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NASA Green-lights $16.5M To Advance Future Jets

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the how-much-of-that-goes-to-leg-room? dept.

NASA 107

coondoggie writes "NASA said this week four research teams would split $16.5 million to continue developing quieter, cleaner, and more fuel-efficient jets that the agency says will be three generations ahead of airliners in use today. NASA said the money was awarded after an 18-month study of all manner of advanced technologies from alloys, ceramic or fiber composites, carbon nanotube and fiber optic cabling to self-healing skin, hybrid electric engines, folding wings, double fuselages and virtual reality windows to come up with a series of aircraft designs that could end up taking you on a business trip by about 2030."

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107 comments

The marketing guys are good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35735484)

"The next generation of our jets will be three generations better than the last generation!" Huh?

Re:The marketing guys are good (2)

tom17 (659054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735686)

I was wondering this too. Surely there are two better generations somewhere according to this. Why aren't the airlines using these?

Re:The marketing guys are good (3, Informative)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736062)

Airlines are extremely slow to take on new technology. Not because they don't want it, but because there is a huge lag time between technology inception, development, practical application, production of said technology, integration of technology into newer aircraft designs, ordering of aircraft (or retrofitting), and the aircraft actually becoming part of that airline's fleet. That span can easily be greater than a decade or two. Which means, by the time a technology is entering public use, its very likely to be a generation, or two, or three, beyond what's currently being researched.

It's a lengthy, costly, pipeline adoption doesn't happen overnight because the costs are so large. Which means, in many cases, retrofitting is simply not an option. Which means, the only way the technology is going to enter a fleet is from new aircraft purchases.

Re:The marketing guys are good (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35741078)

True, but by the same token it takes almost no time to get out of older technology.

I remember recently Alaska Airlines decided to dump all MD-83 aircraft a year after one lost elevator control and dove into the Pacific.
It took precious little time to dump those planes partly because they already had a mixed fleet of 737s and MD-8x airframes.

To the extent any airline stays with a given supplier, migrating to newer models is made easy by manufacturers retaining some
interoperability of ground support requirements, and some cabin equipment. Engines and avionics often get upgraded before
the airframe is retired.

So some of these features can be be in place sooner than you might think. The Boeing Dreamliner already uses a great deal
of new materials. It remains to be seen if that is going to be a problem for carriers introducing it to their fleet.

Re:The marketing guys are good (1)

dasdrewid (653176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35741192)

You forgot the FAA and EASA testing and certification phase, which has to take place for every new plane the technology will be used in as well as *every* plane you plan on retrofitting it into. Depending on how new the technology is or how well the FAA understands it, this could take a very, very long time. One of the reasons commonly given for the commercial failure of the Beechcraft Starship is the length of time it spent in testing due to it's completely composite airframe, a novelty at the time, allowing time for small business jets (4-6 passengers) to be introduced first in direct competition to the Beechcraft (previous business jets were larger, like Gulfstreams seating 10-14).

Re:The marketing guys are good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35735716)

This is just the next version of "space age materials".

Re:The marketing guys are good (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35741034)

This is just the next version of "space age materials".

Oh, it might be more than that.
The "Virtual Reality Windows" sounds a lot like Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses which have been specially designed to help people develop a relaxed attitude to danger. At the first hint of trouble, they turn totally black and thus prevent you from seeing anything that might alarm you.

No more screaming and crying when things go horribly wrong.

Douglas Adams should get royalties.

Re:The marketing guys are good (3, Informative)

scrib (1277042) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735734)

Three generation better than ones "currently in use today." The ones they commonly use today are a couple generations old. Southwest Flight 812, which recently lost a bit of skin, was built in 1996. 737's in general started being built in 1968 and the technology hasn't changed that much.

Re:The marketing guys are good (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735804)

The technology sure has. In 1968 would never have flown them without the roof.

Re:The marketing guys are good (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#35738454)

It wasn't a structural failure, it was just a beta test of new convertible jets..

This message sponsored by the "It's Not A Bug, It's A Feature" Association of America.

Re:The marketing guys are good (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736660)

Three generation better than ones "currently in use today." The ones they commonly use today are a couple generations old. Southwest Flight 812, which recently lost a bit of skin, was built in 1996. 737's in general started being built in 1968 and the technology hasn't changed that much.

