Aurora D8 takes next step towards X-Plane

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Provided by Aurora Flight Sciences


Aurora Flight Sciences has been awarded a six-month $2.9 million contract from NASA for continued development of the company’s D8 aircraft, an ultra-efficient subsonic commercial airliner that is a candidate for demonstration in NASA’s new X-plane program.

The D8 is a commercial aircraft concept that enables substantial efficiency improvements within the next decade; by entry into service the D8 will be over 50% more fuel-efficient than current best-in-class aircraft while simultaneously reducing airline operating costs.

The D8 evolved from Aurora’s work on the NASA N+3 Program. In 2009, a combined Aurora, MIT and Pratt & Whitney team was awarded a contract to study technologies and designs for transport-class aircraft that could enter service during the 2030s.

Aurora’s design – named the D8 after its chief designer Mark Drela – reconfigures the classic tube-and-wing aircraft in order to make extensive use of Boundary Layer Ingestion (BLI), high bypass ratio engines, and composite materials. The D8 benefits are enabled by modern composite manufacturing technologies and a propulsion system that leverages BLI. In addition, the design offers significant noise and emissions reductions. “Best of all, though, is the twin-aisle design and quiet interior that we are sure passengers will love” said Aurora CEO John Langford.

In 2015, the FAA selected the D8 for design development under its Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise Program (CLEEN II). In the CLEEN II program, Aurora will design, fabricate and test the unique structural features of the D8 fuselage in order to demonstrate the aircraft’s substantial weight savings and manufacturability. The structural test articles fabricated under this program will be at the same scale as the planned X-Plane, thereby serving as part of a building-block approach for a flight demonstrator.

In its FY2017 budget, NASA announced the New Aviation Horizons program. In this new program, NASA intends to flight test a series of X-planes capable of demonstrating significant reductions in fuel consumption, community noise impacts, and air quality impacts. The award announced today will help mature the D8 as a possible X-plane candidate that supports NASA’s Ultra Efficient Subsonic Transport Thrust and accomplishes Mid- and Far-Term Community Goals.

For more information on Aurora’s D8 design, visit


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