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NASA awards Boeing a contract for a sustainable flight demonstrator

The US National Air and Space Administration (NASA) awarded Boeing a contract for the development, manufacture and test flights of a new sustainable flight demonstrator aircraft called Transonic Wing with Reinforcement Support, with the seeking to revolutionize civil aviation with a new design for much more fuel-efficient single-aisle aircraft.

Both organizations will work together on this public-private initiative to build, fly and test a full-scale demonstrator aircraft this decade, with an investment of more than $1 billion. Known for now as the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD), the aircraft will test the concept of the Transonic Braced Wing (TTBW) which refers to an aircraft with extra-long, thin wings stabilized by diagonal struts. . With this design, the plane will be much more efficient in consumption than a conventional plane because its shape creates much less aerodynamic resistance and therefore lower consumption.

"NASA selected Boeing as our partner to design, build and fly an entirely new, full-size experimental aircraft, called the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator. Boeing's concept is of a single-aisle aircraft with a transonic wing supported by booster that is scheduled to fly in 2028.”

The project seeks to revolutionize the way airplanes fly in the following decades, to achieve the sustainability goals of 2050. Both NASA and Boeing decided to work in the single-aisle segment of aircraft since it is the segment with the highest demand, and with those responsible for 50% of global CO2 emissions from the aeronautical sector. Boeing estimates that demand for single-aisle aircraft will be 40,000 between 2035 and 2050.

Coincidentally, it is the segment where Boeing completely lost the race against its European rival Airbus, since the MAX version of its old 737 model was not able to reach the capabilities and performance of its A320neo family counterparts, regardless of the problems they had. with the plane due to the installation of MCAS without notifying the crews and authorities. So the development of this test plane with shared costs with NASA will give them the opportunity to develop a new model much more efficient than those available today, towards the next decade, as Daivd Calhoun commented a few months ago after cancel the new medium aircraft (NMA) that was supposed to be launched soon.

Boeing Chief Technology Officer Todd Citron said the announcement is the start of a 10-year partnership that begins concept studies and wind tunnel testing of the brace-supported wing concept. With this aircraft, both Boeing and NASA hope to validate new technology that could lead to the launch of a new aircraft in the future.

According to the concept illustrations that were presented, the aircraft will have the wing over the fuselage, unlike current models. This configuration allows more space under the wings for new advanced propulsion systems. All in all, an aircraft with the TTBW configuration is expected to achieve a 30% reduction in fuel consumption and emissions, compared to current aircraft such as the 737 MAX.

The wing is so long that it requires the bracing support, but the aircraft could gain lift on both the bracing and the wing itself. Building on the old biplane aircraft design may bring about a "revolutionary design" that would make commercial airliners much more efficient while creating less aerodynamic drag.

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