NASA Goes Green

The Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate of NASA has funded a large scale project that will search for the solution to producing fixed wing aircraft that are more fuel efficient, are quieter and emit fewer emissions into the air. Four teams have been approached to participate in the project, and each team has been allocated funds to develop their designs and for construction. The prototypes will be tested in laboratories, wind tunnels and computer simulation to establish their viability. It is a massive undertaking, and with each team focused on different projects, the time limitations on the contracts do vary.

The first team is Northrop Grumman Systems Incorporated. They are located in California, and have been allocated fourteen months for their project and funding of $1.2 million. The role they will play in the project is to test wing prototypes. They will be looking at the wings as they are crucial to aerodynamics, due to the airflow over the wings, which in turn affects the fuel efficiency of the aircraft as well as the noise levels.

MIT, or Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was awarded a three year contract worth $4.6 million to design and develop a dual fuselage, which incorporates the use of partial cylinders, two placed next to each other, to create a larger structure. It is referred to as the Double Bubble design.

Boeing, which is the defense contractor, was also brought on board to manage the SUGAR (Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research) project. The three year project was funded with $8.8 million and requires Boeing to design and build sufficient wind tunnels for testing, as well as airplane models to study and explore the use of lightweight materials and various engines, such as the hybrid electric engine.

Last but not least, the Cessna Aircraft Company-Cessna Citation will be dealing with aircraft structure, more specifically, what is referred to as Magic Skin, or Star-C2 Protective Skins. It is hoped that engineers will be able to create a skin that would be able to insulate the aircraft cabin, repair itself in the event that it would get damaged and to protect the aircraft itself against nature, in regard to impacts, lightning, electromagnetic intervention and even temperatures. It is NASA’s objective to see that this project makes a notable impact on the aviation industry, and create an environmentally safe aircraft that can take to the skies as soon as 2040.