Nasa will invest $10.6 billion in 10 years for aeronautics research

Nasa will invest $10.6 billion for new project regarding  a series of large-scale subsonic and supersonic civil-aircraft X-plane demonstrators to prove the benefits of technologies developed with industry. Under the plan, aeronautics funding would break the $1 billion barrier for the first time in more than two decades, peaking at more than $1.3 billion in 2023. These funding would pay for “4-5” X-planes that would demonstrate the integrated benefits of enabling commercial-aircraft technologies developed by NASA and industry under previous efforts, including the six-year Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) program that was completed in September 2015.

The strategy of the Nasa is due to the alignment with the Obama administration’s priorities, seeking cost sharing with industry partners. Under its 10-year plan, NASA’s New Aviation Horizons program would fly roughly 50%-scale manned demonstrators of both quiet supersonic and ultra-efficient subsonic aircraft as well as conduct other smaller-scale demos including the Sceptor distributed electric propulsion X-plane program already underway.

Most mature is the supersonic Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD), which is on track for a preliminary design review (PDR) in 2016. NASA also believes that the subsonic Hybrid Wing Body (HWB), which includes Boeing’s flying-wing Blended Wing Body, is also mature enough to conduct a PDR this year.

If LBFD will have success, will demostrate that shock wave noise due to supersonic flight is acceptable to the public by flying a large-scale demonstrator over populated areas, and it  will allow to influence the requirements prohibiting supersonic flight over land and allow the to create a new supersonic market.

Smaller demos also are planned, such as Sceptor, which is based on a modified Tecnam P2006T light aircraft. This aircraft is an hybrid electric and will allow to experiment promising technologies to build a real X-plane.

The USA´s congress is redy to provide founds by administration’s requests in fiscal 2015 and 2016, but still must approve the new budget plan. “We need to present the compelling benefits and reasons why the nation needs to invest in government R&D at this level,” Shin says (Nasa administrator for aeronautics). “We have a compelling story and we think Congress will see the point.”

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