I actually had no idea that NASA develops planes as well as shooting people into outer space. Did you? Maybe I’m just out of the loop.
Either way, NASA recently released plans for a new plane engine called STARC-ABL, which stands for ‘Single-aisle Turboelectric Aircraft with an Aft Boundary-Layer propulsor.’ That’s a mouthful.
Although the name and acronym are both difficult to grasp, the purpose of STARC-ABL is not. The idea is to place a large turbofan engine on the back of a plane in order to collect the slow-moving air that travels along the plane’s body. This would allow the turbofans mounted on the wings to be smaller, which would mean higher fuel efficiency. It seems that NASA is going green, or least trying to.
NASA engineers also added generators to the turbofans on the wings, and the electricity they make is used to power the turbofan mounted on the tail of the aircraft. Meaning that the rear turbofan, in charge of providing a good deal of the plane’s thrust, would not require any fuel to operate. NASA estimates this would cut down on fuel by 10% and allow some planes to travel much further.
Air travel as a sector contributes a lot to global carbon emissions, so NASA is pushing forward to try to make this cutting-edge technology a reality sooner rather than later. They have issued grants to Boeing, the University of Georgia, and Liberty Works with ES Aero to develop the STARC-ABL. Of course inventing a new airplane is not a short term proposition – the goal is to have a plane like this developed in the next 20 years, so don’t expect to see these bad boys flying around next week.
Take a look at the video below to see an animation of the STARC-ABL. This could be the future, folks!
h/t: Popular Mechanics