Actually the technology has changed quite a bit. The newer generation 737's are made differently, albeit with the same undlerlying aluminium / spar / rivet technology as the older planes. The 787 is really a transformational aircraft - should Boeing actually quit shooting themselves in the foot and get the thing into production. The 787 does underscore the difficulty in bringing new technology into commercial aircraft (along with stupid MBA-think but that's another rant).

Re:The marketing guys are good (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735786)

It's like when Shick went to 5 blades, they are just going to not bother producing the next logical step in jets and go directly to the one after that.

Re:The marketing guys are good (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#35739066)

Well, I ain't going to switch until they get up to 50 blades at least. If you were to go with the latect computer technology, would you prefer a measly 5 core processor, or would you prefer a 50 core one? The next version of Windows will probably need at least that many just to boot, and a lot more if you want to run the maximum limit of three programs at a time.

For those needing a car analagy, would you prefer to drive a 5 cylinder car, or a 50 cylinder one?

Re:The marketing guys are good (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735854)

It depends what they mean, I assume they mean the most recently approve engines. But with a date like 2030, it sounds like it will take them several generations worth of engines to actually use them. Meaning that they'd be basically on time.

That doesn't mean the effort isn't worth it, but it does make one wonder about whether or not the hyperbole is warranted.

$16.5 million... only... (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735544)

I think the study cost more than that.

Award that money to a university and you might get something for it. To a private company and you might get a mock up, which says "Huggies" on the composite carbon hull, if you peek around the back side of it.

$16.5 million = peanuts (4, Insightful)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735548)

I'm always surprised with the editorial tone of slashdot when they post a figure like $16.5 million and try to draw gasps, as if that's a huge amount of money. I'm on a military contract, and the training portion alone is at about $5 million. $16.5 million for something like a new jet is peanuts.

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (3, Insightful)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735652)

Considering the cost of a new 747 is around $317.5 million, $16.5 million for r&d seems like a lowball figure.

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (1)

plcurechax (247883) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736666)

Compared to the $110-115 million [www.cbc.ca] for a single F-35 [wikipedia.org] next generation fighter jet (per unit in quantity), it seems very low.

Admittedly the research grant seems to be focused on just the jet engine, not the vehicle (jet airplane), it does still seem like a small amount to build even a single prototype. While a healthy grant as far as research grants so, it is still pretty small compared to other things. Then again, compared the average R&D spending of $0.0 (USD or Euro) in most areas of engineering and science presently, it's a good (faint) sign.

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736770)

If they are designing new 747s, then yes, you are right. If they are designing very focused elements which are to be used on a variety of jets, then not necessarily. I presumed its the later and not the former which we are talking about.

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (1, Redundant)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735698)

We can't all waste money like the military. Maybe if they wasted a little less we could though.

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 3 years ago | (#35737874)

Who said anything about wasting money? That's my whole point about slashdot editorializing...if you think $16.5 is a big waste, I'm telling you, that's a drop in the bucket and you really are griping about nothing, relatively speaking.

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35740006)

Place a bucket outside in the rain, I'll bet you all those little drops will eventually fill the bucket :)

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35735920)

Military contracts are, generally, supposed to have the additional burden of stimulating the economy of the region they were contracted to. While this may not apply to something as sophisticated as a jet engine (hence, the "low dollar" investment), an order of overpriced plastic toilet seats can be poured by any Elton with a PVC mold and a willingness to employ the greatest number of local people. Two contracts with two different purposes.

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (2)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736144)

The toilet seat and hammer bullshit is just that. They were not common variety toilet seats. They had very real design and testing requirements which had to be met with extremely low counts. Which means the per unit costs are very high. Those who hold up those examples simply have no knowledge of the subject matter.

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (1)

Kelbear (870538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35737792)

This is interesting, I would like to hear more if you can point me towards additional reading.

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (3, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35738260)

I googled 600 dollar toilet seat and found this

http://circleof13.blogspot.com/2007/10/file-under-underappreciated-venerable.html [blogspot.com]

Long story short, it wasn't a toilet seat, but was mislabeled on the DoD document as one, they only bought 20 and there was a ton of special manufacturing involved.

