Successful title defense at the NASA/DLR Aeronautical Design Challenge 2021

  Team of NASA/DLR Aeronautical Design Challenge 2021 Copyright: © ILR Tim Effing (ILR advisor), Johann Stürken, Sina Bahm, Malte Seibt, Simon Kotlarov, Tobias Welsch, Lena Meinberg

At this year's NASA/DLR Aeronautical Design Challenge, the student team supervised by the ILR was able to beat four teams from German universities, thus securing the second title in a row for RWTH Aachen University. This student competition has been organized annually since 2017 as a collaboration between NASA in the USA and DLR in Germany.

While last year's focus was on urban air mobility and unmanned aerial vehicle systems, this year's challenge returned to its roots and thus to the design of a CS-25 passenger aircraft. In line with current research priorities in aviation, the aim was to design an efficient, low-emission and, as far as possible, climate-neutral short- to medium-haul aircraft. The six students in this year's RWTH team worked intensively on the subject over a period of five months. Due to the still ongoing Covid-19 situation, not only the competition rules, but also the necessary distance to the own team members had to be observed. Thus, despite communication obstacles, the HyZero concept was developed in many digital meetings. HyZero is a conceptual aircraft design for 150 passengers that runs on liquid hydrogen. Distinctive features include direct hydrogen combustion, a high aspect ratio wing with folding wing tips, and boundary layer ingestion at the tail to increase propulsive efficiency. In addition to the actual aircraft, which was developed to significantly reduce drag and weight while optimizing the integration of the hydrogen tank, the most convincing aspects were the coherent overall concept selection and the consistent comparison with a reasonably selected reference aircraft.

The combination of technical report, confident presentation and creative video convinced the jury consisting of Prof. Rolf Henke and various DLR institute directors in the final virtual meeting and secured the first place. In addition to active participation in the German Aerospace Congress 2021, the main prize for the team is participation in the virtual symposium of NASA, where they can present their concept to internationally recognized aerospace experts. The extent to which even a trip to NASA headquarters in Washington is compatible with the Corona guidelines will be determined by DLR in the coming months.

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