You’ve got to appreciate NASA’s willingness to try something new when it comes to aerospace design. Sure, they might have given up on the whole space plane idea altogether but when it comes to regular atmospheric aircraft they’re willing to throw money down on just about anything. As cutting edge as NASA likes to be, the concept of a sideways flying supersonic jet may be their craziest idea yet.
Aerospace engineering professor Ge-Chen Zha of the University of Miami, has partnered with engineers from Florida State University to create what is undoubtedly the wildest supersonic jet design ever conceived. The Supersonic Bi-Directional Flying Wing (SBiDir-FW) looks a lot like a ninja throwing star with two short and stubby spikes and two long ones. The SBiDir-FW takes off using the long spikes as wings with the tips folded upward and the cockpit facing forward on one of the short spikes. See, that’s the interesting part. Normally when you are talking about aircraft you don’t really have to specify that a cockpit is facing forward on the craft, but for this one you do. In order for the craft to go supersonic, the body of the plane rotates around the engines in order to shorten the wingspan for a more stable high speed flight.
Here’s a concept video of the plane in action.
NASA was apparently so impressed with the idea that they awarded the team $100,000 in research money. Several other aerospace projects were awarded money as well in an effort to support innovative “out-of-the-box” research and design. Michael Gazarik, director of NASA’s Space Technology Program, told the University of Miami his reasoning behind the awards.
These selections represent the best and most creative new ideas for future technologies that have the potential to radically improve how NASA missions explore new frontiers. Through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, NASA is taking the long-term view of technological investment and the advancement that is essential for accomplishing our missions. We are inventing the ways in which next-generation aircraft and spacecraft will change the world and inspiring Americans to take bold steps.
That’s great and all, but this just means now NASA will need to start funding even more research into finding a test pilot insane enough to fly an experimental supersonic aircraft sideways.