Aircraft of the future

Aircraft of the future - civil supersonic transport

Our ability to fly at supersonic speeds over land in civil aircraft depends on our ability to reduce the level of sonic booms. NASA has been exploring a variety of options for quieting the boom, starting with design concepts and moving through wind tunnel tests to flight tests of new technologies. This rendering of a possible future civil supersonic transport shows a vehicle that is shaped to reduce the sonic shockwave signature and also to reduce drag. (NASA)

This computer-generated image shows a possible future "flying wing" aircraft, very efficiently and quietly in flight over populated areas. This kind of design, produced by Northrop Grumman, would most likely carry cargo at first and then also carry passengers. This design is among those presented to NASA at the end of 2011 by companies that conducted NASA-funded studies into aircraft that could enter service in 2025. (NASA)

This future aircraft design concept for supersonic flight over land comes from the team led by the Lockheed Martin Corporation. The team used simulation tools to show it was possible to achieve over-land flight by dramatically lowering the level of sonic booms through the use of an "inverted-V" engine-under wing configuration. Other revolutionary technologies help achieve range, payload and environmental goals. This concept is one of two designs presented in April 2010 to the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate for its NASA Research Announcement-funded studies into advanced supersonic cruise aircraft that could enter service in the 2030-2035 timeframe. (NASA)

The "Icon-II" future aircraft design concept for supersonic flight over land comes from the team led by The Boeing Company. A design that achieves fuel burn reduction and airport noise goals, it also achieves large reductions in sonic boom noise levels that will meet the target level required to make supersonic flight over land possible. This concept is one of two designs presented in April 2010 to the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate for its NASA Research Announcement-funded studies into advanced supersonic cruise aircraft that could enter service in the 2030-2035 timeframe. (NASA)

Boeing's advanced vehicle concept centers around the familiar blended wing body design like the X-48. What makes this design different is the placement of its Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engines on the top of the plane's back end, flanked by two vertical tails to shield people on the ground from engine noise. The design also uses other technologies to reduce noise and drag, and long-span wings to improve fuel efficiency. This design is among those presented to NASA at the end of 2011 by companies that conducted NASA-funded studies into aircraft that could enter service in 2025. (NASA)

Lockheed Martin's advanced vehicle concept proposes a box wing design, which is now feasible thanks to modern lightweight composite (nonmetallic) materials, landing gear technologies and other advancements. Its Rolls Royce Liberty Works Ultra Fan Engine achieves a bypass ratio (flow of air around engine compared to through the engine) nearly five times greater than current engines, pushing the limits of turbofan technology to maximize efficiency. This design is among those presented to NASA at the end of 2011 by companies that conducted NASA-funded studies into aircraft that could enter service in 2025. (NASA)

This artist's concept shows a possible future subsonic aircraft using a boxed- or joined-wing configuration to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency. This design of an aircraft that could enter service in the 2020 timeframe is one of a number of designs being explored by NASA with teams of researchers from industry and universities. (NASA)

This future aircraft design concept comes from the research team led by GE Aviation. Much lighter and more aerodynamic than current aircraft with the same capacity, the 20-passenger aircraft would reduce fuel consumption and noise and enable business jet-like travel between more than 1,300 airports. It features ultra-quiet turboprop engines, virtual reality windows and is designed to fly at Mach 0.55 for 800 nautical miles. This GE aircraft is among the designs presented in April 2010 to the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate for its NASA Research Announcement-funded studies into advanced aircraft that could enter service in the 2030-2035 timeframe. (NASA)

Three industry teams spent 2011 studying how to meet NASA's goals for making future aircraft burn 50 percent less fuel than aircraft that entered service in 1998, emit 75 percent fewer harmful emissions; and shrink the size of geographic areas affected by objectionable airport noise by 83 percent. (NASA)

This computer rendering shows AMELIA (Advanced Model for Extreme Lift and Improved Aeroacoustics), a possible future hybrid wing body-type subsonic vehicle with short takeoff and landing capabilities. Produced through a three-year NASA Research Announcement grant with the California Polytechnic State Institute, AMELIA's ability for steeper ascents and descents could reduce community noise levels on takeoff and landing. A model of this configuration is scheduled for testing in a NASA wind tunnel in the fall of 2011. (NASA)

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