NASA has selected three advanced aeronautical concepts as quick starts in its Revolutionary Concepts (REVCON) project, which encourages the development of ideas that could lead to revolutionary experimental planes.
The selected concepts are AeroCraft, a piloted, partially buoyant airship; the Blended Wing Body, a powered, remotely piloted, flying wing configuration; and the Pulse Detonation Engine, a design geared toward lower maintenance and operations costs.
AeroCraft could dramatically improve cargo transportation. It is designed to serve the market that requires transportation faster than ocean freight but cheaper than airfreight. Project partners are the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA, NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, and MicroCraft, Tullahoma, TN. Lockheed Martin Skunkworks, Palmdale, CA, and American Blimp Company, Hillsboro, OR, have supporting roles. Proposed flight experiments will be conducted on a scale model of AeroCraft at Dryden in 2001. Total funding is $10 million.
The Blended Wing Body research aircraft may improve fuel efficiency, maximum takeoff weight and direct operating costs for commercial carriers, which in turn could translate into lower costs for airline customers.
The project is a partnership between NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, Dryden, Ames and Boeing Phantom Works, Long Beach, CA. First flight at Dryden is scheduled for 2002. Total funding is $1.5 million.
The Pulse Detonation Engine is a revolutionary approach for future high-speed jet propulsion. This engine design will provide higher propulsion efficiency and simplicity using significantly fewer parts, resulting in lower maintenance and direct operating costs. The engine will be tested in a wind tunnel at NASA's Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH. At Dryden, the system will be flown on NASA research aircraft. Eventually it will be attached to an SR-71 Blackbird aircraft and fired to a speed of Mach 3. In addition to Glenn, Dryden is also a project partner. The live fire tests for the $9.6-million project will take place in 2002.
The three concepts will become the first element of the project to use the ongoing flight research program led Dryden to develop revolutionary aeronautical concepts. The project also seeks to advance traditional approaches to aerospace technology and create methods to reduce development and certification time for new aircraft and flight systems.
As these projects work through the early phases of development, NASA's Office of Aero-Space Technology will issue a NASA Research Announcement to solicit new ideas for future REVCON selections. The Dryden Flight Research Center is the lead center for the REVCON project.
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