Powering Flight Innovation | NASA Glenn Research Center


[ MUSIC ]>>ON DECEMBER 17TH, 1903,
TWO BROTHERS FROM DAYTON, OHIO WOULD ALTER
HUMAN HISTORY FOREVER. ON THAT DAY, WILBUR
AND ORVILLE WRIGHT FLEW THEIR WOODEN AND CANVAS MACHINE
OFF THE SANDY DUNES IN KITTYHAWK, NORTH CAROLINA,
BECOMING THE FIRST TO FLIGHT. HEAVY EXPERIMENTATIONS
WITH GLIDERS, LIKE ADVANCEMENTS
IN ENGINE TECHNOLOGIES, CONTROLS, AND AERODYNAMICS,
PROVIDED A PATHWAY FOR HEAVIER THAN AIRCRAFTS,
LIKE THE WRIGHT BROTHERS’ FLYER. BY THE 1930s, AIRSHIPS,
WHICH HAVE DOMINATED THE LONG-DISTANCE FLIGHT,
WERE REPLACED BY FLYING BOATS AND OTHER RUDIMENTARY
AIRCRAFTS. BY THE 1930s AND ’40s
DEVELOP OF AIRCRAFT FOR WAR EFFORT,
GREATLY ACCELERATED INFUSION OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES INTO
CIVILIAN, GENERAL AVIATION. THIS STREAM OF INNOVATION
LED TO THE START OF THE JET AGE, WHICH WOULD
REVOLUTIONIZE BOTH GENERAL AND MILITARY AVIATION. LATER IN 20th CENTURY,
EVEN MORE ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES LIKE DIGITAL ELECTRONICS
WOULD BRING ABOUT FLY-BY-WIRE, DIGITAL ENGINE CONTROLS, GPS.
AND THESE ADVANCEMENTS EVEN CHANGED THE WAY WE GO
ABOUT DESIGNING AIRCRAFTS. THIS CENTURY HAS BEEN
MARKED BY TRANSITIONING TO LARGE-SCALE, PILOTLESS DRONES,
AND FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, INHERENTLY UNSTABLE AIRCRAFTS
SUCH AS HIGHLY-INTEGRATED FLYING WINGS,
HAVE BECOME A POSSIBILITY. AND WITH ALL THESE ADVANCEMENTS
IN THE PAST 112 YEARS, WE’RE STILL ONLY
SCRATCHING THE SURFACE OF CAPABILITY AND PERFORMANCE. BUT WE’RE PAYING
A HEAVY PRICE FOR LAGGING INNOVATION. WHO HERE HAS TRAVELED BY AIR
IN THE PAST SIX MONTHS? WERE YOU SURPRISED? BY-BY THE COST AND TIME
OF YOUR TRIP? TODAY WE FIND OURSELVES
AT THE DOORSTEP OF YET ANOTHER REVOLUTIONARY ADVANCEMENT
IN AVIATION HISTORY. THE ELECTRIC OR
HYBRID-ELECTRIC AIRCRAFTS. NASA IS INVESTING IN
ELECTRIFIED AIRCRAFT PROPULSION RESEARCH, OR EAP, AS PART
OF ITS PORTFOLIO TO IMPROVE FUEL EFFICIENCY, EMISSIONS,
AND NOISE LEVELS IN COMMERCIAL TRANSPORT AIRCRAFTS. EAP USES ELECTRIC MOTORS
TO DRIVE SOME OR ALL OF THE ENGINES ON AN AIRCRAFT. THE ENERGY SOURCE FOR
THIS SYSTEM CAN BE ELECTRIC, HYBRID, OR TURBOELECTRIC. NASA IS WORKING ACROSS
A RANGE OF MARKETS FROM URBAN AIR MOBILITY
TO SUBSONIC TRANSPORT. EACH MARKET HAS DIFFERENCES
IN VEHICLE SIZE, RANGE, AND SPEEDS. OUR STRATEGY AT NASA IS TO WORK
WITH OUR INDUSTRY PARTNERS TO ENABLE TECHNOLOGY
DEVELOPMENT, DEMONSTRATE THESE TECHNOLOGIES IN FLIGHT,
AND TRANSFER THE KNOWLEDGE TO COMMERCIAL SECTOR FOR
FUTURE PRODUCTS AND MARKETS. ONE SUCH EMERGING MARKET
IS URBAN AIR MOBILITY, DEVELOPED THROUGH NASA’S
REVOLUTIONARY VERTICAL LIFT TECHNOLOGY PROJECT. URBAN AIR MOBILITY, OR UAM,
