This post is also available in: heעברית (Hebrew)

Supersonic passenger jet travel could be making a comeback, now that NASA received the go-ahead for preliminary work on a “low-boom” supersonic plane that could replace the now-retired Concorde.

NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project is taking submission from industry team for concepts that could be used to design a test aircraft to fly at supersonic speeds. The key aspect NASA is focusing in designing the plane is to create one with a supersonic “heartbeat” – a relatively quiet thump, rather than the usual supersonic “boom.”

A team led by Lockheed Martin has been selected to create the initial design for the Quiet Supersonic Technology (Quesst) jet. For this, Lockheed would received some $20 million over 17 months, according to NASA.

“The company will develop baseline aircraft requirements and a preliminary aircraft design, with specifications, and provide supporting documentation for concept formulation and planning. This documentation would be used to prepare for the detailed design, building and testing of the QueSST jet. Performance of this preliminary design also must undergo analytical and wind tunnel validation,” said a NASA spokesperson.

A scaled-down prototype could perform test flights as early as 2020, if funding allows.

“It’s worth noting that it’s been almost 70 years since Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 as part of our predecessor agency’s high speed research. Now we’re continuing that supersonic X-plane legacy with this preliminary design award for a quieter supersonic jet with an aim toward passenger flight,” said former astronaut and current head of NASA Charles Bolden.