The future meets the past as researchers from NASA, Boeing and the U.S. Air Force test what could be the shape of some airplanes to come. Engineers have installed a small-scale blended wing body prototype in an historic wind tunnel that once hosted some of America's greatest aviation pioneers, including Orville Wright, Howard Hughes and Charles Lindbergh.
Image to Right: Technicians install a Blended Wing Body prototype in NASA Langley's Full-Scale Tunnel. Credit: NASA/Jeff Caplan
Designated the X-48B by the U.S. Air Force, the prototype was developed by Boeing Phantom Works, St. Louis, Mo. It is being tested in the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The 21-foot wingspan aircraft, designed and built to Boeing specifications by Cranfield Aerospace, Cranfield, England, is an 8.5 percent scale version of a blended wing body concept. A blended wing body looks like a modified triangular-shaped wing and different than traditional tube and wing airplanes.
Technicians from Old Dominion University in nearby Norfolk, Va., which operates the wind tunnel, are putting the X-48B through a series of tests in the huge 30- by 60-foot test section. Engineers from Boeing and NASA want to assess the prototype's aerodynamic characteristics and use the wind tunnel data to better predict how it will react during flight tests later this year at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base. Calif.
News media representatives are invited to observe an X-48B wind tunnel test in the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel in Hampton, Va., May 4 at 10 a.m. For credentials, directions and escort please call Kathy Barnstorff at 757/864-9886/344-8511. Video, photographs and interviews will be available upon request.
The Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, has partnered with NASA and Boeing in the research effort. The Air Force is interested in the blended wing body concept's potential as a multi-role military aircraft that could be used for many different missions.
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