NASA awards Boeing for developing the most fuel-efficient airliner of the future!

NASA announced today that it is partnering with Boeing to commercialize a new type of fuel-efficient monoplane. The aim is to reduce fuel emissions and impact of flying on the climate.

“Most of you think of NASA as the space and aeronautics agency.” “It’s also the climate agency,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at a press conference. NASA observes the Earth from space, using tools such as satellites to monitor global weather patterns and water systems and developing technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

But NASA is also developing aircraft such as the X-57 Maxwell electric plane and the Super Guppy transport plane. This includes the development of aviation technologies that ultimately led to the types of commercial aircraft that most of us use today.

“When you fly any airplane, you’re surrounded by NASA technology,” Nelso andn said. In the 1970s, NASA created aircraft design developments such as winglets,  small vertical wing extensions that are now ubiquitous on airliners.

The agency hopes its Sustainable Flight Demonstration Project can offer a similar innovation in the form of a new wing structure called a transonic truss. It is designing and building new planes with Boeing that are expected to be more fuel-efficient than current planes, using up to 30% less fuel.

The concept is an aircraft with both more powerful engines and wings that sit high on the fuselage and are longer and wider, supported by a strut at the bottom of the fuselage. This reduces drag while both the wing and spar provide lift.

“The aerodynamics of this configuration have actually been known for a long time,” said Bob Pearce, associate administrator of NASA’s Aeronautical Research Mission Directorate. “When you increase the aspect ratio of the wing, you naturally reduce the induced drag—the drag that comes from lift.” We know that when we do that, we get better aerodynamics, less drag, and less fuel.

The challenge here is to create the necessary structure for this wing shape without adding too much weight to the aircraft. Boeing unveiled the first version of the concept in 2019, but it will take several years to integrate other technologies and move from demonstration to practical use.
The idea is that, unlike NASA’s quiet, supersonic X-59 QueSST, which is also currently in development but will never carry passengers, it is not just an experimental aircraft. Instead, NASA wants to develop technology that can be put to commercial use. “The goal of this project is to revolutionize the types of aircraft that are most commonly used by the public to access the skies,” Nelson said.

NASA’s goal is to fly the first prototype in 2028 and commercialize it in  the 2030s.

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