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December 21, 2010

Gray Creech
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

2010 - A Year of Broad Achievement 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 2010, advancing the agency's overall mission of leading the nation in aerospace technology and science research.

From supporting space shuttle missions and conducting the Orion spacecraft's launch abort system flight test to preparing the next generation of aerospace workers, NASA Dryden played a vital role in 2010 touching all of NASA's efforts in service to the nation.

Science Mission Directorate

SOFIA - The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), an international collaboration between NASA and the German Aerospace Center, achieved two major milestones in 2010, seeing "first-light" during its first in-flight night observations last May and completing the first three "early science" flights in early December, demonstrating the flying observatory's potential to make discoveries about the infrared universe. Staged from the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., the initial astronomy mission focused on recording infrared imagery of areas within the Orion galaxy's star-formation complex with Cornell University's Faint Object InfraRed Camera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST) instrument that was mounted on the telescope.

Operation Ice Bridge 2010 - NASA's largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice, Operation IceBridge, kicked off its second year of study when NASA aircraft arrived in Greenland last March. Operation IceBridge research allows scientists to track changes in the extent and thickness of polar ice, which is important for understanding ice dynamics.

NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory had a central role in both the spring and fall IceBridge deployments. Scientists and flight crew flew 14 Arctic science missions during a five-week period, focusing on Arctic sea ice, which reaches its maximum extent each year in March or early April. High- and low-altitude flights also surveyed Greenland's ice sheet and outlet glaciers. The fall IceBridge Antarctic campaign in mid-October and November saw the DC-8 make 10 dedicated science flights totaling nearly 115 flight hours from a staging base in Punta Arenas, Chile, using a suite of seven environmental instruments. Researchers focused on re-surveying areas undergoing rapid change, using a suite of seven environmental instruments mounted on the flying laboratory.

Gulf for Oil Spill Surveys - NASA's Gulfstream III environmental research aircraft flew to the Gulf of Mexico June 22-24 for a radar-imaging mission over the Gulf oil spill area using the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar, or UAVSAR, developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The flights followed up on previous imaging missions by NASA's ER-2 science aircraft with the AVIRIS spectrometer at NOAA's request.

Quake Fault Studies in Haiti, Dominican Republic - In response to the Jan. 12 disaster in Haiti, NASA added a series of science overflights of earthquake faults in Haiti and the Dominican Republic by the UAVSAR-equipped G-III to a previously scheduled three-week airborne radar campaign to Central America.

GloPac Science Campaign - NASA successfully completed the first science campaign by the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system from a control center at NASA Dryden. The Global Hawk Pacific 2010 mission, or GloPac, involved a series of long-duration flights by the autonomously operated aircraft over the Pacific Ocean from the Arctic to the equator. Ten instruments on the aircraft collected a wide range of atmospheric data. The timing of GloPac flights allowed scientists to observe the breakup of the polar vortex, a large-scale cyclone in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere that dominates winter weather patterns around the Arctic and is particularly important for understanding ozone depletion in the Northern Hemisphere.

GRIP Mission - Dryden's DC-8 and Global Hawk aircraft participated in NASA's Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes, or GRIP, mission in August and September. The six-week mission studied the formation and strengthening of tropical storms in the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic Ocean.

Along with aircraft from NASA's Johnson Space Center and other agencies, more than 200 hours of data-collection flight time were flown during the mission, the DC-8 amassing more than 140 flight hours alone during 25 flights. The long-endurance, high-altitude Global Hawk flew several missions of more than 24 hours' duration during the campaign, including one flight of 20 passes over the eye of the developing Hurricane Earl.

Exploration Mission Directorate

Orion Launch Abort System - NASA's Pad Abort 1 flight test, a launch of the abort system designed for the Orion crew vehicle, lifted off on May 6, 2010, at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) near Las Cruces, N.M. The 135-second flight was the first fully integrated test of this launch abort system design. The information gathered from the test will help refine design and analysis for future launch abort systems, resulting in safer and more reliable crew escape capability during rocket launch emergencies.

Aeronautics Mission Directorate

X-48B BWB Completes Phase 1 Test Flights - The NASA-Boeing X-48B team completed the first phase of flight tests on the subscale X-48B blended wing body aircraft at NASA Dryden Flight last March. Following completion of Phase I, the X-48B was disassembled for a complete inspection and refurbishment. Flying resumed with a checkout flight in September.

The Phase I flight tests ascertained the handling and flying qualities of the blended wing concept at speeds typical of landings and takeoffs. The second series of flight tests will focus on additional parameter identification investigations following installation and checkout of a new flight computer. The parameter identification work will evaluate the new computer's control of the X-48B's flight control surfaces and effect on the airplane's performance.

The remotely piloted, 500-pound airplane with the silhouette resembling a manta ray - also called a hybrid wing body - is a tool of NASA's new Environmentally Responsible Aviation, or ERA, Project, which aims to develop the technology needed to create a quieter, cleaner, and more fuel-efficient airplane for the future.

