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December 21, 2009

Gray Creech
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

2009 - Another Year of Accomplishment at NASA Dryden

EDWARDS, Calif. - NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., continued supporting NASA's four mission areas during 2009, advancing the agency's overall charter of leading the nation in aerospace technology.

From supporting two Space Shuttle landings and preparing the Orion spacecraft's abort launch system for flight test, to preparing the next generation of aerospace workers, NASA Dryden played a vital role in 2009 touching all of NASA's efforts in service to the nation.

Space Operations

STS-125 and STS-128 Space Shuttle Landings - Following its historic mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope for the last time, space shuttle Atlantis landed at Edwards on May 24 due to unacceptable landing weather at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the STS-125 mission to Hubble, astronauts replaced several components to lengthen the orbiting observatory's life so that it can continue providing unparalleled views of the universe.

A second space shuttle landing occurred on Sept. 11 as the shuttle Discovery arrived to end the STS-128 mission to the International Space Station. As it has from the very start of the shuttle program, NASA Dryden supported the landings, post-flight servicing and return of the shuttles to Kennedy for their next missions.

Exploration Systems

Orion Launch Abort System Flight Test - NASA Dryden continued preparations for the Orion Launch Abort System pad abort flight test scheduled for next year, culminating in the shipping of the test capsule to the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico Aug. 13 following completion of avionics and hardware installation.

Dryden is leading the Orion Abort Flight Test effort, with the first pad-abort test currently scheduled to fly next spring at White Sands.

Environmental and Space Science

Global Hawk - NASA Dryden rolled out the first of its two Global Hawk aircraft on Jan. 15, and flew the aircraft's first functional check flight Oct. 23.

The aircraft operate under NASA's Science Mission Directorate to conduct Earth science research. Northrop Grumman will share in the aircraft's use to conduct its own flight demonstrations for expanded markets, missions and airborne capabilities, including integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace.

DC-8 Airborne Laboratory - NASA Dryden's DC-8 flying science laboratory conducted a series of flights this past fall as part of Operation Ice Bridge, a six-year campaign to survey ice at Earth's polar regions. The aircraft carried scientists and their sensing instruments on a study of changes to Antarctica's sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets over a six-week period from a staging base at Punta Arenas, Chile, from mid-October through late November before returning to its base at the NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.

On July 22 and 24, the flying laboratory also conducted low-level flights over California's San Joaquin Valley as part of an Earth science experience for university students and educators. The aircraft flew as low as 1,000 feet above ground to collect air samples for a multinational group of undergraduate and graduate university students participating in NASA's Student Airborne Research Program. Several middle- and high school math and science teachers participating in NASA's Airborne Research Experience for Educators were also aboard.

SOFIA Airborne Observatory - After almost two years of ground-based developmental and testing work, NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, program began open-door flight tests in December. These milestone flights are to clear the flying observatory for the initial "first light" astronomical observation flights beginning in 2010.

ER-2 - One of NASA's ER-2 high-flying Earth resources aircraft flew a series of environmental science missions over the northern and eastern United States in July to gather forest and cloud data. The flights were staged out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

G-III - NASA Dryden's G-III science platform aircraft embarked on a two-month expedition to Greenland and Iceland May 1. The mission, consisting of scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Dryden, studied the flow of Greenland's and Iceland's glaciers and ice streams, and mapped Greenland's icy surface topography. About 97,000 square miles of land was mapped during 110 hours of data collection using the aircraft's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar, or UAVSAR.

Wildfire Imaging Support - NASA's remotely piloted Predator B aircraft Ikhana, equipped with an infrared imaging sensor, conducted post-burn assessments of two Southern California wildfire sites, the Piute Fire in Kern County and the Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest. The unmanned aircraft completed the seven-hour imaging flight Nov. 19 from NASA Dryden.


X-48B Blended Wing Body - NASA Dryden and The Boeing Co. continued expanding the flight envelope for the X-48B blended wing body research aircraft, flying more than 30 flights this year. The X-48B team completed several key milestones, including flying the aircraft in the slats-retracted position and and through high angle-of-attack and engine-out evaluations. NASA Dryden is providing critical support and 50-percent cost sharing to a Boeing-led project team that also includes Cranfield Aerospace Ltd., of Bedford, England.

Sonic Boom Reduction Research - Members of the United Nations-affiliated International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, monitored a series of sonic boom research flights conducted by NASA Dryden on Sept. 9. Two NASA Dryden F/A-18s flew both straight supersonic flight profiles as well as a unique supersonic diving profile designed to present a quieter sonic boom to specific locations along their flight path.

This research, collectively called Sonic Booms on Big Structures, or Sonic BOBS, complements previous efforts to measure the pressure and loudness of sonic booms on both older- and newer-construction housing on Edwards Air Force Base. The effort was coordinated by the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate's Supersonics Project office at NASA Headquarters.

