NASA new large scale aircraft demonstrator could be supersonic low-boom plane or other breakthrough aviation possibilities

NASA has plans for its first large-scale aircraft demonstrator in decades. Which aircraft? Although a supersonic low-boom flight demonstrator (LBFD) is the most mature concept, NASA has several other potential candidates.

Boeing backs a low-boom demo as an essential step toward a future high-speed airliner, but the initial beneficiary of the technology is expected to be a supersonic business jet—a market sector that has not enjoyed overwhelming support from lawmakers. But with Airbus now backing supersonic business-jet developer Aerion, the jobs issue yet may carry the day.

Lockheed Martin demo aircraft proposal

NASA has other, subsonic flight-demonstrator options in the works, but none are as far forward as the LBFD and may not be ready for launch if funding does become available in fiscal 2017.

The D8 “double-bubble” airliner concept is proposed by Aurora Flight Sciences and Lockheed Martin’s Hybrid Wing Body (HWB) airlifter.

The “double bubble” D8 Series future aircraft design concept comes from the research team led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Based on a modified tube and wing with a very wide fuselage to provide extra lift, its low sweep wing reduces drag and weight; the embedded engines sit aft of the wings. The D8 series aircraft would be used for domestic flights and is designed to fly at Mach 0.74 carrying 180 passengers 3,000 nautical miles in a coach cabin roomier than that of a Boeing 737-800.

Boeing has the long-studied Blended Wing Body (BWB) and more recent Truss-Braced Wing (TBW) airliner configurations.

Truss-Braced Wing (TBW)

Blended Wing Body