A team that has created a supersonic jet design resembling a flying shuriken has been awarded a US$100, 000 grant from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program to continue development of the aircraft. Aside from looking suitably futuristic, the concept plane’s four-pointed star design serves a practical purpose. By rotating in mid air, the plane can transition between broad-wing subsonic and shorter wingspan supersonic configurations.
Aircraft design is usually a compromise between subsonic and supersonic performance. At low speeds, broad wings provide more lift and help minimize takeoff distance, while swept back wings with a smaller profile enhance performance at high speeds. Variable-sweep wing (or swing wing) aircraft, such as the F-14 Tomcat and B-1 Lancer, get around this with wings that are spread broadly at takeoff and low speeds and can be swept back while in flight for improved performance at high speeds.
The supersonic bi-directional flying wing (SBiDir-FW) aircraft tackles the problem in a different way. It would take off in one orientation with broader wings, before rotating 90 degrees in flight to transition to high-speed mode with a shorter wing span. Via Radical bi-directional flying wing design gets NASA funding.