Ruddervator Testing Completed - A long period of extensive loads and heat testing on an advanced aerodynamic control surface test article ended in November in Dryden's Loads Lab, providing data to support the development of advanced hypersonic flight vehicles.

NF-15B Lancets & Retirement - Prior to its retirement, NASA Dryden's NF-15B research aircraft flew a final series of flight tests in the Lift and Nozzle Change Effects on Tail Shock, or Lancets, project. The research flights measured the shock waves generated by another F-15 jet in an effort to validate computer models that could be used in designing quieter supersonic aircraft.

In March, NASA Dryden retired the iconic, extensively modified red, white and blue workhorse aircraft, ending its 15-plus year stint as a dynamic platform for a multitude of advanced aerodynamic and propulsion experiments.

Alternative Jet Fuels Tests - In January, NASA and 11 other research groups tested two non-petroleum-based jet fuels in the pursuit of alternative fuels that can power commercial jets and address rising oil costs. The NASA tests, ran on one of the CFM-56 engines that power NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility, measured the performance and emissions of two synthetic fuels derived from coal and natural gas.


Education Outreach - NASA Dryden's Education group reached out locally, regionally, and even nationally to more than 60,000 students and educators to engage them in NASA's educational goals promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education.

A local example of this effort served more than a score of children and their parents as they learned about flying in space during a hands-on NASA Education Family Night at the AERO Institute in Palmdale, Calif. in February that focused on the STS-119 space shuttle mission.

Student programs gave high school through graduate students practical engineering career experience via hands-on exposure to the lifecycle of flight research.

NASA Dryden Education again sponsored or supported several local high school robotics teams that scored high in regional competitions sponsored by the FIRST organization. The Education office supported the Girl and Boy Scouts, local high schools, libraries, museums, and city governments.

Students at all ages were engaged outside of the classroom through activities including merit badges and patches, professional development workshops for leaders, and summer robotics workshops to motivate middle school students in engineering.

URC Project - NASA Dryden provided leadership in the management of NASA's University Research Centers, or URC project. The URCs are multidisciplinary research centers established to align with specific areas of NASA interest and increase the number of students who major in and enter the STEM workforce. Thirteen URCs are currently funded on the nation's minority institution campuses.

Other MIlestones

New Center Director - A significant leadership change occurred at NASA Dryden in 2009, when David McBride was named the Center's Acting Director, following the retirement of director Kevin Petersen in March. Petersen finished 38 years with NASA Dryden, with more than 10 of those as center director.

Apollo 11 40th Anniversary - NASA Dryden supported several Apollo 11 40th Anniversary events commemorating the first lunar landing in July 1969. Celebrations culminated with the planting of two moon trees in July and September in Lancaster and Palmdale, Calif., by several distinguished Apollo program alumni, including Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan, Apollo 9 commander James McDivitt, Apollo crew backup and space shuttle mission commander Gordon Fullerton, along with Apollo-Soyuz and space shuttle mission commander Vance Brand.

New IT Center - Groundbreaking was held Oct. 14 for a new Consolidated Information Technology Center to be constructed at NASA Dryden. The state of the art, 22,000-square-foot, two-story structure is being built adjacent to the existing Data Analysis Facility on Dryden's Edwards campus, and is expected to be complete about 18 months after start of construction.

Aircraft Operations Facility Dedication - The Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility was dedicated on April 9, formally opening the facility for operations. It houses several NASA Science Mission directorate aircraft, such as the SOFIA, G-III and the DC-8, which will be joined by NASA's ER-2s in early 2010.

Space Elevator Games - NASA Dryden hosted the Space Elevator Games the week of Nov. 2, sponsored by the Spaceward Foundation under auspices of NASA's Centennial Challenges technology development program. The Seattle-based LaserMotive team won $900,000 for meeting the Level 1 standard of having their laser-powered robot climb a 900-meter-long cable suspended from a hovering helicopter in less than 7.5 minutes.

Community Outreach - NASA Dryden supported numerous community outreach events both locally and around the country during 2009. Among them were the Lancaster, Calif., Poppy Festival; the City of Palmdale's Thursday Nights on the Square; 35 air shows around the country including the Edwards Air Force Base air show; an Antelope Valley Symphony Orchestra concert in Lancaster that featured NASA video imagery with their performance of The Planets; the Antelope Valley Aerospace Walk of Honor and the Lancaster Veteran's Parade. Dryden also participated in the Lancaster JetHawks minor league baseball team's annual bobblehead night, which honored former NASA SR-71 crew members Ed Schneider, Bob Meyer, Rogers Smith and the late Marta Bohn-Meyer.

For more about research at NASA Dryden, visit:


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