A senate staffer picked up on "600 dollars" and "toilet seat" and used that to hammer at the Reagan administration.

"A Pentagon spokesman, Glenn Flood stated, "The original price we were charged was $640, not just for a toilet seat, but for the large molded plastic assembly covering the entire seat, tank and full toilet assembly. The seat itself cost $9 and some cents. The supplier charged too much, and we had the amount corrected."'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilet_seat#U.S._Navy.27s_.22.24600_Toilet_Seat.22 [wikipedia.org]

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#35740664)

Having the price corrected is not necessarily a good thing, most contracts generally have a clause where the total cost of all the parts is a percentage of the cost of a new end item. If all the parts purchased individually might be priced at 350% of a new plane, then when the price of a toilet seat that will probably never be replaced get adjusted down, then the prices of parts that are likely to be actually purchased automatically go up! Commodity parts are usually accurately priced, you can buy a grade 8 bolt anywhere, but a carbon-carbon brake pad for an F-18 is single sourced.

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35735938)

Yeah, let's see, 200 million for a big budget movie, 16 million for a 20 year project? Split between 4 teams? It's like they don't even care about the project at all.

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736126)

alloys, ceramic or fiber composites, carbon nanotube and fiber optic cabling to self-healing skin, hybrid electric engines, folding wings, double fuselages and virtual reality windows to come up with a series of aircraft designs that could end up taking you on a business trip by about 2030."

So basically, it's coffee and office supplies for a couple of guys to sit around an spitball crazy ideas and whack out a few computer renderings. You're sure this wasn't a engadget article?

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#35737928)

You know, compared to some low-class code monkeys that spend their days sitting around wanking off to their own glory, thinking themselves scientists because they passes computer "science" 101, some scientist actually get some work done. And for 16 mil, you pay a lot of PhD students of real sciences.

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35738082)

I'm surprised that anyone can read that and read an editorial tone into it. I see absolutely nothing to suggest we should be shocked by the size of the award. Neither was I shocked, nor do I see a slant myself.

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (1)

garompeta (1068578) | more than 3 years ago | (#35739548)

"pff... my toilet paper costs $16.5 million" -Bill Gates

Re:$16.5 million = peanuts (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | more than 3 years ago | (#35740352)

16.5 million won't pay for the accountants needed to make sure they aren't wasting money.

With Southwest in the headlines... (0)

milbournosphere (1273186) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735556)

publicizing that they're researching a self-healing outer skin might get them some extra funding in their next budget. You know congress-critters love hot-button issues...

Re:With Southwest in the headlines... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35735750)

No, no, Southwest was on the right track all along, using in-flight weight reduction to increase fuel economy! Don't think of it as "the fucking plane falling apart in the air", think of it as the new "737-cabriolet"!

Re:With Southwest in the headlines... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736972)

Like Nick Nolte said in 48 Hrs. "I'm a rag-top man"

Virtual Windows (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35735578)

I like the reference to studying "virtual reality windows" - more democratic fluff in my opinion - 3 generations of jets is (hopefully) at least how long it will take before those jerk-offs are back in office after elections - they might at least be smart enough to realize that if little else.

Want (0)

Doctor Memory (6336) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735744)

I want to fly on a plane with these, and I want the view to be what I'd see if the plane was flying at an altitude of about 50 feet. Whoosh!

2030? (0)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735612)

Will fuel for commercial flights even be available then, let alone affordable?

Re:2030? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35738268)

Tethered solar satellites will be providing juice to compose aircraft fuel straight from CHON by then.

Re:2030? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35738288)

Yes, jet engines are pretty capable of burning a wide variety of fuels, the airlines and militaries like the US DoD have been certifying aircraft to run on biofuels, mixes of biofuels and regular fuels.

Plus the USAF has been wanting to build synth fuel plants for some time, only to have it blocked by Congress.

Ugh (1, Offtopic)

jimmerz28 (1928616) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735682)

That's great, can we get that budget approved for high speed trains too while we're at it? I'm sick of having a horrid public transportation infrastructure. And highways are so 1950s...new please!

Re:Ugh (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735896)

That's great, can we get that budget approved for high speed trains too while we're at it? I'm sick of having a horrid public transportation infrastructure. And highways are so 1950s...new please!

