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NASA and Boeing Team Up to Reinvent Eco-Friendly Aircraft

Written by on Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

NASA and Boeing have teamed up to bring heavier-than-air flight to the next level. They want to reinvent the wing, so to speak, by designing a new type of aircraft that could revolutionize aviation. They don’t want to create a specific aircraft, like the F-35 or the Wave Rider; rather, they want to figure out how to build a new generation of eco-friendly planes that will make the skies a happier, cleaner place. Think of it like the upgrade from conventional gas-guzzling cars to hybrids – once they figure out how to do it, just about every new aircraft could incorporate the new technology.

NASA Boeing X-48

Image source: Popularmechanics.com

Behold the X-48C, the prototype aircraft that could bring aviation into the 22nd century. You can tell just by looking at the oddly-shaped X-48C that it’s not your typical run-of-the-mill aircraft. With its curving, swept-back wings and rear-mounted turbines it looks more like a spaceship than a plane. Theoretically, this revolutionary new design should allow the plane to quietly soar through the skies on only a fraction of the fuel. That should cut down on fuel costs, air pollution, and noise pollution.

What makes this bit of news so interesting is that it stands to directly impact you, the average consumer. You may not care valium pharmacy whether the top speed of an F-35 is Mach 0.8 or Mach 0.9, but I’ll bet you care about how much money you have to dish out whenever you pay for airfare, or how much smog is hanging over your favorite city.

X-48 Take-off

Image source: Popularmechanics.com

Unfortunately, we’re still a long ways off from implementing this new technology. NASA and Boeing are continuing to tinker with their design. The X-48C is the latest model that has several improvements over the X-48B, which made nearly 100 test flights between 2007 and 2010. The newest version has modified wings and two souped-up turbojet engines.

Initial testing of the X-48C looks promising. The 500-pound aircraft made a nine-minute flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California last month. It has a respectable projected top speed of 140 miles per hour and a maximum altitude of 10,000 feet. There will inevitably be dozens more test flights before the X-48 line graduates from remotely-piloted scale models to full-blown transport aircraft, but this investment of time and money should definitely be worth it. Who knows? Maybe in a few more decades we’ll all be flying on commercial planes that use about as much fuel as a car and make less noise than an air conditioner.

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