NASA has announced that technicians working on assembling the X-59 airplane completed a major milestone in its construction back on November 5. On that day, technicians were successfully able to close up the airplane’s wing, encasing interior components that will never be touched by human hands again.
The milestone was met at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works factory located in Palmdale, California. “The fact this is the first time we’ve reached a milestone like this in which we won’t see these parts or have access to this area again is why this is so important to us. It reminds us the X-59 really is coming together,” said Steve Macpherson, a senior manager at Lockheed Martin.
Making any substantial progress constructing the X-59 is impressive right now, given the pandemic and the restrictions it has brought along with it. This reigns especially true when you consider that the X-59 has to be mostly hand-assembled; it’s not put together at a factory on a production line.
Macpherson had this to say on the X-59’s assembly:
“We went through multiple checks to verify the engineering requirements had been met and that the fuel tanks were sealed properly and would hold pressure. Then, just prior to final installation of each skin to close the fuel bays, we put at least four sets of eyes in each bay to ensure nothing was left behind that wasn’t supposed to be there.”
A couple of weeks back, NASA announced that, due to COVID, progress with the X-59 had essentially ground to a halt, and multiple facilities were being recruited to work together on completing it. Given that news, it’s nice to see that significant progress is still being made towards the completion of the airplane.
The next major milestone with the X-59 is expected to be met sometime in late summer of 2021. This will be the nearly completed airplane being transported to Texas for a rigorous series of structural tests.