After nearly six years of flying, NASA announced in 2013 that the X-48 mixed-wing remote-controlled flight test project was completed, statement from explained the organization then.
Test flights are an indication 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 goals
The X-48 was a mantle-shaped demonstration aircraft with two variations of the model that performed 122 flights. The last flight of the aircraft was on April 9, 2013, while the first was performed in 2007.
The X-48 was designed by The Boeing Co. and was built by the UK-based Cranfield Aerospace Limited, while NASA conducted summer tests. It was built as a demonstrator for the future design of a hybrid wing aircraft (HWB), obtained from conceptual research conducted in NASA’s project for environmentally responsible aviation, which aims to develop aircraft designs for 20 years from now.
“We’ve achieved our goal of creating a ground-to-flight database and proving the concept’s low-speed controllability throughout the flight envelope,” said Faye Collier, NASA’s project manager for environmentally responsible aviation. “And very quietly and efficiently, the wing’s hybrid body has promised to meet all of NASA’s environmental goals for future aircraft projects,” Collier continued.
NASA works hard to develop “future green planes”
Two X-48 models flew during NASA test flights, the X-48B and X-48C. The Model C transformed the original Model B into a hull noise protection configuration in 2010. The Model C also included an extended rear deck, and its wing wings were moved to the engines, turning them into double tails. Finally, the Model C replaced the X-48B’s three 50-pound traction engines with two 89-pound traction engines.
The X-48C has a wingspan of just over 20 feet (6 meters) and weighs approximately 500 pounds (226 kg) thanks to advanced lightweight composite materials. The aircraft can reach a top speed of about 140 miles per hour and a maximum altitude of 1,048 feet (3,048 meters). “Our NASA Dryden team has done what we do best, tested the flight of a unique aircraft, and repeatedly collected data that will be used to design future green aircraft,” said Heather Maliska, project manager at NASA Dryden X-48C. NASA says the flight control system software it used and replicated during the X-48B and X-48C test flights is “suitable for further development of potential full-scale commercial hybrid or mixed winged aircraft in the future.” .
Test flights will not be the only ones aimed at supporting NASA’s efforts to reduce fuel combustion, emissions, and noise pollution. The US space agency also recently revealed timelapse footage from its construction X-59 “quiet” supersonic jet. This aircraft will serve as a demonstrator for a new specially designed nose cone, which significantly reduces the sound of the sound boom. Like the X-48, the X-59 is designed to use less fuel and produce fewer emissions as part of NASA’s efforts to help combat climate change.