The US had roads and airports. Where will high speed trains fit in? They can't beat roads at short distances because automobiles are point to point travel. They can't beat airports at long distances because planes are faster and don't have to stop every so often. Instead the money spent on US high speed rails seems better used to make faster and more convenient airport security and improve traffic flow on US roads.

Re:Ugh (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735948)

They are faster than air travel if you include the need to arrive early and the frequent cancellations of flights. Car travel sucks. you can't drink, you can't read, you can't do much of anything. Better yet would be to stop subsidizing roads so much and have better public transit in all forms. Let those who damage the roads pay for them, the shipping companies.

Re:Ugh (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736028)

They are faster than air travel if you include the need to arrive early and the frequent cancellations of flights.

Hence, my point about funding more convenient airport security since that's the number one reason you need to arrive early. Even with "frequent" cancellations you get where you're going. High speed rail still has cancellations.

Car travel sucks. you can't drink, you can't read, you can't do much of anything.

You can drive to exactly where you're going. You can change your mind. You can carry several hundred pounds of cargo.

Re:Ugh (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736272)

I can take a train there, I can change trains if need be and a train can haul many tons. Most importantly, I can have a beer while doing all this.

Re:Ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35737718)

I can change trains if need be

Not quickly or easily, and certainly not on-the-fly the way you can change destinations in a car.

and a train can haul many tons.

But you, as a passenger on that train, cannot. The GP was making the point that you can have a lot more "carry-on" in a car.

Re:Ugh (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35738332)

It is not that hard to change trains. I have taken far more on a train that I could in any car I own. Sure it was not just me, but 5 peoples luggage is a lot of stuff.

Re:Ugh (1)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 3 years ago | (#35737048)

You can drive to exactly where you're going. You can change your mind. You can carry several hundred pounds of cargo.

Yeah, that's exactly how I refer to my mother-in-law too!

Re:Ugh (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35737652)

Defunding airport security is far more rational. If we want to fund theater, Shakespeare wrote better scripts than those used by the TSA.

Re:Ugh (1)

AJH16 (940784) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736076)

In fairness, high speed rail would be a huge boon for shipping and would take a huge burden off the roads. A lot of freight moves by truck in the US and that's really not ideal for road costs and would be much more cheaply done via rail. Commuter use of rail would be nice, but you are right, in the US it will likely always be secondary to air travel unless rail freight brought the cost down substantially for commuter use.

Re:Ugh (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736248)

In fairness, high speed rail would be a huge boon for shipping and would take a huge burden off the roads. A lot of freight moves by truck in the US and that's really not ideal for road costs and would be much more cheaply done via rail. Commuter use of rail would be nice, but you are right, in the US it will likely always be secondary to air travel unless rail freight brought the cost down substantially for commuter use.

I see no indication that any high speed rail systems in the US would carry freight. It'd also have to compete with regular freight rail which is more cost effective (more cars per engine, lower energy costs, etc).

Re:Ugh (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 3 years ago | (#35737444)

In fairness, high speed rail would be a huge boon for shipping and would take a huge burden off the roads. A lot of freight moves by truck in the US and that's really not ideal for road costs and would be much more cheaply done via rail. Commuter use of rail would be nice, but you are right, in the US it will likely always be secondary to air travel unless rail freight brought the cost down substantially for commuter use.

I see no indication that any high speed rail systems in the US would carry freight. It'd also have to compete with regular freight rail which is more cost effective (more cars per engine, lower energy costs, etc).

Yet, it would still be used for freight. Extra airline capacity was sold to shipping companies as far back as the 1970's. (Just so you know, if you aren't filling the belly of that 737 or A320 with your luggage the airline is selling it to shippers for $$$) I worked for a logistics company which routed freight by whatever means were available - so if there's extra space on a high speed passenger train, you can count on that space being occupied by freight, as long as it is cost effective and timely.

Ever wonder why there are apples from Chile or New Zealand, or Netherlands Hot-House tomatoes in the US supermarket produce sections?

Re:Ugh (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35739384)

Ever wonder why there are apples from Chile or New Zealand, or Netherlands Hot-House tomatoes in the US supermarket produce sections?

