NASA: $16.5 Million to Engineer Green Aircraft

Nancy Anderson
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Engineers everywhere are familiar with Green technology requirements. Cars, busses, office buildings, power plants, land fill issues and carbon footprints are all over our specs and the media in general. This week however, let’s talk about Green Engineering in AIRCRAFT!

NASA announced on last week that that four teams will split $16.5 million for additional research into ideas for greener and quieter aircraft to enter service between 2030 and 2035. NASA calls this time period N+3, representing technology three generations more advanced than what is in service today. The teams studied the ideas from October 2008 to April 2010. Under the new contracts, the teams will further develop concept models that can be tested in computer simulations, laboratories and wind tunnels.

NASA says the work is funded by their Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington. The agency's Fundamental Aeronautics Program focuses on developing technology that will enable aircraft to meet goals for reduced fuel consumption, emissions and noise. The program's Subsonic Fixed Wing Project oversees the work at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and Langley Research Center in Virginia.

The team leaders, projects, contract amounts and periods of performance are:

Boeing Research & Technology, Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research, or SUGAR, $8.8 million, three years: This award continues the work of the SUGAR Project, evaluating truss-based wing aircraft designs and hybrid electric engine technology. The contract will allow the team to study higher fidelity data on its concepts. This team will design, construct and test wind tunnel mockups and computer models of the airplane. The team also will study lightweight materials and engine concepts for even more futuristic planes that could fly between 2040 and 2045.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Aircraft and Technology Concepts for N+3 Subsonic Transport, $4.6 million, three years: This team will work on its "double bubble" airplane design. Its concept is a dual fuselage, two partial cylinders placed side by side, that create a wider structure than the traditional tube-and-wing airliner. The team will develop the technologies identified during the first study and build a model for testing. MIT also will explore the challenges of high-efficiency, small-core engines and prove it is not necessary to increase an engine's size to increase power efficiency.

Cessna Aircraft Company-Cessna Citation, Star-C2 Protective Skins-Materials & Requirements Development, $1.9 million, 27 months: The Cessna Aircraft Company team will focus on structure, particularly the aircraft outer covering. Engineers aim to develop what some call a "magic skin" that can protect planes against lightning, electromagnetic interference, extreme temperatures and object impacts. The skin would heal itself if punctured and insulate the cabin from noise. NASA’s funding will help the company develop, integrate and test this concept.

Northrop Grumman Systems Inc., High Lift Leading Edge Ground Test, $1.2 million, 14 months: The Northrop Grumman team will test models of one very important part of an aircraft, the leading edge of the wing. If engineers can design a smooth edge without the current slats, airplanes would be quieter and consume less fuel at cruise altitudes due to smoother airflow over the wings.

Our blues skies are going to turn green . . . and quiet!

By K.B. Elliott

K. B. Elliott is a freelance writer for Working many related positions in the Detroit area for over 30 years gives him a unique perspective on the process. To read more of his blogs see, and check out the postings for jobs in any industry at Nexxt

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