Having come down off of my squeefest at my fourth NASA Social, in Washington DC twelve days ago, I’m happy to let you know that I’ve been invited to my fifth, this one a week from today. It will be up at NASA Armstrong at Edwards Air Force again, the same place where I went to my first NASA Social last November.
As with that November Social, at NASA Armstrong we’ll again be looking at the “first A in NASA,” “Aeronautics.” This is being referred to as the “LEAPTech” Social, and I expect that we’ll be seeing experimental and developing technologies regarding more efficient aircraft designs, advanced and alternative propulsion technologies, remotely operated aircraft, and so on.
Some of this may be things that we’ve seen mentioned at the earlier event, but seen here in more detail and/or at a more advanced stage of testing. For example, there’s a project being worked on which instead of two (or four) large jet or propeller engines, has a dozen (or more) much smaller engines either on each wing or embedded into the wing. The efficiency in this design is that you can use all of the engines when you need maximum thrust, i.e. on takeoff, but once at cruising altitude you can shut down some of them, using just enough to maintain your altitude and speed.
Other concept vehicles being developed (they have programs about them every week on NASA-TV) include designs that move the two large engines from under the wing to on top at the back, between two large tail fins. This “double bubble” design has advantages in reducing drag, the thrust from the engines “filling in” what is typically a low-pressure spot behind the plane.
We’ll see when we get there what surprises and presentations await. As a “space cadet” since birth, the “S” in NASA has the “WOW!” factor, but as a pilot, the “first A” has some pretty fantastic stuff that I might be seeing in my cockpit sooner rather than later. For example, ten years ago an app such as ForeFlight was only a fantasy for the general aviation pilot, something that you might find in an F-18 or a 747. Today it’s on my phone and iPad, along with the ability to show a full Head-Up Display (HUD), weather radar, and synthetic vision.
I wonder what Ill see next week that will be on my phone and in my plane in 2025?