planned Mach 2.2 55-passenger Overture.

The announced rollout date comes as the XB-1 nears completion of assembly in preparation for the beginning of ground tests later this year and flight trials in 2021. Despite the difficulties involved with development in the Covid-19 environment, Boom continues to make progress on the demonstrator as major structures come together. Recently, Boom highlighted the completion of the vertical stabilizer. The structure weighed in at just 125 pounds and withstood up to 4,800 pounds of force during testing, Boom said.

While work was ongoing with the tail, Boom also was assembling the aft fuselage using Stratasys 3D-printed drill blocks to install the titanium panels. And in May, the company celebrated the installation of XB-1’s ogival delta wing to the forward fuselage, saying this “effectively transformed the aircraft from a simple canoe shape to nearly assembled jet.”

Up ahead is the joining of the forward and aft fuselages, attachment of the engines to the aft fuselage, and systems and simulated flight tests.

XB-1 development is the culmination of years of research, including wind tunnel and structural testing, and hundreds of simulations, Boom said. As for rollout, the entire event will be broadcast online, plans designed to align with CDC-recommended social distancing measures, the company said.

“Our experiences in the COVID-19 pandemic underscore for all of us the fundamental human need for personal connection. Faster travel enables us to experience the world’s people, cultures, and places, and XB-1 is the first step in bringing supersonic back to the world,” said Blake Scholl, Boom founder and CEO. “With XB-1, we’re demonstrating that we are prepared to bring back supersonic.”

The XB-1 will be used to demonstrate technologies for the Overture such as carbon-fiber composite construction, computer-optimized high-efficiency aerodynamics, and supersonic propulsion systems. This includes “one of the highest-efficiency civil supersonic intakes ever tested,” Boom said. “More than a scale replica, XB-1 provides insights into future cost-savings, safety, efficiency, and sustainability for Overture.”

Boom has partnered with Flight Research, Inc. (FRI) on the flight test program. Plans call to incrementally expand the envelope of the XB-1 to supersonic speeds. Ground and low-speed taxi testing will occur at Centennial Airport in Colorado, while high-speed taxi and flight are planned at Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Supersonic flights will take place over a supersonic corridor stretching across the Mojave Desert. FRI is providing a two-seat, twin-jet supersonic trainer to serve as a chase plane during the flight test program. Boom is subleasing a portion of FRI’s headquarters to support the XB-1 tests. This includes the development of a fully instrumented flight test control room and the use of one of FRI hangars for reassembly and maintenance of the XB-1.

The flight test program will be 100 percent carbon-neutral and the goal is to have the full-scale Overture fly 100 percent on sustainable fuels. “Boom integrates sustainability considerations into every major company decision and is the first commercial airplane manufacturer to commit to a carbon-neutral test program,” said the company. Boom last year had formed a partnership with Prometheus Fuels for the supply of sustainable jet fuel during the XB-1 test program.

While the XB-1 will be a demonstrator only, used in experimental flights, the full-scale certification program for the Overture is anticipated to kick off in 2025 with a target of entry-into-service in the 2030 timeframe.

With the aircraft still in the conceptual design definition phase, Boom is evaluating key components for the Overture, such as engine selection. But the selection will “align with our focus on transoceanic routes and providing a meaningful speed up for passengers at the lowest cost. “

In addition, the engines must be capable of operating on 100 percent SAF. As for the need for aromatics, the company said, “We expect that Overture’s engines will have less need for aromatics (for example, modern seals are less reliant on them), but we are evaluating the use of synthetic aromatics when possible.”

“We’re ensuring that the supersonic future is safe and environmentally and economically sustainable,” Scholl said of the $200 million airliner. “We’ve learned that the demand for supersonic has grown even faster than we anticipated.

Boom has raised $160 million from investors thus far for the program and is planning future rounds of fundraising as it progresses.