Aircraft makers are exploring blended-wing bodies, transonic truss-braced wing models, double-bubble concepts and other unconventional plane designs for passenger aircraft and NASA is advancing that to help improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions through a competition launched in June, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The NASA competition is seeking U.S. aircraft manufacturers that could help design and develop a full-scale demonstrator that could transport 150 passengers.
The agency expects to have an aircraft prototype ready by 2027 and transition to mass production in the next 10 years.
According to the report, submission of proposals for the aircraft design contest closed in September and NASA intends to announce in January the winning design with plans to use a portion of its space budget to fund construction and testing work on the selected aircraft.
“If we don’t do this there will never be change,” said Rich Wahls, mission integration manager for NASA’s Sustainable Flight National Partnership program, which covers the plane-design competition. “We have to get this into the fleet quickly to make a climate impact.”
Wahls noted that offerors should demonstrate that their aircraft designs could lead to the production of 60 units a month.
Boeing and NASA are already working on a transonic truss-braced wing model, according to the report.