NASA X-48 Aircraft Test Flights Promise ‘Green Airliner’ for the Future


After nearly six years of flying, NASA announced in 2013 that its X-48 remotely piloted mixed wing body flight test project had come to an end, a statement from the organization explained to the ‘era.

Test flights are an indicator of NASA’s commitment to design and develop new aircraft that reduce noise pollution and carbon emissions.

An aircraft designed to meet NASA’s environmental objectives

The X-48 was a manta-shaped demonstration aircraft with two model variants that performed 122 flights. The last flight of the aircraft was on April 9, 2013, while the first was in 2007.

The X-48 was designed by The Boeing Co. and was built by the British company Cranfield Aerospace Limited, while NASA performed the flight tests. It was built as a demonstrator for a future Hybrid Wing Body (HWB) aircraft design derived from concept studies conducted as part of NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation project, which aims to develop aircraft designs in 20 years.

“We have achieved our goal of establishing a ground-to-flight database and proving the low-speed controllability of the concept throughout the flight envelope,” said Fay Collier, Environmentally Responsible Aviation project manager at the NASA, in the NASA press release. “Both very quiet and efficient, the hybrid wing body has shown promise in meeting all of NASA’s environmental goals for future aircraft models,” Collier continued.

NASA is working hard to develop “future green airliners”

Two models of the X-48 flew in NASA test flights, the X-48B and the X-48C. The Model C transformed the original Model B into an airframe noise protection setup in 2010. The Model C also featured an extended rear axle and its wing fins were moved alongside its engines, the turning into two tails. Finally, the Model C replaced the X-48B’s three 50 lb jet engines with two 89 lb thrust engines.

Source: NASA / Carla Thomas

The X-48C had a wingspan of just over 20 feet (6 meters) and weighed around 500 pounds (226 kg) thanks to advanced lightweight composite materials. The aircraft could reach a top speed of about 140 mph and a maximum altitude of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). “Our team at NASA Dryden has done what we do best, flight test a single aircraft and repeatedly collect data that will be used to design future ‘green’ airliners,” said Heather Maliska, Chief Project X-48C from NASA Dryden. NASA said the flight control system software it used and used during the X-48B and X-48C test flights is “suitable for further development of a potential hybrid or wing commercial aircraft. large-scale mixed in the future “.

The test flights will not be the only ones aimed at supporting NASA’s efforts to reduce fuel consumption, emissions, but also noise pollution. The US space agency also recently revealed time-lapse images of the construction of its “silent” X-59 supersonic jet. This aircraft will serve as a demonstrator for a new specially designed nose cone that significantly reduces sonic boom noise. Much like the X-48, the X-59 is also designed to use less fuel and produce fewer emissions as part of NASA’s offer to help fight climate change.


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