The 50-foot-wingspan Boeing Phantom Ray was securely mounted on a specially-designed framework that was in turn attached to the twin supports for NASA's space shuttles for its ferry flight atop NASA's modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. (Boeing photo / Ron Bookout) NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center is hosting the flight test operations of Boeing's Phantom Ray, a stealthy, jet-powered Unmanned Aircraft System aircraft.
While at NASA Dryden, the Phantom Ray will undergo a series of tests to prepare it to fly as a test bed for advanced technologies. Those tests are expected to culminate in a first flight sometime in 2011.
Dryden is providing hangar facilities, engineering and ground test support, as well as test range support for the project.
Under a Boeing-funded commercial Space Act agreement with NASA, the Phantom Ray aircraft was ferried from the company's facilities in St. Louis, Mo, to NASA Dryden at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California's high desert Dec. 14 atop NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905.
It is the first time something other than a space shuttle was carried by one of the two modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
Boeing's Phantom Ray unmanned aircraft system technology demonstrator became a paying piggyback passenger on NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft for its ferry flight from St. Louis to Edwards. (Boeing photo / Ron Bookout) Boeing used the converted jumbo jetliner to transport the Phantom Ray to Dryden as the most cost-effective way to accomplish the job, as the wings of the Phantom Ray aircraft are not removable, making overland transportation difficult and costly.
The Phantom Ray was mounted on a special Boeing-developed attachment rack that was installed on the two aft space shuttle mounting pylons on the modified 747.
The Phantom Ray is based on the X-45C aircraft that Boeing originally developed for the Joint-Unmanned Combat Air System program jointly sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Navy. That effort grew out of the X-45A project that successfully flew two prototype technology-demonstration aircraft at NASA Dryden between 2002 and 2005.