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NASA awards $100,000 grant for sideways supersonic plane concept, sonic boom not included

Jamie Rigg, @jmerigg
September 1, 2012
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NASA isn't just interested in extra-terrestrial exploration, but in pushing the boundaries of atmospheric flight as well, which is why it's just awarded $100,000 in funding for the supersonic plane concept shown above. As you can see, the symmetrical plane is basically all wing, and that's because it has two different configurations based on how fast you want to go. For normal, subsonic flight, a plane needs a decent wingspan to get off the ground and sustain flight at lower speeds. But, when you want to go supersonic, large wings become a bit of a drag, which is where the concept's bi-functional design comes in. The plane begins its journey in the long-winged setup, but spins 90 degrees amongst the clouds to use its stubby wings for efficient faster-than-sound flight and "virtually zero sonic boom." Gecheng Zha from the University of Miami has been touting his concept for quite some time, but now he's got the cash to refine the design, run simulations and do some wind tunnel testing, with the potential for more funding in the future. Unfortunately, the concept is, at best, decades from becoming a reality, but we're sold on the ninja star-like design. Guile, however, is not impressed.

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