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Testing the Aircraft of the Future

This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth.

NASA and industry partners are working towards a future that sees aviation meet cleaner sustainability standards.

To that end, new designs for the airplanes of tomorrow, such as the Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (TTBW) concept shown in this image from 2021, are being tested by researchers and engineers. The TTBW is essentially a classic tube-and-wing passenger aircraft whose wings are extremely long and thin – so much that they need a little help to hold them up. By narrowing the thickness of the wings and extending their length, drag is reduced, and 5-10 percent less fuel is burned than comparable narrowbody aircraft. This image was created using data from a computational fluid dynamics simulation – essentially a virtual wind tunnel test. The red and orange areas represent higher drag, and the green and blue areas represent lower drag. Note the beautifully sleek green-blue color of the wings – the colors of Earth.