Nope. And it's worth noting that airplanes have a cleanly separated cargo and passenger system, so they can easily add cargo. Passenger luggage on a train has to go with the passenger. So you can't mixed passenger luggage and freight like you can on an airplane. Also, it's worth noting that very few high speed rail systems mixed passengers and freight.

Re:Ugh (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 3 years ago | (#35737764)

"I see no indication that any high speed rail systems in the US would carry freight."

Moreover, the US has one of the world's best freight rail systems, and trying to mix high-speed rail and low-speed freight on the same tracks could be a disaster, see America's system of rail freight is the worldâ(TM)s best. High-speed passenger trains could ruin it. [economist.com]

Re:Ugh (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35738448)

Rail in the US carries a lot of freight, 40% of the ton/miles of freight in the US is carried by trains.

I wish I could find the letter from Warren Buffet about his purchase of BNSF, basically that rail freight is a growing and profitable sector.

Re:Ugh (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 3 years ago | (#35739544)

I never realized how large the US freight network was either until I landed on a project that dealt with refurbishing rail cars and rail car tracking. The volume of rail traffic alone was staggering. I had never heard of the company who sponsored the project so I did a little research and discovered just this one company was generating billions in profit and there were bigger companies out there providing the same services in the industry.

Re:Ugh (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736394)

I lived in Switzerland for 3 years. I used to commute to work on the train and bus. This was 25 km and took me the same amount of time as driving would have (less time if you count the rush hour traffic). Fast, easy convenient, low stress. That's the "short distance case".

We also used the train for weekend trips to go hiking, biking and skiing to Switzerland, Italy and France. Again, it was cheaper, faster, low stress, convenient. That's the mid-distance case.

The only other place I traveled was Africa and the US and I took airplanes. That's the long distance case.

Re:Ugh (1)

jimmerz28 (1928616) | more than 3 years ago | (#35737430)

Same with Germany and Australia. I could take bus and train anywhere and everywhere without the stress of driving, listen to my ipod, take a nap, not have to think about driving while being much faster.

That's what I want in America.

Re:Ugh (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35738328)

They can vastly outperform airlines in a number of scenarios:
Medium distance, where their shorter load and takeoff times mean that their difference in average speed is canceled out.
High volume routes, where their lower price per pound due to not having to climb to altitude or provide any lift pays off.

3 generations or 2030? (0)

srussia (884021) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735752)

Three generations ago would be the DC-3 (1935).

In 2030, we won't be flying much (-1)

tekrat (242117) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735824)

Fuel costs will make it so prohibitively expensive to fly that only the "jet set" will ever be able to travel by air.

Not to mention the three hour wait going through security, because by then the TSA will have to strip every passenger and perform full cavity searches and screen your blood before you can walk onto an aircraft. Also, buying an airline ticket allows the company to perform a full credit-history on you, so, really, they'll know everything about you anyhow before your flight is canceled.

By 2030, most people in the world will be limited to a 100-mile radius, not just because that's still the limit on their electric cars, but because of security. Not from terrorism, but due to class warfare.

By then, the rich will clamp down on the rest of us (and if you look around you can already see this in progress), so that we're essentially serfs.

And don't forget food wars, since the world population will be over 10 billion by that point.... Jet engines? Please, by 2030, people will be shooting each other in the street for bottles of fresh water.

Re:In 2030, we won't be flying much (1, Funny)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735856)

This is why I have already started stockpiling bottle caps.

Quantum? (1)

Flipstylee (1932884) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735902)

This is why I have already started stockpiling bottle caps.

haha, i'm gonna get a bottling set and head east, maybe start makin nuka-cola

Re:In 2030, we won't be flying much (1)

CTU (1844100) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735932)

This is why I have already started stockpiling bottle caps.

stockpiling guns would be a better use of both time and space...although a fatboy mini nuke would be even better :)

Re:In 2030, we won't be flying much (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736020)

That is only a few thousand caps.

Re:In 2030, we won't be flying much (1)

CTU (1844100) | more than 3 years ago | (#35741370)

or one bullet into the head of the holder of them caps....as you can tell I played fallout as an evil person *Mwahahahaha*

Re:In 2030, we won't be flying much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35735968)

You forget your meds today?

where have I heard this before (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#35735914)

I just cant put my finger on it

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockwell_X-30 [wikipedia.org]

Re:where have I heard this before (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736476)

I just cant put my finger on it

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockwell_X-30 [wikipedia.org]

Not really; the X30 was about Ludicrous Speed. These projects are mainly about fuel efficiency.

