Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

Mystery plane revealed

Ok – I have kept everyone in suspense for long enough. Here is a side view of the same plane – and you can start answering some of the questions I posed.

This was a flight demonstrator for the Shaped Sonic Boom program. The thought was that a modified underside of the aircraft’s fuselage could potentially reduce the sonic boom that an aircraft made when going supersonic (Mach 1+) speeds.

[The newest jet engine’s – i.e. the F119 on the F-22 Raptor – no longer has to go to afterburner to get to supersonic speeds. One of the reasons that the Concorde wasn’t able to make money (and got retired) was because it was constantly on afterburner (and burned a huge amount of jet fuel). Beyond the fuel costs – the other reason that the Concorde wasn’t successful – was because it was restricted to overwater flights. Because on an overwater flight – there was no homeowner’s association or EPA to complain about the noise pollution].

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Boeing X-48B Blended Wing Body demonstrator


Originally uploaded by cherbro1

When I first blogged about the X-48 a year and a half ago – the radio controlled scale model had just taken its first flight.

This program hasn’t died yet – but its focus has changed. In a AvWeek article published on-line earlier this week – NASA now believes that the Hybrid Wing Body (HWB, its generic term for BWB shapes) is key to reaching its agressive environment targets (for both fuel economy and radiated noise).

Boeing’s Phantom Works has supposedly even talked to two large shipping companies (believed to be FedEx and UPS) about the BWB, causing internal problems with Boeing Commercial Airplanes (who normally handles cargo aircraft).

The US Air Force is still in the mix – looking for tanker/cargo aircraft with the best fuel efficiencies possible, which leads to……

NASA’s lead investigator said they are looking to partner w/ the Air Force Research Lab on a large scale structural demonstrator in the next couple of years. That would then lead to a manned flight demonstrator approximately the size of a 737.


X-37 – ready for a real test?


Originally uploaded by ryanclark75

AviationWeek’s Ares blog reported yesterday that the X-37 unmanned space plane – has been scheduled to be launched later this Fall – for an on Orbit shakedown.

The X-37 was originally built for NASA by Boeing, but when NASA’s funding was cut the project was taken over by DARPA. DARPA in their cost cutting best – brought Scaled Composite (now owned by Northrup-Grumman) on-board.

[Scaled Composite used White Knight (the same mothership for the SpaceShipOne effort) to perform the drop tests. It turns out that Scaled by using WK – was able to conduct the drop tests for 1/10th what it was costing NASA to use their B-52

SpaceflightNow’s launch schedule is already showing the LRO launch being pushed back to the Spring (2009) – but doesn’t yet show the new Atlas launch for the X-37 demonstrator.

Stay tuned.

[Update – Mon, Aug 4th – Aviation Week has published a broader article listing some of the milestones of the project, as well as the expected goals from the on orbit shakedown flight]