Eight months of flight research on the "X-48 Project" was completed on April 9 as part of NASA's "Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project." The space agency has been demonstrating its hybrid, blended wing-body technology with the remotely piloted "X-48C."
The scale-model aircraft, shaped like a manta ray, was designed by The Boeing Co., built by Cranfield Aerospace Limited of the United Kingdom, and flown in partnership with NASA.
The X-48 is designed with no tail, a flattened fuselage and engines mounted on the top. The concept stems from studies for commercial planes that could be flying sky high in the next 20 years. A number of modifications took place between the B and C versions of the aircraft.
- The X-48C retained most dimensions of the B model, with a wingspan slightly longer than 20 feet and a weight of about 500 pounds.
- Primary changes to the X-48C model from the B model, which flew 92 flights at Dryden between 2007 and 2010, were geared to transforming it to an airframe noise-shielding configuration.
- External modifications included relocating the wingtip winglets inboard next to the engines, effectively turning them into twin tails.
- The rear deck of the aircraft was extended about two feet.
- Finally, the project team replaced the X-48B's three 50-pound thrust jet engines with two 89-pound thrust engines.
- The aircraft had an estimated top speed of about 140 mph and a maximum altitude of 10,000 feet.