NASA, Boeing To Fly Truss-braced-wing Demonstrator in 2028
NASA and Boeing will collaborate on building and test-flying a single-aisle commercial aircraft demonstrator using a truss-braced, high-aspect-ratio wing scheduled for first flight in 2028, the partners said Wednesday. Called the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD) project, the effort would reduce fuel burn compared with contemporary narrowbodies by 30 percent through aerodynamic, materials, and engine improvements. Of the $725 million needed for the project, NASA will contribute $425 million while Boeing and other partners will absorb the rest of the cost.
Speaking from NASA offices in Washington, D.C., NASA administrator Bill Nelson characterized the demonstrator as a short- to medium-haul airplane that addresses 50 percent of the commercial air transport market. Program leaders hope the testing will help adapt the technologies needed to bring a new narrowbody aircraft to market in the 2030s.
“It’s our plan to demonstrate this extra-long thin wing stabilized by braces that will make commercial airliners much more fuel efficient by creating less drag,” he said. “In addition to the design, the sustainable flight demonstrator will integrate multiple other related green technologies. This configuration will save fuel. And as we know, saving fuel is not only good for the planet, it means less expensive tickets for passengers.”
Part of NASA’s Sustainable Flight National Partnership, the SFD marks the culmination of more than 15 years of study into “projects such as this,” said NASA associate administrator Bob Pearce. For this particular project, Boeing will bring its manufacturing resources and knowledge while NASA contributes its technical expertise and testing support at Armstrong Flight Resource Center in California along with fixed payments as the partners achieve various milestones, he added.
Boeing chief technology officer Todd Citron said the demonstrator will draw benefits from separate research partnerships, perhaps most notably the Transonic Truss Brace Wing (TTP) configuration, on which the partners performed many rounds of wind tunnel testing and digital modeling. “When the demonstrator takes to the skies in 2028, it’ll do so on ultra-thin wings braced by trusses and with a larger span, resulting in higher aerodynamic efficiency,” said Citron. “This high-wing configuration will also free up underwing space for advanced propulsion systems.”