Throughout its history, NASA has not only been responsible for developing spacecraft, but also cutting-edge aircraft that pushed the boundaries of technology and flight. Now, they're getting ready to do it again.
NASA announced today that they would be launching the "New Aviation Horizons" initiative, which will develop a new generation of X-Planes "during the next 10 years as a means to accelerate the adoption of advanced green aviation technologies by industry".
The X-Planes have historically been at the cutting edge of technology: X-1, flown by Chuck Yeager, broke the sound barrier in October 1947. Other aircraft in the series have their own share of major advances, demonstrating sweeping wings, ramjets, Vertical Take Off and Landing, and others. The last in the series was the X-56 in 2013, which tested high-altitude, long endurance flights for unmanned aircraft.
In February, NASA awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin for a new supersonic plane, with the intention of beginning tests in 2020: the aircraft would be experimenting with Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST), which will reduce the sonic boom that makes these types of planes difficult to use around populated areas.
The emphasis on testing and developing more green technologies will also go a long way towards reducing the world's air fleet on fossil fuels, while also reducing their carbon emissions. As the price for fuel is likely to rise again in the future, this will also benefit carriers and consumers.