Martian helicopters? Electric planes? Quiet supersonic
The flight technologies of tomorrow are today’s reality at
NASA. We’re developing a number of innovations that promise to change the
landscape (skyscape?) of aviation. Here are five incredible aeronautic
technologies currently in development:
It might sound like an oxymoron, but ‘quiet boom’ technology
is all the rage with our Aeronautics Mission Directorate. The X-59 QueSST is
an experimental supersonic jet that hopes to reduce the sound of a supersonic
boom to a gentle thump. We will gauge public reaction to this ‘sonic thump,’
evaluating its potential impact if brought into wider use. Ultimately, if the
commercial sector incorporates this technology, the return of supersonic
passenger flight may become a reality!
Electric cars? Pfft. We’re working on an electric PLANE.
Modified from an existing general aviation aircraft, the X-57 will be an all-electric
X-plane, demonstrating a leap-forward in green aviation. The plane seeks to
reach a goal of zero carbon emissions in flight, running on batteries fed by
renewable energy sources!
Our Search and Rescue office develops technologies for
distress beacons and the space systems that locate them. Their new
constellation of medium-Earth orbit instruments can detect a distress call
near-instantaneously, and their second-generation beacons, hitting shelves
soon, are an order of magnitude more accurate than the previous generation!
(The Search and Rescue office also recently debuted a coloring book
that doesn’t save lives but will keep your crayon game strong.)
Earth science? We got it.
We don’t just use satellite technology to monitor our
changing planet. We have a number of missions that monitor Earth’s systems from
land, sea and air. In the sky, we use flying laboratories to assess things like
air pollution, greenhouse gasses, smoke from wildfires and so much more. Our
planet may be changing, but we have you covered.
No. Not that icing.
Though we at NASA are big fans of cake frosting, that’s not
the icing we’re researching. Ice that forms on a plane mid-flight can disrupt
the airflow around the plane and inside the engine, increasing drag, reducing
lift and even causing loss of power. Ice can also harm a number of other things
important to a safe flight. We’re developing tools and methods for evaluating
and simulating the growth of ice on aircraft. This will help aid in designing
future aircraft that are more resilient to icing, making aviation safer.
There you have it, five technologies taking aeronautics into
the future, safely down to the ground and even to other planets! To stay up to
date on the latest and greatest in science and technology, check out our
Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.