NASA is best-known for its missions to space, but the technology it has developed over decades has extended to civil, military, commercial aviation industries as well. The space agency celebrated National Aviation Day on 19 August, by releasing lithographs with innovations it has contributed to aircrafts over the history of aviation. Image Courtesy: NASA

Commercial Aviation: For commercial flights, NASA developed ‘winglets’ to reduce drag (forces opposing the movement of a plane forward), designed wind tunnels (large tubes with moving air to simulate turbulence) to test aircraft-readiness, ‘grooves’ — thin cuts across concrete runways that act as a channel for water to drain, and software for commercial flights & air-traffic controllers. Image Courtesy: NASA

General aviation: General aircrafts — including all civil aircrafts except scheduled/paid cargo flights — carry the same NASA tech as commercial jetliners, with a few extras — lightning protection, de-icing systems, and the emergency airbags. The space agency has also contributed real-time weather graph displays and the “Highway-in-the-Sky” system, which allows communication and data-exchange mid-flight with crew on the ground. Image Courtesy: NASA

Military Aviation: Military crafts have a lot of tech in common with general aircrafts too, plus design and hardware needed for combat — thrust-vectoring, or the ability to change thrust direction to control altitude and angular velocity quickly, ‘swing wings’ that can sweep back and return to position mid-flight, and the components needed for short, vertical takeoffs. Image Courtesy: NASA

Civil Rotorcrafts: NASA innovations have also found their way to rotorcrafts like helicopters — improvements in aerodynamic safety, transmissions and rotors in civil rotorcrafts, like tech to reduce aerodynamic ‘flutter’ — a dangerous phenomenon that affects flexible structures like rotors, and the aircraft itself — which could destabilize aircrafts and result in them crash. Image Courtesy: NASA

Tiltrotor Aviation: Also adding to the field of aviation engineering are NASA’s innovations in variable-speed rotors, tilt rotors and proprotors, used in vertical takeoff and landing aircrafts, and lightweight ‘drivetrains’ that deliver power to the driving wheels of the aircraft. Image Courtesy: NASA



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