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NASA Seeking Research Proposals For Greener Aircraft Concepts; Up to $36.6M in Total Funding

NASA is soliciting proposals for studies designed to identify advanced vehicle concepts and enabling technologies for commercial airliners to fly more economically, quieter and cleaner by 2025. The total potential value of the research contracts is $36.6 million, and proposals are due by 15 July.

This research will support the Integrated Systems Research Program in NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington. The Integrated Systems Research Program (ISRP) focuses on maturing and integrating NextGen (Next Generation Air Transportation System) technologies into major vehicle/operational systems and subsystems. This first project within ISRP is the named the Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project, the goal of which is to select vehicle concepts and technologies that can simultaneously reduce fuel burn, noise and emissions.

The projected growth of the air transportation system will increase emissions of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, NOx, water vapor, and particulates, and the number of people exposed to airport noise. It is also widely believed that environmental and energy concerns will continue to grow as well, leading to increasingly stringent certification levels for noise and emissions, and an unending requirement for vehicle fuel efficiency improvements. All this must be achieved without adversely affecting the outstanding record of the global aeronautics enterprise for safety, reliability, and security. It is for these reasons that the ERA project chose the simultaneous reduction of noise, emissions and fuel burn as the focus. The proposed vehicle concept(s) must efficiently operate within the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) that is currently being developed.

—Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project

The solicitation is the first of several expected under the directorate’s larger “Research Opportunities in Aeronautics” announcement for 2010, released on Wednesday.

NASA will select up to four teams for 12-month studies beginning in fiscal year 2011.

The concepts must incorporate technologies enabling large, twin-aisle passenger aircraft to achieve ambitious environmental goals. Goals include 50% less fuel consumption and nitrogen oxide emissions compared with today’s airliners and an approximately 80% reduction in the nuisance noise footprint around airports.

Highly integrated propulsion/airframe concepts or other significant configuration changes (vs. today’s tube-and-wing) will most likely be required to simultaneously meet ERA’s noise, emission and fuel burn goals. Development of Preferred Systems Concepts (PSC) for both cargo and passenger aircraft concepts will be required under this solicitation.

The passenger vehicle mission should be capable of an 8,000 nm range with a 50,000-pound payload, and the cargo/freighter mission will have a 6,500 nm range with a 100,000-pound payload. The required cruise Mach number is 0.85. Alternative concepts may be proposed that optimize at Mach numbers as low as 0.70 in order to highlight the sensitivity of fuel burn to speed, however at a minimum, a 0.85 concept is required.

These range and payload requirements were chosen to focus the research toward long haul vehicle classes. In addition, the sensitivity of these concepts to both increases and decreases in the range, payload, or Mach number requirements are desired such that the limits of the extensibility to other missions can be defined.

—Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project

After nine months work on preferred systems’ concepts, each team will be eligible to submit proposals for a subscale flight demonstrator design. NASA will select one or two concepts for 17 months of preliminary design work and risk reduction testing for completion by mid-2013.

This research is supported by the Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project within the Integrated Systems Research Program. It also will benefit an emerging new project related to the use of remotely-piloted aircraft in the national air space.

Because the subscale flight demonstrator will be capable of operating in autonomous and remotely-piloted modes, it will test environmental technology, other suites and techniques. Test areas may include separation assurance and collision avoidance; command, control and communications; remote pilot and vehicle interfaces; environmental hazards detection and avoidance that could enable routine operation of future unpiloted air vehicles. NASA anticipates conducting test flights with the demonstrator in 2015.




I think they should spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars for MIT students to research the same designs & concepts Boeing and Airbus studied decades ago, which aren't practical in the commercial world! Now there's an idea!


One may presume that MIT coulod be one of the 4 organisations chosen?

However, large aircraft and engine manufacturers may get the most.

Roger Pham

It would be extremely difficult to subtantially improve upon the efficiencies of the B-787 or A-380 at Mach .80.

The best alternatives would be the TGV (Train a Grande Vitess) or Maglev, both are high-speed electric trains that can beat the door-to-door time of current jetliners at distances from 600-1000 miles. These trains can run on renewable energy and reduce petroleum dependency.
This the path that China is moving toward: to reduce domestic air travel by 90% using high-speed electric trains.

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