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Wind Tunnel Support for Space Exploration

Development of space transportation vehicles requires significant wind tunnel testing to address configuration development for planetary exit and reentry challenges. The Ames Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel (UPWT) provides the unique environment (Mach number range, data quality, flow quality, productivity, etc.) and value required for this quest.

PIV System

Right: PIV System in 11" x 11" Test Section. VMS, Vertical Motion Simulator

The Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel (UPWT) located at NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) has been a key provider of test and evaluation services to the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs. More recently the facility has been utilized in support of the Space Launch Initiative (SLI), X-37, and Orbital Space Plane (OSP) Programs. The UPWT is a closed circuit pressure tunnel consisting of two operation test sections, the 11 – foot by 11 – foot transonic leg and the 9 – foot by 7 – foot supersonic leg with a combined Mach number range from 0.2 to 2.5.

Test Section 11"x11"x22" 9"x7"x18"
Mach Number 0.20 to 1.5 1.55 to 2.5
Reynolds Number (10 6/ft) 0.30 to 9.6 0.90 to 6.5
Stagnation Pressure (psia) 3.0 to 32.0 4.4 to 29.5

Space Shuttle

Right: Space Shuttle in UPWT 9" x 7" Test Section.

In support of the testing capabilities of the UPWT, ARC has developed a suite of optical instrumentation systems that provide critical knowledge of flow phenomena, specifically with respect to multiple body interaction phenomena. Two of these techniques, the Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) and Pressure Sensitive Paint (PSP), will be implemented on the Return to Flight (RTF) tests in the UPWT during the Summer of 2004 to focus on interactive effects of Shuttle, External Tank, and Booster Rockets.