Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman awarded NASA research contracts to improve airliner environmental performance
Airliner of the future? In March, a joint NASA/Boeing team completed the first phase of flight tests on the sub-scale X-48B Blended Wing Body aircraft at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base, California (Photo: NASA/Tony Landis)
Wed 24 Nov 2010 – NASA has awarded two contracts for studies designed to identify advanced concepts for airliners that could enter service in 2025 and fly with less noise, cleaner exhaust and lower fuel consumption. The contracts have gone to two California-based aerospace companies, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, worth $2.99 million and $2.65 million respectively, and each have performance periods of one year, starting this month. The study is part of NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project that was created to explore and document the feasibility, benefits and technical risk of vehicle – NASA-speak for aircraft – concepts and enabling technologies that will reduce the impact of aviation on the environment.
A key objective of the research is to ensure technological elements proposed for meeting NASA’s noise, emissions and fuel burn reduction goals can be integrated on a single aircraft that could operate safely within a modernized air traffic management system.
The two companies will lead teams to define a preferred system concept for an aircraft that can fly up to 85% of the speed of sound, cover a range of around 7,000 miles (11,300km) and carry between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds (22.7-45.4 tonnes) of payload, either passengers or cargo.
The Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) Project is working to develop technology that would enable future aircraft to burn 50% less fuel than current models, reduce harmful emissions by 50% and shrink the geographic areas affected by “objectionable” airport noise by 83%.
The project is part of the Integrated Systems research Program managed by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington.
The US air transportation system will expand by a factor of two or three within the next two decades, estimates NASA, potentially increasing aviation’s contribution to climate change and, it says, the ERA Project is working to reduce the environmental harm that could result from such an expansion.