NASA concepts


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1 February 2007
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For a bit of fun I thought I would post these here as they are not really projects, but rather "vision vehicles" for NASA research programmes.

Several of them are referred to in this document, on NRTS:

First is the Blended Forward-Swept Wing-Body (BFSWB) concept for an 800-passenger, 7,000nm-range subsonic transport with circulation-controlled wing.


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Then there is the Trans-Oceanic Air Train (TOAT) - a long-range cargo transport that consists of two parts: the Lead and the Mule. Each unmanned Mule - basically a simple flying wing - would rendezvous with and connect wingtip-to-wingtip to the Lead or another Mule in flight to form the cruise configuration.


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Getting a little more conventional, this was the concept for a demonstrator under NASA's Quiet Aircraft Technology project. Note overwing engines for noise shielding and the strut-braced wing to allow higher aspect ratio for lower drag.


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And here is one of several concepts produced by NASA for a low-boom quiet supersonic business jet.


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Getting a little weirder again, here is NASA's concept for a high-altitude long-endurance remotely operated aircraft able to stay aloft for weeks or even months - a short-lived precusor to DARPA's new VULTURE programme to demonstrate technology for a UAV that can stay in the air for five years!


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And here is one of my favourites, a NASA concept for a ring-wing personal air vehicle (PAV) that you can keep in your garage and take-off and land on the street outside your house.


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NASA TOAT was referensed as a analog of another very unconventional NASA study from Advanced Vehicle Systems Technology program - Automated Package Delivery, also dubbed 'Virtual Memphis'. Note that illustration, actually, not a schematic, this weird flying Lego would look like this in fact! Imagine 5000 Mejun Express containers flying in formation over Moscow to their destination.

"...Modular aircraft (freighters) circulate on fixed racetracks between major purchasing
"hubs" (above weather and hub traffic). Delivery vehicles (hitch-hikers) detach from
the freighters to deliver packages to neighborhood collection centers, while
outbound deliveries hitch a ride from the collection center to the freighter & on to their
final destinations. Vehicles cross between racetracks to reach other national/international destinations. Robotic
collection centers notify customers of deliveries. Freighters are composed of "Lego"-Iike diamond-shaped delivery vehicles, plus a lead vehicle with management functions, main power, etc. Extensive leverage of SATS, Advanced Structures & Materials, Propulsion, Controls, Aerodynamic, and Smart/Morphing activities."

Enabling Technologies:
• Wideband communication with the National Airspace System
• "Designer" aerodynamics (make bricks fly)
• Controls (vehicle management, virtual control surfaces, fluidic flow vectoring, ...)
• Advanced materials and structures (electromagnetic glue, recyclable airframe, ...)
• Compact, very cheap propulsion systems
• Systems integration (maglev launcher, package retrieval, security, ground delivery, ...)

From NASA/TM-2000-210547
Research Opportunities in Advanced Aerospace Concepts

Gregory S. ]ones, Linda S. Bangert, Donald P. Garber, Lawrence D. Huebner, Robert E.
McKinley, Jr., Kenneth Sutton, Roy C. Swanson, Jr., and Leonard Weinstein

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Langley Research Center
Hampton, Virginia 23681-2199
December 2000


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A couple of other NASA concepts I found - a low-boom supersonic business jet and a zero-emissions aircraft. If I remember correctly the zero-emissions aircraft is powered by hydrogen fuel cells driving embebbed, distributed electric fans...


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Do you have any more information on that V-8 powered ducted fan GA aircraft designed by NASA? The last I had read on it, someone was actually building one. I think they may have been affiliated with the University of Michigan or based in Michigan.
CammNut said:
A couple of other NASA concepts I found - a low-boom supersonic business jet and a zero-emissions aircraft. If I remember correctly the zero-emissions aircraft is powered by hydrogen fuel cells driving embebbed, distributed electric fans...

If someone comes up with an efficient electrical storage system it'll open the door to all kinds of new propulsion concepts. (Well I guess "variations on a theme" would be a better way to put it.) You could do that propulsion system one better and use electricity to drive the compressor of a turbojet and then use more electricity to superheat the air at the tail end of the compressor for increased exhaust velocity. If you needed after burning you could carry some hydrocarbon fuel, hydrogen, or even water to increase exhaust mass for a temporary thrust increase. Use magnetic fields to keep the heated air away from the engine interior and you could impart some SERIOUS temperature increases. Whoever figures out that Holy Grail of electrical storage will make Bill Gates look like a pauper.
Once more, with the pictures this time...


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Yes, that's the one. I can't remember if it was in Aviation Week or where I had read it, but someone was reportedly building a flying prototype based on that design.

Scott Manley

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NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program is tasked with funding research into future technologies and concepts which are still at a very early stage, ideas which might still take decades to be realised, but which might change future plans for space exploration. I wanted to talk about the program and give a mention to all the new Phase 1 studies because they're the stuff of Science Fiction and might one day be part of Science Fact.

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