WASHINGTON, D.C. – NASA awarded Boeing on Wednesday with a contract to build and fly an experimental passenger plane with a fuel-saving truss-braced wing, part of the agency’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project.
Over a period of seven years, NASA and Boeing will invest $425 million and about $725 million, respectively, in proving the Transonic Truss-Based Wing concept as a viable advancement in the fuel efficiency of commercial airliners, according to NASA.
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Explaining the Transonic Truss-Based Wing, NASA chalks it up to “an aircraft with extra-long, thin wings stabilized by diagonal struts” that allow for less drag and, therefore, less fuel consumption.
The design alone reduces fuel consumption by up to 10%, which “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,” according to NASA.
Notice anything about these wings? ✈️— The Boeing Company (@Boeing) January 18, 2023
Today, @NASA announced that Boeing and our partners have been selected to develop and fly a full-scale Transonic Truss-Braced Wing airplane through the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator program.
More: https://t.co/LTkg5TCrly pic.twitter.com/stOKZNXmkd
As far as the term “transonic,” it’s used to classify aircraft that reach speeds close to the speed of sound, typically between 250-760 mph, NASA said. According to a writeup on Slice of MIT, an MIT Alumni Association publication, commercial airliners usually cruise at specified speeds between 480-510 knots, or 552-586 mph.
“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. If we are successful, we may see these technologies in planes that the public takes to the skies in the 2030s,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.
Further on, the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator program seeks to achieve net-zero carbon emission from aviation by 2050.
According to Bob Pearce, NASA associate administrator for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, the braced-wing concept is exactly the type of bright idea needed to make that happen.
“NASA is working toward an ambitious goal of developing game-changing technologies to reduce aviation energy use and emissions over the coming decades toward an aviation community goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” Pearce said. “The Transonic Truss-Braced Wing is the kind of transformative concept and investment we will need to meet those challenges and, critically, the technologies demonstrated in this project have a clear and viable path to informing the next generation of single-aisle aircraft, benefiting everyone that uses the air transportation system.”
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