XB-1 is a critical step toward mainstream supersonic travel
The prototype for Overture—affectionately known as “Baby Boom”—XB-1 demonstrates the key technologies for safe, efficient travel at Mach 2.2.
Our subscale prototype for Overture, XB-1 shares the same key technologies: advanced carbon fiber composites, a refined delta wing planform, and an efficient variable-geometry propulsion system. Lessons from XB-1 have already helped us optimize Overture.
It’s all coming together
XB-1 combines over 3,700 parts, including custom composite structure, tricycle landing gear, flight control actuators, systems for pressurization and cooling, avionics, and a high-bandwidth telemetry system.
Proving key technologies
Supersonic airplanes must balance low-speed stability with high-speed efficiency. XB-1 was designed using powerful computer simulations and validated through three rounds of wind tunnel testing.
Carbon composites are stronger, lighter, and more stable at high temperatures compared to aluminium. XB-1’s tail, pictured under construction above, weighs just 43 lbs but carries over 10,000 lbs at temperatures exceeding 300°F.
XB-1’s intakes provide stable, consistent airflow for its engines across a variety of speeds and conditions. Software-controlled variable compression ramps position shockwaves precisely, allowing efficient operation throughout the flight envelope.
Full speed ahead
XB-1’s wing requires a high-precision composite structure capable of operation above 300°F. Fabrication is a multi-step process starting with foam molds, precision-machined polyurethane masters, and autoclave-cured carbon skin molds.
XB-1 is powered by three General Electric J85-15 engines, adapted by Boom for Mach-2.2 operation. Already tested with sustainable alternative fuels, XB-1 and Overture can operate with environmentally-friendly low-carbon jet fuel.
The flight simulator replicates XB-1’s cockpit and flying qualities. Chief Test Pilot Bill “Doc” Shoemaker works with our engineers to refine XB-1’s design and to train for upcoming test flights.
Blue skies ahead
Four years of engineering. 350+ aerodynamic design iterations. 1,000+ materials tests. Hardware validation of spars, ribs, tails, joints and actuators all culminate in XB-1’s final design for safe, reliable, efficient supersonic flight.
XB-1 requires high-precision custom parts which hold their shape and strength under extreme temperatures and loads. We’ve developed novel techniques for precise carbon part fabrication, enabling XB-1’s skin to be accurate within the width of a human hair.
After initial taxi tests at our Centennial, Colorado headquarters, XB-1 will be transported to Mojave, California for a rigorous flight test campaign. Initial flights focus on takeoff, climb, subsonic cruise, approach, and landing—followed by supersonic flights in 2020.
Meet our Chief Test Pilot
Bill “Doc” Shoemaker is a naval aviator and graduate of the United States Naval Test Pilot School. He piloted the first flight of the Block II F/A-18 Super Hornet and was Chief Test Pilot at Zee.Aero. He holds a PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University, has flown more than 5,000 hours in 50 aircraft types, and has 900 carrier arrested landings.