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NASA’s Future Airplanes

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NASA released concepts for a future generation of passenger aircraft earlier this month. Most of the designs hardly look ripped from the pages of sci-fi (or even GI Joe), but NASA says it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Thanks to new materials and technology, these aircrafts would be quieter, faster, more comfortable and, above all else, “greener,” NASA says.

These designs could become reality between 2030 and 2035. These are the possibilities:

The “double bubble” D8 Series is a concept from a team at MIT. Its low, sweeping wings and wide fuselage create better lift and make the plane far more fuel efficient than today’s models.

Propellers. That’s right, propellers. Even the planes of the future will depend on the tried and true technology of nearly a century of aviation. But this familiar looking aircraft is lighter and more aerodynamic than any plane you’ll see today. It’s much quieter and more fuel efficient than modern passenger planes, big or small. It would carry 20 people and be used primarily for business commutes of about 600 miles.

The Silent Efficient Low Emissions Commercial Transport Series (SELECT) from Northop Grumman looks conventional. Not the case. Cutting-edge materials greatly lighten the load on this passenger plane, making it far more efficient and allowing it to operate even at small airports.

This model is sweet—pun intended. The Volt, part of the Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research (SUGAR) project from Boeing, is powered by twin engines that run on a combination of gas turbines and batteries. These engines, along with the top-mounted wings, greatly improve its efficiency.

The Hybrid Wing Body H-Series designed by people at MIT would carry 354 passengers, a similar load to the modern Boeing 777. It is designed to fly 7,600 miles per trip and its embedded engines and fuselage design would limit cabin noise to an almost inaudible level. Sweet, blissful, quiet, and badass all at the same time.

These two planes, the first from Lockheed Martin and the second from Boeing, would allow passenger planes to go supersonic while over land. The designs reduce the noise emitted when the planes cross the sound barrier. These two designs are our faves, and not just because Handshake demands to travel supersonic. We also demand that our future airplanes actually look, you know, futuristic.

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2 Responses to “NASA’s Future Airplanes”

  1. avatar Garrick Otero says:

    My Pops is an engineer for Pratt & Whitney. He tells me they already know how to make “hypersonic” jet engines, meaning speeds up to 2,000 mph. Current passenger jets top out around 500 mph. That would mean you could get to China from Washington, D.C. in about four hours. Unfortunately, they can’t figure out how to make the engines quiet enough to leave the airport’s windows intact, so it’s no go until they get that done.

  2. avatar Kevin Morris says:

    So what you’re really saying is that the only reason we’re not traveling hypersonic is because of poor window technology? Lame.