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Boeing Wins $425M NASA Contract

Business

NASA administrator Bill Nelson holds up a model plane | Image by Joel Kowsky/NASA

Boeing has secured a contract with NASA to build the next generation of aircraft. 

The Chicago-based aviation company will receive $425 million of taxpayer money from NASA under a Funded Space Act agreement over the next seven years to develop and test a new type of fuel-efficient airplane with ultra-thin wings, according to GeekWire. 

“If we are successful, we may see these technologies in planes that the public takes to the skies in the 2030s,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a press release.  

“The new Funded Space Act agreement allows NASA to capitalize on private industry knowledge and experience, with Boeing and its partners laying out a proposed technical plan. NASA will provide access to its aeronautics facilities and expertise,” according to the release.

Boeing’s Transonic Truss-Braced Wing concept (TTBW) involves building an aircraft with extra-long, extra-thin wings that spread over the top of the fuselage, according to GeekWire. One of the configurations is an aircraft with foldable wings that are 170 feet wide, 27 feet shorter than the wingspan of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, but 53 feet wider than the wing space of its 737 MAX 8.

The TTBW design is meant to accommodate advanced propulsion systems stunted by a lack of underwing space in the current low-wing configuration for single-aisle aircraft, according to GeekWire. 

Boeing says the wing design alone could produce fuel savings of up to 10%. When combined with additional advancements in propulsion systems, materials, and systems architecture, a single-aisle TTBW plane could reduce fuel usage and emissions by 30%, according to the company.

This innovative design could help the industry reach net zero carbon emissions by its 2050 target

NASA will provide $425 million to support the development and testing of a TTBW demonstrator, and Boeing and its partners will provide the rest of the funding, estimated at $725 million. Boeing will integrate elements from existing flight vehicles with all-new components for the demonstration project.

The program “has the potential to make a major contribution toward a sustainable future,” Greg Hyslop, Boeing chief engineer and executive vice president of engineering, said in the press release. 

“It represents an opportunity to design, build and fly a full-scale experimental plane, while solving novel technical problems,” said Hyslop. 

“We’re honored to continue our partnership with NASA and to demonstrate technology that significantly improves aerodynamic efficiency resulting in substantially lower fuel burn and emissions,” said Todd Citron, Boeing’s chief technology officer.

“Boeing has been advancing a multipronged sustainability strategy, including fleet renewal, operational efficiency, renewable energy, and advanced technologies to support the U.S. Aviation Climate Action Plan and meet the industry objective of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The Sustainable Flight Demonstrator builds on more than a decade of NASA, Boeing, and our industry partners’ investments to help achieve these objectives.”

Boeing said it is finalizing the list of industry partners it intends to work with on the program and where it will take place.

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