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NASA to spend millions on future supersonic airliner technology

NASA has awarded 18-month research contracts worth a total of $12.4 million to six industry teams. The teams will study advanced concepts for subsonic and supersonic commercial transport aircraft that could enter service in 25-30 years.

The contracts are for research into subsonic ultra-green aircraft, small efficient and quiet air transport, advanced concept studies for supersonic and subsonic commercial transport and technology for "N+3", which is NASA's reference to future aircraft that are considered "three generations" ahead of today's fleets. The end of these contracts will see companies propose a second phase of research on technologies identified during the first phase.

"The future of air transport is all about protecting the environment and responding to increasing energy costs in a balanced way. We will need airplanes that are quieter and more fuel efficient and cleaner-burning fuels to power them," says NASA's fundamental aeronautics programme director Juan Alonso.

Teams led by Boeing, GE Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northrop Grumman were awarded the 18-month study contracts with values of about $2 million each. These team leaders' partners include Aerodyne Research, Aurora Flight Sciences, Boeing Phantom Works, Cessna, GE Global Research, Georgia Institute of Technology, Pratt & Whitney, Purdue University and Wyle Laboratories.

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