July 8, 2010

Dream Machines

Every now and then, NASA reminds us of the "little a" in the agency's name; that is, that NASA is also involved with aeronautics as well as space exploration. NASA recently held a design competition for passenger planes of the future and, not surprisingly, the proposed supersonic jets are very beautiful. The description for the above plane, the Supersonic Green Machine, is below:

This future aircraft design concept for supersonic flight over land comes from the team led by the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

The team used simulation tools to show it was possible to achieve over-land flight by dramatically lowering the level of sonic booms through the use of an "inverted-V" engine-under wing configuration. Other revolutionary technologies help achieve range, payload and environmental goals.

The next plane is the Icon-II:

The "Icon-II" future aircraft design concept for supersonic flight over land comes from the team led by The Boeing Company.

A design that achieves fuel burn reduction and airport noise goals, it also achieves large reductions in sonic boom noise levels that will meet the target level required to make supersonic flight over land possible.

Don't hold your breath waiting for the chance to fly on either of these two babies. NASA expects that they would enter service into the global air fleet some time around 2030-2035.

To see the four other airplanes submitted for the design competition, click here.


George Carty said...

Perhaps the main reason why SSTs were not commercially successful was because advances in telecommunications reduced the demand for high-speed physical transport.

Most air travel these days is by holidaymakers, who are more concerned with cost and convenience than with speed. For this reason, airliner design these days focuses more on fuel economy (to cut costs) and on range (to reduce inconvenient stopovers) than on speed.

Check out We Were Promised Jetpacks on David Timoney's blog.

JDsg said...

I don't know that telecommunications was the main reason for the downfall of SSTs, but it certainly was a major reason. In the US the main reason why SSTs never caught on was the issue of sonic booms; that was NIMBYism to its broadest extent, so much so that the FAA agreed and SSTs were never allowed to travel cross-country.

Cost, convenience and range are very important to airlines today, no question, but I still would like speed to be a higher priority. Traveling over the Pacific for 7-14 hours per trip, faster flights would be greatly appreciated by my wife and I. ;)

George Carty said...

Regarding the phase-out of Concorde, wasn't 9/11 a more proximate reason, both becase many of Concorde's most loyal passengers were killed in those attacks, and also because increasing security theatre in airports made rented corporate jets (whose passengers don't have to go through security) faster than Concorde in endpoint-to-endpoint times?