Energy Efficiency, GHG Emissions, Industrial - June 29, 2023
With NASA’s X-Plane, Net-Zero Aviation Takes Giant Leap Forward
NASA announced that its aircraft, produced through its Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project, has been designated as the X-66A by the U.S. Air Force. The X-66A is focused on helping the U.S. reach net-zero aviation GHG emissions, a goal articulated in the White House’s U.S. Aviation Climate Action Plan.
NASA expects the plane to usher in a new era of more sustainable single-aisle aircraft and cleaner, greener aviation, serving as the workhorse of passenger airlines around the world. NASA partnered with Boeing, which will build, test, and fly a demonstrator aircraft with long, thin wings.
“At NASA, our eyes are not just focused on stars but also fixated on the sky. The Sustainable Flight Demonstrator builds on NASA’s world-leading efforts in aeronautics as well as climate,” said NASA Administrator, Bill Nelson, in a statement. “The X-66A will help shape the future of aviation, a new era where aircraft are greener, cleaner, and quieter, and create new possibilities for the flying public and American industry alike.”
The Air Force designates X-plane status for development programs that seek to advance experimental aircraft configurations. Specifically, it’s designed for research aircraft. The purpose of X-planes is to test designs and technologies that can be adapted for other aircraft designs.
The Air Force provided this designation to the X-66A based on its Transonic Truss-Braced Wing configuration. Combined with upgrades in propulsion systems, materials, and systems architecture, these advancements could result in up to 30% less fuel consumption and reduced emissions, when compared to today’s aircraft.
Single-aisle aircraft are extensively used, accounting for nearly half of worldwide aviation emissions. Creating a more sustainable version of this type of aircraft will be instrumental in achieving significant emission reductions for aviation.
NASA has a long-standing history with the X-plane designation, which dates to the 1940s. Its predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, jointly created an experimental aircraft program with the Air Force and U.S. Navy.
The X-66A is the latest in a long line of NASA X-planes.
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