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July 6, 1999

Release: 99-20

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NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., sent its fastest and highest-flying airplane, the SR-71A, into the air for further research flights to evaluate the SR-71's performance, handling and flying qualities with a test fixture mounted atop the aft section of the aircraft. This test fixture was originally used for the Linear Aerospike SR-71 Experiment (LASRE), supporting research for the X-33 program.

The flight of the SR-71 "A"model occurred on June 30, 1999, which was the first flight of this aircraft since October 29, 1998. The aircraft reached a maximum speed of Mach 2.25, about 1,450 mph at 55,000 feet. Three more flights are scheduled between July to September with the next flight planned for mid-July.

"The long anticipated prospect of getting the SR-71 aircraft back in the air is exhilarating," said Steve Schmidt, Dryden's SR-71 project manager. "This phase of the flight research program has gotten off to a great start in that the aircraft and project team performed flawlessly which is further testament of the cooperative "teamwork" that has been a sustaining hallmark of the SR-71 programs."

NASA's "B" model is used for proficiency training for pilots and the flight test engineers. Recently the "B" model completed its planned 200-hour phase inspection and has been put into flyable storage. These two SR-71s have been on loan to NASA from the U.S. Air Force, which just transferred ownership to NASA.

In addition to these two SR-71's, the Air Force turned over possession of its two other flyable SR-71s, which will complement the other two NASA planes in future flight research programs providing unsurpassed flexibility as well as additional capabilities to perform multiple high-speed research experiments.

The SR-71 can fly more than 2200 miles per hour, Mach3+ or three times the speed of sound, and at altitudes of over 85,000 feet. Data from the SR-71's high-speed research program will be used to aid designers of future supersonic and hypersonic aircraft and propulsion systems, including a high-speed civil transport. SR-71 flights have also provided information on the presence of atmospheric particles at extremely high altitudes, where future hypersonic aircraft will be operating.

As research platforms, the SR-71s carry out research and experiments in a variety of areas: aerodynamics, propulsion, structures, thermal protection materials, high-speed and high temperature instrumentation, atmospheric studies and sonic boom characteristics.

The LASRE project was a small, half-span model of a lifting body positioned on the rear of the SR-71 aircraft, which operated like an "airborne wind tunnel." The SR-71 has also acted as a surrogate satellite for transmitters and receivers on the ground, assisting in the development of a commercial satellite-based, instant and wireless, personal-communications network, called IRIDIUM.

Another project with the SR-71 joined NASA and the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), investigating the use of charged chlorine atoms to protect and rebuild the ozone layer. Ongoing research in high-speed, high-altitude flight continues to gain interest among the scientific community, industry and other government agencies.


Note to Editors: Still photos and video footage are available from the Dryden Public Affairs Office to support this release. Photos are also available on the Internet under NASA Dryden Research Aircraft Photo Archive, Dryden News and Feature Photos, URL: http// Dryden news releases are available on the Internet at: /centers/dryden/news/NewsReleases/index.html

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