$16.5 million? That's all? (1)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736000)

Chump change to Bill Gates, Nathan Myrhvold, Steve Jobs. But, being government money, most of it will go to bureaucratic waste.

And then there's the whole "quieter, cleaner, more efficient" angle. That hasn't really paid off well with cars, has it? Well, per car, yes, but how many people switched to pickup trucks and SUV's simply because the cars with these new requirements no longer met their needs/wants?

Re:$16.5 million? That's all? (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736122)

It's mostly that people's needs/wants changed to "be bigger than everyone else on the road".

I and a friend did a three-week camping roadtrip last summer in my '09 Toyota Yaris (42 mpg highway), driving on some pretty shitty dirt roads in national forests in Oregon and Idaho. No problems at all.

Re:$16.5 million? That's all? (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736986)

...and a Yaris is small and lightweight. This is not impressive. 42mpg is only a marginal improvement (10-12%) over cars that existed 30 years ago. Personal experience: I own a 2002 Volvo V70, 2.4L Turbo I5, and a 1983 Chevy Suburban, 6.2L Diesel V8. The Suburban weighs 2000 lbs MORE than the Volvo and has a much larger engine, and they get THE SAME fuel economy. Technology improvements leading to better fuel economy? Yeah, right.

Re:$16.5 million? That's all? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35737104)

One is gas the other is diesel. One of those fuels is a lot more energy per unit volume.

Re:$16.5 million? That's all? (1)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 3 years ago | (#35738080)

I think the metric you want for this is cost per distance. The easy way to get it, is to divide the cost per volume (dollars per gallon, or euros per liter) by the fuel efficiency (miles per gallon, or kilometers per liter). The distance denominators cancel out, giving cost per distance.

1/25th the price of an A380 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35736120)

Boy, glad we're doing the investment in basic research, wow.....

hybrid gas turbine engine? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736310)

Any clue how this 'hybrid turbo-electric engine' is supposed to work? Jet fuel is a good two orders of magnitude more dense than conventional batteries. Even taking account for projected advances in nanowire batteries, and the inefficiencies of gas turbine engines, you're still looking at kerosene containing several times the usable energy per unit mass than batteries. Weight is everything in aircraft, and fuel already accounts for the bulk of weight in airliners. The only thing I could see this useful for is for taxiing on the runway, powered by the APU in the back of the aircraft, rather than having those big engines needlessly idle for extended duration while waiting for takeoff clearance.

Re:hybrid gas turbine engine? (1)

Caratted (806506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736470)

I'm not extremely knowledgeable on the matter, nor mechanical in regards to engineering - but, I do believe this is the same technology used by cruiseliners and other relatively large watercraft. The amount of gas consumed is slightly more to power the electrical generators, as opposed to powering the engines directly, this is indeed a con. The pros come in the form of torque distribution (i.e. 0 to 100% torque available with a flip of your DC switch, no clutching involved) and, as you yourself mention, the fact that the engines themselves are able to turn off when the generators do not need them, nearly alleviating the "con" I listed. Of course there's maintenance, cost of upkeep, etc, etc, thus my disclaimer. And they definitely aren't "conventional" batteries. Just my .02c.

Re:hybrid gas turbine engine? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#35737178)

On large ships, they're used for two reasons. The use of an electric transmission allows them to place the generator and electric motor anywhere they wish. There is no mechanical drive shaft they have to worry about for placement. This makes the ship design more flexible, and the ship maintenance or replacement easier. Second, they are typically used as azimuth thrusters, where instead of a static propeller with a rudder, the propeller is mounted to a pod, and the whole thing can swivel 360 degrees. It means you don't have to contract extremely expensive harbor pilots and tugs when coming to short.

On jet engines, there are no big bulky transmissions, and the drive shaft is all of a couple feet long. The use of an electric drive would do nothing but serve to add huge amounts of weight. Add to the fact that you're looking at an electric motor on other order of 30-80MW to drive these engines, and a generator just as big.

Re:hybrid gas turbine engine? (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736546)

How about fuel cells powering an electric motor to assist during takeoff. Extra power for the few minutes you need it, and smaller jet engines for the rest of the flight.