IS A CONCEPTUAL MARKET THAT WOULD ENABLE PASSENGER-CARRYING
AIR TRANSPORTATION IN AND AROUND METROPOLITAN AREAS. THINK OF FLYING UBERS. THESE VEHICLES COULD USE
ALL-ELECTRIC OR HYBRID-ELECTRIC PROPULSION SYSTEMS CAPABLE OF
VERTICAL TAKEOFF AND LANDING. THE OVERARCHING GOAL OF
NASA’S WORK IN THIS SPACE IS TO DEVELOP AND VALIDATE
TOOLS, TECHNOLOGIES, AND CONCEPTS TO OVERCOME
KEY CHALLENGES FOR VERTICAL LIFT VEHICLES. A CRITICAL CHALLENGE FOR
UAM MARKET GROWTH IS PUBLIC’S ACCEPTANCE
THAT THESE VEHICLES CAN BE AS SAFE AS
COMMERCIAL AIR TRAVEL OR AUTOMOTIVE TRANSPORTATION. HOWEVER, THE MOST IMMEDIATE
IMPACT FROM NASA’S WORK FOR THE FLYING PUBLIC IS
THE REDUCTION IN COST THROUGH FUEL-BURN IMPROVEMENTS
AND LOWER AIRFARE PRICES. TO PUT THAT IN CONTEXT,
LET’S LOOK AT SOME NUMBERS. THE OVERALL GLOBAL FLEET
OF LARGE COMMERCIAL– COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFTS TOTALED
OVER 25,000 IN 2017, AND IS EXPECTED TO GROW
TO 37,000 AIRCRAFT BY 2027. OUT OF THE 25,000 AIRCRAFT
TODAY, NEARLY 60% OF THOSE ARE NARROW-BODY AIRCRAFT,
SMALL, ORIGINAL AIRCRAFTS, BOTH JET AND TURBOPROPS. SAVING JUST 10% IN
FUEL CONSUMPTION ACROSS THIS FLEET WOULD YIELD
MORE THAN 5 BILLION GALLONS OF FUEL SAVINGS PER YEAR,
AND IS FORECASTED TO SAVE APPROXIMATELY 10 BILLION GALLONS
BY 2040. WE ALSO HAVE TO TAKE
INTO ACCOUNT THE REDUCTION INTO CO2 EMISSIONS. SO HOW DO WE GET THERE? THE LEADING CONCEPT THAT NASA
IS CURRENTLY INVESTIGATING FOR PARTIALLY TURBOELECTRIC
CONFIGURATION IS SINGLE-AISLE TURBOELECTRIC
WITH AFT BOUNDARY-LAYER PROPULSOR, KNOWN AS STARC-ABL. THIS CONFIGURATION IS BEING
DEVELOPED, ASSUMING ENTRY INTO SERVICE BY 2035. IT CONSISTS OF TWO UNDER WING
TUBER FANS, WITH GENERATORS, EXTRACTING POWER FROM
TUBER FAN SHAFTS AND TRANSMITTING IT ELECTRICALLY
TO REAR FUSELAGE BOUNDARY-LAYER INGESTING FAN. ONE OF THE MAIN SOURCES OF DRAG
ON AN AIRCRAFT IS A LAYER OF SLOW-MOVING AIR
THAT BUILDS UP ALONG THE FUSELAGE AND WINGS
KNOWN AS BOUNDARY-LAYER. BOUNDARY-LAYER CREATES
EXTRA DRAG, AND WE BELIEVE WE CAN IMPROVE AIRCRAFT
PERFORMANCE BY EMBEDDING ENGINES INTO THE AIRFRAME
AND HAVING THOSE ENGINES CONSUME BOUNDARY-LAYER AIR. BY INGESTING BOUNDARY-LAYER,
THE DRAG IS SIGNIFICANTLY DECREASED, WHICH LEADS TO
AN OVERALL IMPROVEMENT IN AIRCRAFT EFFICIENCY. RESULTS INDICATE THAT
THIS TURBOELECTRIC CONCEPT HAS AN ECONOMIC FUEL BURN REDUCTION
OF 7%, AND EMISSION FUEL-BURN REDUCTION OF 12% COMPARING
TO OTHER AIRCRAFT DESIGNS. SEVERAL YEARS AGO,
NASA HAS DEVELOPED AN ADVANCED AND HIGHLY-INTEGRATED CONCEPT
KNOWN AS [ INDISTINCT ] WHICH EXPLORED FUEL SAVINGS
BY COMBINING A BLENDED WING BODY DESIGN,
WITH FULLY TURBOELECTRIC AND FULLY DISTRIBUTED
PROPULSION SYSTEM BASED ON THE SUPERCONDUCTING
