Manassas company designing airplane of the future

Aurora Flight Sciences in Manassas will continue design work on its D8 aircraft under a new NASA contract. (Courtesy PRNewsFoto/Aurora Flight Sciences)

WASHINGTON — Boeing and Airbus have plenty of concepts for future commercial aircraft on the drawing board, but so does a Manassas, Virginia, company.

Aurora Flight Sciences, which develops manned and unmanned flight technology, has been awarded a six-month, $2.9 million NASA contract to continue development of its D8 aircraft, a subsonic commercial airliner that is a candidate for NASA’s X-plane program.

Aurora says the D8 concept would be more than 50 percent more fuel-efficient than current commercial aircraft. It moves away from the classic tube-and-wing design, making use of what it calls Boundary Layer Ingestion, high bypass ratio engines and light, composite materials.

The design also reduces noise and emissions.

In 2009, Aurora, MIT and Pratt & Witney were awarded a contract to study technologies and designs for commercial aircraft that could enter service by the 2030s.

In 2015, the FAA chose the D8 design development under a program called Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise Program, or CLEAN II.

Aurora will now move forward with its design and testing stage that could ultimately lead to a flight demonstrator.

NASA intends to flight test a series of X-planes that demonstrate significant reductions in fuel consumption and noise and air quality improvements. The new award for Aurora makes the D8 a possible X-plane candidate.

Aurora is based in Manassas, but has production facilities in Bridgeport, West Virginia and Columbus, Miss., and research and development centers in Cambridge, Mass.; Dayton, Ohio; and Mountain View, Calif.

It also has a European office in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Earlier this year, the company won an $89 million DARPA contract to build a demonstrator aircraft for its vertical takeoff and landing experimental plane.

Also this year, its Orion unmanned aircraft broke the world flight endurance record with an 80-hour flight.

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