EDWARDS AFB - 2007 marked another year of accomplishment and growth, tempered by the passing of old friends, for NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.
In 2007, NASA Dryden supported a number of research projects and environmental science efforts, gathering and analyzing data that contributed to aerospace technology, the agency's space exploration goals and the knowledge and protection of our environment.
Now in its seventh decade as NASA's lead center for atmospheric flight research and operations, NASA Dryden is actively engaged in all four of NASA's mission concentrations – exploration systems, space operations, aeronautics research, and science.
Dryden has a critical role in the early development of NASA's Constellation Program systems. Applying Dryden's expertise with testing unique flight configurations, Dryden is helping to manage and implement the abort system flight tests for the Orion crew module, the first new manned spacecraft since the Space Shuttle. Dryden manages procurement and oversees development of the solid-fuel abort test boosters used for ascent abort testing and is responsible for the integration of the Orion test articles with their booster rockets.
Facilities construction began for the Orion abort flight tests at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in early October. Dryden is leading the development and integration of the full-size Orion test articles, along with development of the ground support equipment, flight instrumentation and launch facility construction for the Pad Abort and all Ascent Abort flight tests.
The completed Orion flight test boilerplate module is scheduled to arrive at Dryden in early 2008. While here, technicians will install the flight computers, instruments, and other electronics in preparation for flight tests at White Sands next fall.
Future Dryden support roles include Orion lunar heat shield and skip entry flight tests, Lunar Lander flight testing, Orion parachute drop test, flight simulation support of the Constellation training facility and west coast recovery operations.
Space Shuttle Atlantis landed at Edwards/Dryden on June 22, 2007 to conclude mission STS-117 to the International Space Station. The mission delivered the second starboard truss segment and energy systems as well as the S3/S4 Truss and a set of solar arrays to the station.
X-48B Blended Wing Body
The first flight of the X-48B Blended Wing Body sub-scale research aircraft on July 20, 2007 inaugurated a flight research program on the unique design. After initial flight-envelope expansion and various software and hardware upgrades, flight testing of the 21-foot wingspan, 500-pound, remotely piloted test vehicle will continue well into 2008.
The X-48B is a hybrid configuration that combines the best attributes of a conventional tube-and-wing aircraft with a flying wing. It has the potential to meet expected future Next Generation Air Transportation System requirements for low noise, low emissions and high performance. The X-48B Blended Wing body is a collaborative effort involving the Boeing Co. which designed the craft, NASA's Fundamental Aeronautics Program and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Sonic Boom Tests
NASA Dryden researchers examined the structural response of modern housing construction to both normal and low-amplitude sonic booms in the Housing Structural Response to Sonic Booms Test project from July 11 to July 20. The experiment consisted of NASA F-18 research aircraft flying unique profiles in order to present sonic booms to an Edwards Air Force base house instrumented to measure both pressure and vibration.
SOFIA Arrival and Flight Tests
NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, arrived at NASA Dryden May 31 from Waco, Texas, where L-3 Communications Integrated Systems installed a German-built 2.5-meter infrared telescope and made other major modifications over the past several years.
The aircraft started a series of flight tests in October to confirm the structural integrity and performance of the highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft with the telescope cavity door closed.
Following a couple of flights in December and January to check the functionality of the telescope in flight, the SOFIA will be transferred to its base of operations at Dryden's new Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. Installation of mission systems and further flight tests in 2008 and 2009 with the telescope cavity door open will verify that the unique airborne observatory is ready to perform its future astronomical science mission.
Ikhana Arrival and Wildfire Missions Support
After arriving at NASA Dryden in June, the Ikhana, a Predator B unmanned aircraft system adapted for civil science and research missions, was quickly put to operational use. Equipped with sophisticated infrared imaging equipment, Ikhana flew a series of wildfire imaging demonstration flights over the western states, and then assisted firefighters battling several large Southern California wildfires in October in response to a request from the California Office of Emergency Services and the National Interagency Fire Center.
Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility
In September, NASA Dryden leased a portion of the former Rockwell International / North American Aircraft B-1B production plant in Palmdale, Calif., from Los Angeles World Airports for a new Aircraft Operations Facility. NASA signed a 20-year lease on the property, which consists of a large hangar and office building and related infrastructure on 16.2 acres. Five of Dryden's environmental and space science aircraft will be based at the facility in the coming year.
The facility has immediate access to the adjacent U.S. Air Force Plant 42 and its two 12,000-ft runways, subject to Air Force procedures. With over 210,000 square feet of hangar space and an equivalent amount of space for offices, labs, conference accommodations and storage, the facility is ideal for collaborating with industry, visiting scientists and researchers, and aviation-related activities. Dryden anticipates this facility will become valuable to aerospace and aviation-related businesses looking for a new location or expansion opportunity.
NASA's DC-8 Airborne Laboratory Returns to Dryden
NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory returned to NASA's Dryden Nov. 8 after an absence of more than two years. The University of North Dakota had managed the flying science lab's missions since late 2005, although Dryden flight crews continued to operate the aircraft on worldwide missions. The converted jetliner is the first science aircraft to be based at Dryden's new Aircraft Operations Facility.
NASA Dryden continued efforts to improve science and mathematics education during 2007. Dryden welcomed two new NASA Explorer Schools, San Cayetano middle school in Fillmore, Calif., and Vintage Magnet School in North Hills, Calif. Two teachers from Arrowhead Elementary, a NASA Explorer School in Phoenix, Ariz., along with a Dryden education specialist, flew a student/teacher experiment aboard NASA's DC-9 reduced gravity aircraft in February.
The center's staff bid a final farewell to several members of the Dryden family whose contributions cover more than 60 years of innovative engineering and piloting accomplishments at Dryden.
Among them were former NASA Dryden engineer William P. Albrecht, who died July 16 at the age of 83. Retired NASA Dryden engineer and acting director De E. Beeler passed away on Sept. 11 at the age of 92. Former NASA Dryden research pilot Stanley P. Butchart died Oct. 1 in Lancaster at the age of 85. NASA Dryden research pilot Edwin W. Lewis Jr. died Nov. 8 at the age of 71, in the crash of a Civil Air Patrol plane southwest of Las Vegas, only hours after he led the flight crew in flying NASA's DC-8 science laboratory back to Dryden. Their legacy will live on as NASA Dryden moves forward into the future of aerospace research in 2008.
For more on aerospace research past and present at NASA Dryden, log onto www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden
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