NASA has announced that it will work with Boeing on a new type of fuel-efficient single-aisle aircraft for commercial use, with the goal of lowering fuel emissions and reducing aviation’s climate impact, according to theverge report.
Most think of NASA as both a space agency and an aeronautical agency. “It’s also a climate agency,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at a news conference. NASA monitors Earth from space — using tools like satellites to monitor global weather and water systems — and develops technologies to reduce carbon emissions.
But NASA also develops aircraft, such as its X-57 Maxwell electric plane and Super Guppy transport plane, and that includes developing aerospace technologies that will eventually make their way into the types of commercial aircraft most of us use today.
“When you fly in any type of aircraft, you’re surrounded by NASA technology,” Nelson said. Advancements in aircraft design such as ailerons, the small vertical extensions of wings, were created by NASA in the 1970s and are now ubiquitous on passenger planes.
The agency hopes its sustainable aviation project will offer a similar kind of innovation in the form of a new wing structure called a sound-assisted wing, and will work with Boeing to design and build the new plane, which should be more fuel-efficient and could use up to 30 percent less fuel. % of current aircraft designs.
The concept is an aircraft with more efficient engines and wings that sit higher on the fuselage and are longer and narrower, supported by a strut coming from under the fuselage. This creates less drag, while both the wing and strut provide lift.
“The aerodynamics of this type of configuration have already been known for a long time,” said Bob Pierce, associate administrator for NASA’s Flight Research Mission Directorate. “If you increase the aspect ratio of a wing, you naturally lower the induced drag for that aircraft — the drag created by lift, and we know that if we do that, you get better aerodynamics, you get less drag, you burn less fuel.”
The challenge, in this case, is to create the structure required 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 the other technologies and go from demonstration to operationally usable.
The idea is that, unlike NASA’s supersonic X-59 QueSST, which is also currently in development but will never carry passengers, this won’t just be an experimental aircraft.
NASA wants to develop technology that can be used commercially. “This project aims to revolutionize the type of aircraft that the public uses most frequently when they take to the skies,” Nelson said.
NASA aims to launch the first prototype in 2028 and for it to be in commercial use by 2030.