Or forget the fuel cells and just charge a bank of capacitors from the jet engines themselves...or better yet, on the ground before takeoff.

Re:hybrid gas turbine engine? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#35737296)

But you don't need extra power on take off. Even at cruise, big turbofans are still generally running at 80% or better of peak power output. Gas turbines like to run under full load. They're most efficient under full load. You're also looking at supplementing the output of an engine rated at maybe 30MW for a small airliner, to upwards of 70-80MW for a big GE90 on a 777. You're talking about an absolutely huge electric motor and battery to have any meaningful effect.

Re:hybrid gas turbine engine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35738162)

A hybrid turbine works more like what the volt was supposed to do. One large power turbine which runs a high temperature superconducting generator. The engines that provide propulsion are basically ducted fans which use HTS motors. Having one large turbine that runs at only 1 speed would be considerably more efficient than what we do now.

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20090042355_2009042905.pdf

Re:hybrid gas turbine engine? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#35739072)

Interesting concept. Gas turbines scale up beneficially, such that the larger single turbojet core you have, the higher the power density and higher thermal efficiency you get. In concept, there is really little different between a ducted fan and turbofan (or propeller vs. turboprop), besides what powers it. I could see this being beneficial to these smaller turboprop and 'regional' jets, where multiple engines are replaced with a single larger, more efficient turbine generator at the rear of the fuselage. Removal of all that weight out on the wing will significantly decrease the needed structure.

Once you get up to around a 727, power requirements are going to be too high for any single existing generator, and for anything international, you're certainly going to want multiple engines for reliability.

Re:hybrid gas turbine engine? (1)

Solandri (704621) | more than 3 years ago | (#35739034)

Any clue how this 'hybrid turbo-electric engine' is supposed to work? Jet fuel is a good two orders of magnitude more dense than conventional batteries. Even taking account for projected advances in nanowire batteries, and the inefficiencies of gas turbine engines

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1740906&cid=33119430 [slashdot.org] .

Like you, I'm a little skeptical the energy savings will be worth the additional weight. But that's why this is a research project. They'll probably build one to see how well reality matches up with theoretical calculations they've done.

Re:hybrid gas turbine engine? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#35739316)

In response to one of the remarks in your other comment about the ability to turn the engine off, I doubt that would ever be done until the airplane was safely on the ground. Gas turbine lifetime is measured more in cycles than operational hours. The thermal expansion and contraction from being turned on and off causes more wear than a several hour flight. You would never want to turn the engine off on descent, and risk an extra cycle because of a foul up on the runway or bad weather causing you to loiter or divert.

Re:hybrid gas turbine engine? (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#35739120)

Any clue how this 'hybrid turbo-electric engine' is supposed to work?

They are going to use wind turbines to extend the limited gas range. Expect to see wind farms extablished on the top of most commercial airplanes soon.

See this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35736428)

the government is promoting science without copyrights or patents! wow!

Why NASA? (1)

riker1384 (735780) | more than 3 years ago | (#35736598)

This sounds great, but why does NASA have to fund this? Can't the plane manufacturers pay for their own R&D?

Re:Why NASA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35737090)

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Re:Why NASA? (2)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35737132)

Why NASA? Because aeronautics research is NASA's job.

Re:Why NASA? (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35737534)

I thought they were just the advertising arm of the globalwarming fanatics?

Re:Why NASA? (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#35738060)

So, how does it actually feel to be an idiot? Does it hurt? And if so, in what manner? Sharp stings? A constant burning?

Re:Why NASA? (1)

amightywind (691887) | more than 3 years ago | (#35739560)

This is true when they aren't shilling for Elon Musk!

Re:Why NASA? (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 3 years ago | (#35738040)

Why NASA? Because aeronautics research is NASA's job.
--
If the lessons of history teach us any one thing, it is that no one learns the lessons that history teaches.

We can learn from Ames' history. NACA is NASA’s predessor:

(from a NASA photo file):

Dr. Ames was a founding member of NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), appointed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1915. Ames took on NACA’s most challenging assignments but mostly represented physics. He chaired the Foreign Service Committee of the newly-founded National Research Council, oversaw the NACA’s patent cross-licensing plan that allowed manufacturers to share technologies.

