NASA has selected Boeing and its industry team to develop and flight-test a full-scale Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) demonstrator airplane for the agency’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD) project. The goal is to validate technologies aimed at lowering emissions.
For seven years, NASA will invest $425 million, while the company and its partners will contribute the remainder of the agreement funding, estimated at about $725 million. As part of the agreement, the agency will contribute technical expertise and facilities.
“It’s our goal that NASA’s partnership with Boeing to produce and test a full-scale demonstrator will help lead to future commercial airliners that are more fuel efficient, with benefits to the environment, the commercial aviation industry, and to passengers worldwide,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
NASA plans to complete testing for the project by the late 2020s, so that technologies and designs demonstrated by the project can inform industry decisions about the next generation of single-aisle aircraft that could enter service in the 2030s.
The TTBW concept involves an aircraft with extra-long, thin wings stabilized by diagonal struts. This design results in an aircraft that is much more fuel efficient than a traditional airliner due to a shape that would create less drag – resulting in its burning less fuel.
Ultrathin wings braced by struts with larger spans and higher-aspect ratios could eventually accommodate advanced propulsion systems that are limited by a lack of underwing space in today's low-wing airplane configurations. For the demonstrator vehicle, Boeing will use elements from existing vehicles and integrate them with all-new components.
The TTBW airframe concept is the result of more than a decade of development supported by NASA, Boeing, and industry investments. Under previous NASA programs including the agency's Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research program, Boeing conducted extensive wind tunnel testing and digital modeling to advance the design of the TTBW. Early conceptual studies started under NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation program.
NASA’s goal is that the technology flown on the demonstrator aircraft, when combined with other advancements in propulsion systems, materials, and systems architecture, would result in fuel consumption and emissions reductions of up to 30% relative to today’s most efficient single-aisle aircraft, depending on the mission.
“We’re honored to continue our partnership with NASA and to demonstrate technology that significantly improves aerodynamic efficiency resulting in substantially lower fuel burn and emissions,” said Todd Citron, Boeing’s chief technology officer.
The new Funded Space Act agreement allows NASA to capitalize on private industry knowledge and experience, with Boeing and its partners laying out a proposed technical plan. NASA will provide access to its aeronautics facilities and expertise but will not procure an aircraft or any other hardware for its missions. The agency will obtain access to certain ground and flight data that can be used to validate the airframe configuration and associated technologies.
Learn more about NASA’s Sustainable Aviation efforts. Advances in sustainable technology are crucial to reaching civil aviation's goal to be net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
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