NASA’s X-Planes Program Developing Green Aviation Technology

The New Aviation Horizons initiative could accelerate the adoption of green energy in the industry.

NASA New Aviation Horizons
NASA plans to design and fly a series of X-planes to test green technologies through its New Aviation Horizons initiative.NASA/Maria C. Werries

NASA will begin developing a new series of X-planes with an emphasis on green aviation technology, the agency announced over the weekend.

The New Aviation Horizons initiative, introduced in NASA’s 2017 budget, aims to accelerate the adoption of green technology in the aviation industry over the next 10 years by designing and flying the cutting-edge X-planes and “showcasing how airliners can burn half the fuel and generate 75 percent less pollution during each flight as compared to now, while also being much quieter than today’s jets.”

“If we can build some of these X-planes and demonstrate some of these technologies, we expect that will make it much easier and faster for U.S. industry to pick them up and roll them out into the marketplace,” said Ed Waggoner, NASA’s Integrated Aviation Systems Program director.

The first design contract, to develop a supersonic jet with a quiet boom, was awarded to Lockheed Martin in February. NASA says the X-plane, dubbed QueSST for Quiet Supersonic Technology, could fly in 2020.

NASA says other experimental aircraft, with innovative shapes, designs and means of propulsion, are under consideration, but the look and means of operation of such vehicles is yet to been seen.