NASA Aeronautics 2020 Technical Excellence Highlights
Work on X-59 QueSST Wing Nears Completion
April 30, 2020
Assembly work on NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft continues at a steady pace, as the main wing nears completion at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® facility. Aided by robotic technology, the X-59 QueSST team recently finished drilling the composite wing skins by utilizing a Combined Operation: Bolting and Robotic AutoDrill system (COBRA). The automated robotic system removes the necessity of multistep labor-intensive operations, combining what would have traditionally taken multiple personnel to complete into a single process. Automated systems such as the COBRA are just one of many advanced tools NASA and the Skunk Works team is leveraging to make the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration a success.
NextGen Aircraft Design is Key to Aviation Sustainability
April 16, 2020
For NASA’s aeronautical innovators designing the next generation of passenger-carrying airplanes, it’s about environment, efficiency, electrification, and economy. The focus is on a future airliner that might carry 150-175 passengers, flies at subsonic speeds, and could supplement or replace aircraft in the 2030 timeframe. It must move through the air easier, possibly use electricity to augment or power the propulsion system, and it must be as lightweight as is safely practical. As a result, NASA is focusing on four technologies – electrified aircraft propulsion, small core gas turbine, transonic truss-braced wing, high rate composites – to help deal with those efficiency challenges related to aerodynamics, propulsion, and weight.
NASA, Partners Work with FAA to Develop UAS Road Map
April 15, 2020
NASA and its industry partners are taking unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) closer to operating in harmony with other aircraft in the national airspace. The technology and procedures developed has been assisting the FAA to develop the rules for certification of UAS to safely coexist with other air traffic. The goal is to enable new commercial and public service opportunities, such as real-time surveillance of fires, infrastructure inspections for pipelines, and medical transportation in the future. Work since then has included multiple simulation efforts and six specific flight tests series that focused on validating these simulations and supporting the development of minimum operational performance standards for detect and avoid systems.
NASA Successfully Tests Telemetry Signal on Agency’s First All-Electric X-plane
April 13, 2020
Recent ground testing on NASA’s X-57 Maxwell successfully demonstrated the aircraft’s ability to transmit its telemetry signal, allowing the team the capability to track mission-critical data during flight. This data will be received on the ground during X-57’s flight tests, where it will be monitored in real time by the project team during flight operations, and recorded for post-flight analysis to measure X-57’s success in meeting its objectives, as NASA seeks to help set certification standards for future electric aircraft. This mission data will help NASA researchers validate whether the X-57 successfully meets its design drivers: demonstration of increased energy efficiency, zero in-flight carbon emissions, and flight that is quieter for communities.
First Flight of NASA’s 2020 Unmanned Aircraft Demonstration Activities
April 9, 2020
NASA took first flight of its Systems Integration and Operationalization (SIO) demonstration activities in partnership with the FAA, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI), and other industry partners to conduct demonstrations of potential commercial applications using different sizes of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). SIO aims to help accelerate the safe integration of UAS for commercial applications into the National airspace by tackling key challenges that currently prevent routine UAS operations. NASA plans to document best practices and lessons learned from the SIO activity and provide it to the UAS community to help facilitate industry wide progress toward routine commercial unmanned aircraft operations.
One Word Change Expands NASA’s Vision for Future Airspace Mobility
March 23, 2020
As the idea of using drones and small, piloted electric-powered vehicles began to take off, the initial attention widely was focused on their use in the skies over dense urban locations. As interest in the potential of urban air mobility (UAM) exploded around the world, and NASA continued to lead discussions and host technical demonstrations with its industry partners, it became clear that there was broader interest in these capabilities. Moving forward, UAM-related work will continue as a subset to the overall advanced air mobility (AAM) mission, which has defined two categories of operations (local and intraregional) based on the distance planned to be flown.