ELECTRIC MACHINES AND POWER DISTRIBUTION. THE FUEL BENEFITS OF
THIS CONFIGURATION IS VERY SIGNIFICANT, ESTIMATED
AT NEARLY 70% REDUCTION, COMPARING TO CONVENTIONAL
AIRCRAFTS, SUCH AS BOEING 777. THIS CONCEPT HAS THE BEST
BENEFITS SO FAR STUDIED. HOWEVER, IT REQUIRES
THE MOST AGGRESSIVE TECHNOLOGY AND INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT. AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST,
NASA IS BUILDING ITS FIRST-EVER ALL-ELECTRIC X-PLANE,
X-57 MAXWELL. THIS DESIGN WILL DEMONSTRATE
AN EFFECTIVE INTERACTION BETWEEN A WING,
THE ENGINE PROPELLERS, AND THE FLIGHT MISSION
FLIGHT PATH, WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY SOLVING
A NUMBER OF CHALLENGING TECHNICAL ISSUES FOR
ELECTRIFIED PROPULSION IN CREW RATED AIRCRAFTS. WHILE ELECTRIC MOTORS
ARE MORE EFFICIENT AND FUEL-BURNING ENGINES,
THEY PRODUCE A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF HEAT DURING OPERATION,
REQUIRING AN INTEGRATED THERMAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
TO BE INCORPORATED INTO THE DESIGN. NOW, A COMMON METHOD OF SOLVING
SUCH HEAT-RELATED PROBLEMS IS TO EMPLOY AN EMBEDDED,
UH, UH, HEAT SINK OR A LARGE METAL HEAT SINK
OR, UH, WATER COOLING SYSTEM. BUT THIS CAN CAUSE
A DRAMATIC INCREASE IN WEIGHT, THUS REDUCING THE BENEFIT GAINED
BY ELECTRIC CONVERSION. ONE SUCH RESEARCH EFFORT
TO CONTROL THE HEAT GENERATED BY THESE SYSTEMS WAS PERFORMED
LATE LAST YEAR BY MY TEAM, WHERE WE DEVELOPED
A 98% EFFICIENT, 13 KILOWATT POWER SYSTEM FOR
X-57 HIGH-LIFT PROPULSORS. WEIGHING ONLY TWO POUNDS
AND COMPLETELY AIR-COOLED. THIS SYSTEM WAS FULLY-QUALIFIED
ACROSS THE VARIOUS FACILITIES AT NASA GLENN IN
TEN SHORT MONTHS, AND WITHIN NEXT TWO YEARS,
OUR SYSTEM WILL BE FLYING ON X-57 FLIGHTS, PROVING THAT
IT IS POSSIBLE TO HAVE A LIGHTWEIGHT, AIR-COOLED
SOLUTION FOR AIRCRAFTS. IN ORDER TO QUALIFY
THE COMPONENTS IN THIS ELECTRIFIED AIR IN AVIATION,
NASA NEEDED TO DEVELOP CAPABILITY TO TEST
AND VERIFY THEM BEFORE IN-FLIGHT TESTING. SO WE CONVERTED OUR
HYPERSONIC TEST FACILITY IN PLUMBROOK STATION IN
SANDUSKY TO A NASA ELECTRIFIED AIRCRAFT TEST BED, NEAT. CURRENTLY, THIS STATE OF THE ART
FACILITY’S BEING USED TO TEST FULL-SCALE MEGAWATT
POWER TRAINS, WITH AN EYE TOWARDS INCORPORATING
COMPONENT TECHNOLOGIES INTO AN OVERALL SYSTEM. THE FACILITY CAN SUPPORT
SINGLE-AISLE AIRCRAFT GEOMETRIES WITH PROPER
CABLE LENS AND ELECTROMAGNETIC INTERFERENCE MITIGATION. IT CAN SUPPLY POWER FOR
UP TO 24 MEGAWATTS. THERMAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
FOR UP TO 2 MEGAWATTS, AND IT EVEN CONTAINS
AN ALTITUDE CHAMBER THAT CAN SIMULATE UP TO 120,000 FEET. ALL ELECTRIC AIRCRAFT CONCEPTS
THAT WE’VE SEEN SO FAR RELY HEAVILY ON ADVANCEMENTS