Ames expected the NACA to encourage engineering education. He pressed universities to train more aerodynamicists, then structured NACA to give young engineers on-the-job training. Ames gave the NACA a focused vision that was research-based and decided that aerodynamics was the most important field of endeavor. He championed the work of theorists like Max Munk. The world class wind tunnels at Langley Aeronautical laboratory reflected his vision as well as the faith Congress put in him. Ames became chairman of the NACA main committee in 1927.

Two years later he accepted the Collier Trophy on behalf of the NACA. He kept the NACA alive when Herbert Hoover tried to eliminate it and transfer its duties to industry.

Ames accepted a nomination by Air Minister Hermann Goring to the Deutsche Akademie der Luftfartforschung. Ames then considered it an honor, many Americans did, and was surprised to learn about the massive Nazi investment in aeronautical infrastructure, then six times larger than the NACA. Ames urged the funding for a second laboratory and expansion of the NACA facilities to prepare for war.

A stroke in May 1936 paralyzed the right side of his body. He immediately resigned as chairman of the NACA executive committee and in October 1937 he resigned from the NACA main committee. On June 8, 1944 the NACA officially dedicated its new laboratory in Sunnyvale California to Joseph S. Ames.

Ames died in 1943, having never stepped foot in the new laboratory that bears his name; the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory (known today as the Ames Research Center). In a letter to William Durand who led the dedication ceremony, Henry H. “Hap” Arnold called “Dr. Ames the great architect of aeronautical science.... It is most appropriate that it should now be named the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, for in this laboratory, as in the hearts of airmen and aeronautical scientists, the memory of Joseph S. Ames will be enshrined as long as men shall fly.”

Self healing skin (1)

zenaida_valdez (599247) | more than 3 years ago | (#35737570)

We're gonna' need that more and more!

LightPeak etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35738766)

For aviation and a number of applications that are similar, wouldn't a technology similar to lightpeak help cut down weight by integrating the multiple systems that communicate across the jet to access a single bus? Seems to me that since technologies like that would cut down on A TON of traditional copper wiring that carries signals from/to the thousands of sensors and computers on a jet. I imagine even on a small scale you would also achieve some weight savings by using 1 or 2 optical cables instead of 3 miles of copper wires and their associated jackets, and since it uses a silicon to fiber tech, you wouldn't have to change much about the sensors.

Car analogy (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#35739172)

The current airlines are like Chevy's and Chrystler's. They want to switch over to something like Kia's and Yugo's.

Another use for LFTR!!! ?? (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 3 years ago | (#35739538)

I was thinking about this a couple of days ago - the LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor [wikipedia.org] ) might actually be a feasible candidate for providing the heat energy to run one or two really big fans. One of the many advantages of the LFTR is that it can be sized for particular applications, and it's just possible that it might be made small enough to fit on a large airplane. The LFTR is a high temperature, low pressure reactor and also (IIRC) requires much less shielding than U-238 reactors.

So it's possible that an LFTR-powered plane using superheated water to drive the turbines might just work. If so, then the 'jet' output would have zero emissions (except for heat). The planes would only have to be refueled once in a while.

I'm too lazy to figure out just how big a plane it would have to be.

Full disclosure: my dad was a builder, who built some of the buildings for the very ill-fated Atomic Airplane [wikipedia.org] project back in the 1950s - GE actually built a successful test engine, but the entire rest of the program was a complete mess. He got screwed for $400,000 in 1950s dollars and never got it back.

Less is more (1)

amightywind (691887) | more than 3 years ago | (#35739552)

Yay! Slower, less comfortable clean, green jets. The wildlife will be thrilled.

Tubeliners From Here On In (1)

florescent_beige (608235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35739694)

The world isn't lacking good ideas, it's lacking people who make them real.

We can barely find people who know the difference between crippling buckling. The not-horrible ones we can find have been working on the F35 for so long they think 2 years to finish one rib is about right.

If anyone wants to make an ambitiously weird new plane, they are going to have to invest billions just to get bright people back into this business. I wouldn't be surprised if it would cost hundreds of billions to get get a commercial carbon-fiber spanlifter into service because this industry is just so moribund. The organizations that are around right now couldn't make a go of it on any finite budget.

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