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Researchers at NASA's Marshall Center Win 2011 Tech Briefs Transportation Award for Innovative Aviation Design
Rebecca Farr, center; Lindsey Christensen, left; and Svante Littmarck, right. Rebecca Farr, center, an engineer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., accepts the first-prize award in the Transportation Category of the 2011 NASA Tech Briefs "Create the Future" design contest. The award was presented at a ceremony in New York City Nov., 2011 by Lindsey Christensen, left, marketing communication specialist with Parametric Technology Corp.,contest sponsor, of Needham, Mass.; and Svante Littmarck, president and chief executive officer of COMSOL Inc.,contest sponsor, in Burlington, Mass. (Ellen Dubin Photography, New York, New York)
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A team of NASA scientists and engineers from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has been awarded first prize in the Transportation Category of the 2011 NASA Tech Briefs “Create the Future” design contest.

The team developed an innovative, counter-flowing jet subsystem design which significantly weakens shock waves encountered by vehicles in supersonic and hypersonic flight. The winning design is the result of a technology development project sponsored by the Marshall Center’s Technology Transfer Office, who provided the original seed funds for this study.

The "Create the Future" design contest was launched in 2002 by the publishers of NASA Tech Briefs magazine to help stimulate and reward engineering innovation. The annual event has attracted more than 7,000 product design ideas from engineers, entrepreneurs and students worldwide.

The Marshall team developed a 2.6-percent-scale Apollo spacecraft model with three sonic and two supersonic counter-flow nozzles, which exhausts air into the oncoming free stream. Pretest computational fluid dynamic modeling of the different model and nozzle configurations was followed by wind tunnel tests in the Marshall Aerodynamic Research Facility's 14-inch Trisonic Wind Tunnel.

"Cold-gas or air jets, positioned at the nose or other strategic locations of aircraft, spacecraft and launch vehicles in supersonic and hypersonic flight, are ejected into the oncoming air stream," said team lead Dr. Endwell Daso, an Engineer in the Aeronautics Research Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Depending on flight conditions, such as vehicle speed above the speed of sound and the flow rates of the counter-flowing jet, the jet can dramatically dissipate the vehicle‘s bow or nose shock into much weaker individual compression waves."

"That dissipating effect has been shown to reduce aerodynamic heating and drag of a body traveling faster than the speed of sound," Daso said. “It’s the potential application of this research data to the airline industry that makes this exciting. This work has the potential to enable radical improvements in supersonic aircraft performance and efficiency.”

"We hope to see this technology used first on corporate business jets and then on supersonic commercial aircraft," said Rebecca Farr, Aerospace Engineer at Marshall.

Results from the wind tunnel test were originally reported in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Journal, Vol. 47, Number 6, in June 2009. The team applied for a patent later that year, which is now under review.

The study data was more recently used by a team of researchers from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton Virginia and the University of Alabama in Birmingham to validate advanced computational fluid dynamics modeling codes. Their results have, in turn, enabled a more fundamental understanding of the underlying physics of the jet and its effects.

"This is a very good example of how a relatively small investment in a new 'crazy idea' can generate a great deal of research and collaboration between NASA, academia and industry, resulting in significant benefits," Farr said.

The team won a computer workstation, which they donated to Ford's Chapel United Methodist Church Kindergarten and Preschool in Harvest, Ala., to replace school equipment lost to tornado damage during the April 27, 2011, storms that battered the state and much of the region. For more information about the Marshall counter-flowing jet subsystem contest entry, visit:


For more information about the “Create the Future” design contest, visit:

Janet Anderson
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.