Story Photo
NASA/Lillian Gipson
The Return of X-Planes
NASA’s New Aviation Horizons Initiative will design, build, and fly a variety of “X-planes,” or flight demonstration vehicles. The initiative is part of a 10-year plan to reduce fuel use, emissions, and noise. It’s also a return to NASA’s century-old practice of using experimental aircraft to test technologies and designs. Likely piloted, the X-planes will be about half the size of production aircraft. Engineers will investigate light-weight composite materials, fan and wing design, and special coatings. Designing and construction will take several years, with x-planes taking flight around 2020. The image reveals NASA’s proposed series of X-planes.