Boeing Wins NASA Contract For Sustainable Flight Demonstrator

Mobility Outlook Bureau
19 Jan 2023
10:06 AM
1 Min Read

Among others, the SFD programme aims to advance the civil aviation industry’s commitment to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.


Boeing has been selected by NASA to lead its industry team in the development and flight testing of a full-scale Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) demonstrator airplane. 

The TTBW airframe concept is the result of more than a decade of development supported by NASA, Boeing and industry investments. 

In a company release, Boeing said that the technologies demonstrated and tested as part of the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD) programme would inform future designs and could lead to breakthrough aerodynamics and fuel efficiency gains. Boeing will use elements from existing vehicles and integrate them with all-new components for the demonstrator vehicle. 

The SFD programme aims to advance the civil aviation industry’s commitment to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as well as the goals set forth in the White House’s US Aviation Climate Action Plan.

“The SFD programme has the potential to make a major contribution toward a sustainable future,” said Greg Hyslop, Chief Engineer and Executive Vice President of Engineering, Test & Technology, Boeing. It represents an opportunity to design, build and fly a full-scale experimental plane, Hyslop said, “while solving novel technical problems”.

A future single-aisle airplane with a TTBW configuration coupled with expected advancements in propulsion systems, materials and systems architecture could deliver fuel-efficiency and emissions reductions up to 30% relative to today’s most efficient single-aisle airplanes (depending on the mission). 

Ultrathin wings braced by struts with larger spans and higher-aspect ratios could eventually accommodate advanced propulsion systems that are limited by a lack of underwing space in today’s low-wing airplane configurations. 

NASA’s funding through the SFD Space Act Agreement totals $425 million and the programme will also leverage up to $725 million in funding by Boeing and its industry partners to shape the demonstrator programme and meet the resource needs. 

Boeing conducted extensive wind tunnel testing and digital modelling to advance the design of the TTBW, under previous NASA programmes, including the agency’s Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research programme. Separately, Boeing’s previous internal investments for recent phases of sustainable aviation research total $110 million.

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