OF COMPONENTS SUCH AS ADVANCED MOTORS,
POWER CONVERTERS, AND MATERIAL SCIENCE
TO NAME A FEW. X-57 WORK IS AN EXAMPLE OF
MUCH LARGER RESEARCH PORTFOLIO WITHIN THE FIELD OF
POWER SYSTEMS LEAD BY NASA GLENN. OVER THE PAST TWENTY YEARS,
GLENN HAS PIONEERED DESIGNS OF VARIOUS HIGH-POWER DENSITY
AND HIGH-EFFICIENT MOTORS FOR SPACE, AERONAUTICS,
MEDICAL, AND TERRESTRIAL APPLICATIONS. ALL OUR WORK HAS ALWAYS
PUSHED THE BOUNDARIES OF WHAT’S POSSIBLE,
AND OUR NEWEST MOTOR WORK IS NO DIFFERENT. NASA GLENN HAS A SMALL
IN-HOUSE TEAM THAT IS DEVELOPING A 1.4 MEGAWATT MOTOR
WITH THE PERFORMANCE GOAL OF 16 KILOWATTS PER KILOGRAM,
AND EFFICIENCY GREATER THAN 98%. THE MOTOR CONTAINS
A SELF-COOLED SUPERCONDUCTING ROTOR, WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN
DONE BEFORE, ALLOWING THE MOTOR TO ACHIEVE
EXCEPTIONAL SPECIFIC POWER AND EFFICIENCIES,
WITHOUT IT HURTING EXTERNAL COOLING WEIGHT PENALTY,
COMMONLY ATTRIBUTED TO SUPERCONDUCTING MACHINES. INTEGRATED ROTOR SUPERCONDUCTOR,
SPINNING AT 6800 RPM, FOUR TIMES HIGHER THAN
THE STATE OF THE ART, AND WEIGHING ONLY 80 KILOGRAMS. THIS MOTOR REVOLUTIONIZES
THE FIELD OF ADVANCED MOTORS, AND GREATLY INCREASED NUMBER
OF AIRCRAFT CONCEPTS THAT CAN UTILIZE
HYBRID ARCHITECTURES. ALL OUR ELECTRIC MOTOR WORK
IS ALL DIVERSE IN SIZE APPLICATIONS
AND POWER LEVELS. AND IT’S, UH, BEYOND, UH,
THE WORLD OF AERONAUTICS. JUST FIVE YEARS AGO, MY TEAM
DESIGNED, BUILT, AND DELIVERED A BICONICAL MOTOR TO
UNIVERSITY OF INDIANA’S SCHOOL OF MEDICINE. THIS MOTOR WAS DESIGNED TO
HELP CATALYZE ADVANCEMENTS IN THE FIELD OF
CARDIOVASCULAR ASSIST DEVICES, SUCH AS PACEMAKERS FOR KIDS
WHO ARE BORN WITH A SINGLE-HEART VENTRICLE. THIS MOTOR IS A TINY COMPARISON
TO THE ONES IN AIRCRAFT. JUST TWO INCHES TALL. AND IT’S POWERED BY
A TOTAL OF FIVE WATTS, SAME POWER AS USB PORTS
ON YOUR COMPUTERS. CURRENTLY, OUR DESIGN IS
BEING USED TO DEVELOP A CLINICAL TRIAL VERSION
AND HOPEFULLY A VIABLE DEVICE WILL ENTER MARKET WITHIN
THE DECADE, SAVING AN ESTIMATED 1500 CHILDREN PER YEAR. ALL GREAT PROGRESS
IS ACCOMPANIED WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY. IT MUST BE ENTERPRISED
AND OVERCOME WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE. IN OUR EFFORTS, WE DON’T
UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF VISION AND DIRECTION. THESE ARE IRRESISTIBLE FORCES,
ABLE TO TRANSFORM WHAT MIGHT APPEAR TO BE
UNCONQUERABLE OBSTACLES. INTRA-TRAVERSABLE PATHWAYS
AND EXPANDING OPPORTUNITIES. I AM DEEPLY HUMBLED TO HAVE
AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE PART OF THIS AMAZING JOURNEY. THE JOURNEY THAT WILL
SURELY CHANGE THE WORLD. THANK YOU. [ APPLAUSE ]

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