New Spinoff Publication Shares How NASA Innovations Benefit Life on Earth
March 18, 2020
As NASA pushes the frontiers of science and human exploration, the agency also advances technology to modernize life on Earth, including drones, self-driving cars, and other innovations. NASA’s diverse missions spur the creation and improvement of thousands of new products that improve life for people around the world. Dozens of the latest examples are featured in the newest edition of NASA’s Spinoff publication, (including how NASA is working to shape the coming revolution of autonomous vehicles on the roads and in the air). Spinoff highlights the successes of the agency’s Technology Transfer program, which is charged with finding the widest possible applications for NASA technology.
X-59 QueSST More than the Sum of Its Parts
March 11, 2020
A tradition employed by the aerospace community is continuing with the assembly of NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology aircraft at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® factory in California. Perfectly acceptable components from other aircraft are finding new life as parts installed on the experimental X-59, whose mission is to open a new era of commercial supersonic air travel over land. Landing gear from an Air Force F-16 fighter, a cockpit canopy from a NASA T-38 trainer, a propulsion system part from a U-2 spy plane, and a control stick from an F-117 stealth fighter are among the repurposed parts to be used.
What is the Fatigue Countermeasures Lab?
March 4, 2020
The Fatigue Countermeasures Lab at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California studies the way fatigue affects people with complex tasks to perform. The realms for these tasks can be as diverse as aviation and spaceflight, NASA space mission operations, military settings, and operating self-driving cars. By learning how sleep and its bedfellows interact – that includes alertness and circadian phase, or where you fall in your usual sleep/wake cycle at a given moment – the Fatigue Countermeasures Lab team can explore solutions to help people manage fatigue and do their jobs safely.
Air Taxi Ride Quality: Seeking a Smooth Ride at the Vertical Motion Simulator
February 26, 2020
NASA's Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS) allows researchers to study the limits of what makes a comfortable air taxi ride. These vehicles will take off vertically before slowing down to a hover and landing. NASA can help aircraft designers ensure a ride that's comfortable to most future passengers by identifying how much and what kind of motion people will tolerate. Out-the-window graphics, along with the motion of the VMS cockpit contribute to the feeling of a real flight. NASA will share what it learns from these tests with the developing air taxi sector to help us all have a smooth ride across the city of the future.
DATR Supports Space Communication, Research Flights
February 20, 2020
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center’s Dryden Aeronautical Test Range (DATR) engineers are working on interfaces with the onboard flight test instrumentation system that will permit the range to manage unique, real-time telemetry and video data formats. These formats are new to the center and will be needed when the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology flight demonstrator begins testing at Armstrong. The new capabilities will permit ground processing of data acquired by flight test equipment during the Low Boom Flight Demonstration. This equipment will support early flights of the X-59 at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, also located in Palmdale.
All-Electric X-57 Undergoes Structural Ground Tests
February 18, 2020
Currently in its first configuration as an all-electric aircraft, the X-57 Maxwell underwent a series of structural ground tests, giving engineers a look at the vehicle’s predicted characteristics during flight. In addition to testing the X-57’s cruise motor controllers, which are critical for providing power to the aircraft’s electric motors, similar ground vibration testing took place on the wing and fuselage. These tests are helping NASA examine the integrity of the component for flight conditions. NASA will share X-57’s electric-propulsion-focused design and airworthiness process with regulators, as well as the industry, to help advance certification approaches.
Shaking Things Up for the X-59
January 28, 2020
NASA’s X-59 QueSST aircraft is on a mission to achieve supersonic speeds over land that create no more than a sonic “thump” to those below. This mission will provide data that could convince regulators to change the rules governing the speed of non-military aircraft over land. To achieve this, NASA engineers are designing new systems to support this concept, like the eXternal Vision System (XVS). After successful in-flight tests, researchers are now testing the structural integrity of the XVS through a series of vibration tests. Next, the XVS will undergo temperature and altitude tests at a facility that could provide forced air at the expected flow rates and temperatures expected on the X-59.