Flying NASA lab will ‘sniff’ SAF-powered plane’s emissions

A flying NASA lab is going to measure non-CO2 emissions from aircraft that fly on Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). The NASA DC-8 Airborne Science Lab will fly behind a commercial jet as it flies. 

 The flying lab will closely follow Boeing's 737-10 Explorer demonstrator that will fly with SAF and conventional jet fuel in separate tanks, alternating fuels during testing. While NASA’s DC-8 Airborne Science Lab is ‘sniffing’ the air and measuring non-CO2 emissions produced by each type of fuel and the contrail ice particles, NASA satellites will capture images of contrails forming from the lead plane.  

Image by NASA


According to a report by IMECHE, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the researchers aim to understand how advanced fuels, engine combustor designs and other technologies could reduce contributions to atmospheric warming.  

 The tests are also aimed at finding out how how SAF affects the characteristics of contrails. Research has suggested certain contrails can trap heat in the atmosphere. Compared to conventional jet fuel, SAF can reduce emissions by up to 85% over the fuel's ‘life cycle’. SAF also produces less soot, Boeing said, which can improve air quality near airports.