NASA Glenn Helps Propel Aviation Innovations

Glenn Facilities Serve as Key Testing Sites for Latest Aviation Experiments

For more than 75 years, NASA Glenn Research Center has played a leading role in developing innovative aeronautical technologies that have revolutionized air travel. NASA Glenn continues this tradition as it serves as a key testing ground for the space agency’s latest aviation experiments and technologies.

An example of this is the work taking place at NASA Glenn’s Plumb Brook Station in Sandusky as researchers study electric propulsion. While aircraft propulsion systems based on gas-turbine engines are well understood, electric propulsion systems pose a unique set of challenges. That is why NASA has established its NASA Electric Aircraft Testbed (NEAT) facility at Plumb Brook Station. NEAT is housed within a former rocket testing facility, making it an ideal test environment. The facility provides the needed infrastructure to support testing of high-power conventional and superconducting electric drives.

NEAT is now being outfitted with a Boeing 737-size electric powertrain which will be instrumental in NASA’s efforts to create a hybrid-electric airliner in the near future.

In addition to the testing taking place at NEAT, NASA Glenn is also playing a leading role in early experiments to create a new generation of highly efficient airliners. Through large-scale wind tunnel tests, Glenn researchers are looking at how airliners could take advantage of something known as boundary layer ingestion (BLI). Early tests show that by ingesting the boundary layer, fuel-burn efficiency improves by up to eight percent.

NASA Glenn’s 8 X 6-ft. transonic wind tunnel was modified to perform the tests that seek to better understand boundary layer ingestion (NASA Glenn boasts six world-class wind tunnels, each with varying capabilities). The research currently being conducted could ultimately lead to significant innovations for the aviation industry in terms of developing more energy efficient airliners.

Wind Tunnel at NASA Glenn Research Center
Wind Tunnel at NASA Glenn Research Center

With an array of unique, state-of-the art facilities, NASA Glenn is helping to advance many of the aerospace industry’s latest technologies, as these examples illustrate. While sometimes overlooked, Northeast Ohio is fortunate to have such a tremendous asset in its footprint, an asset that has helped transform aeronautics and space exploration since its founding in 1941.

To learn more about the work taking place at NASA Glenn and its many contributions to Northeast Ohio, please follow the links below.