NASA Dryden Assists in Global Observer Wing Structural Loads Tests
Global ObserverArtist's rendering of AeroVironment's Global Observer high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft. NASA Dryden is assisting in structural loads testing of a test article wing of a Global Observer-1. (AeroVironment, Inc. image) NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center is supporting the Department of Defense (DoD) on the Global Observer Joint Capability Technology Demonstration program.

The Global Observer program is a DoD technology demonstration program with prime contractor AeroVironment, Inc. The aircraft is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system using a lightweight structural design and a highly efficient power and propulsion system.

NASA Dryden's current work for the program centers on structural loads testing of a test article wing of a Global Observer-1. The test will be conducted in Dryden's Flight Loads Laboratory. Dryden is providing expertise for the loads testing, ground vibration (modal survey) testing and structural mode interaction testing. In addition, the center is providing the test fixture design, test planning, technical and design reviews, range safety support and feedback to DoD and AeroVironment representatives.

Also, a Dryden-developed strain sensing technology, the Fiber Optic Wing Shape Sensor, is being incorporated into the wing structure of the Global Observer-1 aircraft. The sensing technology, already flight-proven aboard Dryden's Ikhana remotely piloted aircraft, lets engineers and ground operators know the changing structural state of highly flexible wing structures in real time.

Global Observer is being developed to provide stratospheric global persistence with no latitude restrictions. Endurance of the liquid-hydrogen powered aircraft is expected to be up to one week, carrying a payload of up 400 lbs. for the initial aircraft. The aircraft is optimized to operate at an altitude between 55,000 and 65,000 feet.

In addition to defense and homeland security missions, civil and commercial applications may include communications relay and remote sensing payloads, hurricane/storm tracking and other weather monitoring, and aerial imaging and mapping for commercial and environmental monitoring.

By Gray Creech
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
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