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NASA Transportation Technology

NASA's Next-Generation Airplane Concepts 120

faisy writes "NASA has taken the wraps off three concept designs for quiet, energy efficient aircraft that could potentially be ready to fly as soon as 2025. The designs come from Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and The Boeing Company. In the final months of 2010, each of these companies won a contract from NASA to research and test their concepts during 2011."
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NASA's Next-Generation Airplane Concepts

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  • by nloop ( 665733 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @02:38AM (#34895100)

    Seriously, a few poorly rendered concept drawings? There aren't words. There isn't anything to discuss here...

    Timothy, have you been drinking?

  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @02:48AM (#34895138)

    A while back I watched a documentary on flying wings and with all the their advantages, they have two major drawbacks. Firstly, we don't have the airport infrastructure to support their form factor. Secondly, passengers would be seated further away from the centerline of the aircraft. That means whenever you're making turns, passengers will experience pronounced pitching. That means more air sickness, discomfort, complaints, etc.

  • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @03:21AM (#34895252)

    A friend of mine is a aerospace engineer at Lockheed, and about four years ago we were talking about future improvements to airplanes. I don't recall how it came up, but I was wondering how the design could really develop much beyond where it already is... a tube full of people, with wings. He sketched out something almost identical to Lockheed's submission here, and bemoaned the fact that buyers tend to reject out of hand anything they don't immediately recognize. He told me that modern design software makes it possible to design far more efficient planes that would look very different from the ones we now have, but it's difficult (read: impossible) to get anyone to invest in a plan that deviates from the known-good designs that have been working for decades.

  • by Ganthor ( 1693614 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @03:37AM (#34895304)

    The lifting body design (Boeing) has been publicly tested at NASA for a couple of years now. They are even at the stage of scale testing in wind tunnels. The other concepts are .... well concepts as far as I can tell.

  • by jbengt ( 874751 ) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @10:38AM (#34896654)
    The profit motive is very good at making incremental improvements to aircraft and move towards a locally optimal solution. The problem is that capital will never be invested in big changes to aircraft concepts because that is entirely too costly and risky. (If you don't believe me, try to get a simple change to airframe design or materials certified by the FAA and try to estimate the resulting risk of failure with the amortized costs of potentially crashed airplanes full of dead and injured people). So the only way to get beyond a local optimum and try to find a better solution is to fund it from a source that is not tied to medium and long term stockholder value. Of course, it might not be worth it to search for better solutions, but, really, that is unknowable before doing the work.

The moon may be smaller than Earth, but it's further away.