Bracing for the future

Bracing for the future

NASA has awarded a contract to Boeing to create a Sustainable Flight Demonstrator to explore its Transonic Truss-Braced Wing concept. STEPHEN BRIDGEWATER explores the subject and reports on the agency’s sustainable aviation overview which was discussed at the 2022 RAeS Applied Aerodynamics conference.

In a move that could potentially change the future of airline flying, NASA announced on 18 January that it had issued an award to Boeing for the agency’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project, which seeks to inform a potential new generation of green single-aisle airliners.

Under a Funded Space Act Agreement, Boeing will work with NASA to build, test and fly a full-scale demonstrator of its Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) concept to validate technologies aimed at lowering emissions.

NASA revealed some details of the TTBW aircraft during the RAeS Applied Aerodynamics conference which took place at No.4 Hamilton Place last September. The agency’s Dr Richard Wahls PhD is NASA’s Sustainable Flight National Partnership (SFNP) Mission Integration Manager responsible for long-range strategic technical planning and he gave a fascinating insight into NASA’s sustainable aviation efforts in the near- to mid-term.

While NASA Aeronautics is perhaps one of the best-known elements of the US agency – and the oldest, dating back to 1915, it is now the smallest part commanding just 3 to 3.5% of NASA’s overall budget. Over the last century the department has been at the forefront of aviation development and Wahls cited critical airfoils, winglets, the area rule, icing and air traffic management as examples of its diverse portfolio.

“Today, we are focussed on sustainability, greater mobility and economic growth” explained Wahls. The agency is currently investigating high speed commercial flight, including supersonic and hypersonic transport technology as well as ultra-efficient subsonic transport and the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) sector.

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