Nasa has set its sights a little closer to earth for once as it begins plans to help make supersonic airliners a reality once again.

The world famous and now retired Concorde was the last supersonic jet to take paying passengers into the air. But it wasn't sustainable and has now been in retirement since 2003. For those of you who thought you'd missed the chance at ever hitting supersonic speeds and breaking the sound barrier, it's not too late.

Nasa has given funding to Lockheed Martin to begin the preliminary design work for a supersonic airliner. The $20 million of funding is aimed to get the early design and prototyping stages taken care of, then the real funding can begin.

This project, dubbed Quiet Super Sonic Technology, is part of Nasa's New Aviation Horizons X-planes plan. The idea is to create a supersonic jet that doesn't create a sonic boom as it breaks the sound barrier but more of a gentle thud. These should make them commercially more friendly to those living nearby.

These initial plans should get the project to creating half-size, piloted demo planes by around 2020. Then some serious funding needs to be injected so we can get these up and running commercially. You listening Richard Branson?

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