Supersonic Boundary Layer Transition Flights - NASA Dryden flight-tested a sub-scale test article of an advanced laminar flow airfoil intended for Aerion Corporation's planned supersonic business jet on Dryden's F-15B research aircraft. Called the Supersonic Boundary Layer Transition, or SBLT project, the effort was accomplished through a Space Act Agreement between the two partners.

Sonic Boom Research - For several years, NASA has been researching means to reduce not only the strength of the shockwave produced when a high-performance aircraft exceeds the speed of sound, but also the perceived intensity of those shockwaves - or sonic booms - heard by persons on the ground.

NASA Dryden conducted several research flights by two F/A-18 aircraft in the Sonic Booms on Big Structures project in October to create multiple sonic booms of varying intensities in the local area of Edwards Air Force Base. The experiments examined the structural response of large office buildings to low-amplitude sonic booms, as well as allowing experienced observers to gauge the perceived intensity of the sonic booms.

Reimbursable Projects

Mars Rover Landing Radar Tests - During May and June, NASA Dryden provided logistics and range support for a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory team that tested a landing radar system for the next Mars Science Laboratory rover mission adjacent to Dryden's Edwards facilities.

Testing included suspending a full-scale engineering model of the MSL rover from a helicopter and flying pre-planned flight trajectories over Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards to simulate the rover's descent stage carrying the rover to the surface of Mars. JPL engineers needed to verify that the radar will provide accurate altitude and velocity measurements at Mars and that the suspended rover will not confuse the ability of the descent stage's radar to accurately calculate the rover's descent speed for a safe, on-target landing.

ALHAT Lidar Sensor Flight Tests - In August, NASA's Dryden hosted flight tests of a lidar sensor suite developed by NASA's Langley Research Center, and terrain sensing and recognition unit and lidar pointing controller being developed by Jet Propulsion Laboratory under the Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology, or ALHAT, project. An Erickson Air-Crane helicopter carrying the ALHAT lidar equipment flew over a varied obstacle course set up on Rogers Dry Lake to test the sensor's ability to distinguish the various materials, sizes, shapes and colors while providing precision vehicle velocity and position to help assure safe landings of future manned and robotic spacecraft on extraterrestrial bodies.

Global Observer Wing Structural Loads Tests - NASA Dryden supported the Department of Defense on the Global Observer Joint Capability Technology Demonstration program by conducting structural loads, ground vibration and structural mode interaction testing of a test article wing of AeroVironment's Global Observer-1 test wing in Dryden's flight loads laboratory. Additionally, 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 Global Observer is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system using a lightweight structural design and a highly efficient power and propulsion system.

Dream Chaser Model Air Drops - In December, NASA Dryden supported helicopter airdrop flight tests of a 5-foot-long, 15-percent scale model of the Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft design. The captive carry and drop flights of the 88-pound model helped validate various aspects of the Dream Chaser vehicle's configuration and performance, such as flight stability and aerodynamics.

Dryden provided ground and range safety support, including a T-34 chase aircraft for photo and video imagery, scheduling and flight test operations engineering support and hangar facilities under a Space Act Agreement between the two organizations.

Phantom Ray Arrives - Boeing's Phantom Ray, a stealthy, jet-powered Unmanned Air System technology demonstration aircraft, was ferried from the company's facilities in St. Louis, Missouri, to NASA Dryden on Dec. 14th atop a NASA Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, the first time something other than a space shuttle has been carried by the modified Boeing 747s.

NASA Dryden is hosting Phantom Ray flight test operations, including hangar facilities, engineering, ground test and test range support. First flight is expected in 2011.

Other Dryden Events of Note in 2010

David D. McBride Named center director - NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden appointed David D. McBride as director of NASA Dryden in early January. McBride had been serving as acting director of NASA Dryden since the retirement of former Dryden center director Kevin L. Petersen in April 2009, and had previously served as Dryden's deputy director since June 2008.

F-15B Passes Milestone - NASA Dryden's F-15B research aircraft No. 836 made its 400th NASA research flight in late July. This distinction puts the aircraft in sole possession of the record for the most research flights ever of a single aircraft at NASA Dryden.

'New' F-15Ds arrive - NASA Dryden received three F-15D Eagle aircraft from the U.S. Air Force for use in flight research and mission support roles in September, after the demilitarized high-performance aircraft were retired by the 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. One of the twin-engine, two-seat tactical fighters will eventually replace Dryden's aging F-15B research test bed aircraft, a second F-15D will be used for mission support, while a third will serve as a spare parts source.

Summer of Innovation - Middle-school students learned about aeronautical concepts like sonic booms, those thunderous noises that happen when an aircraft penetrates the sound barrier, during a Summer of Innovation event at Dryden in late August. They compared the intensity and duration of noise created by screaming into a microphone with a sonic boom generated by aircraft later in the day.

Dryden Hosts NASA's First Bilingual Web Chat - NASA Dryden pilot Herman Posada, who flies both the Global Hawk and Ikhana / Predator B remotely operated unmanned aircraft, received and answered questions live as they were submitted by the public during NASA's first bilingual Internet web chat Sept. 23. More than 220 questions from at least 33 persons were received during the 90-minute on-line web chat.

For more details about any of these projects or activities, visit NASA Dryden's website at www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden and enter the project or activity name in the "Search" field.


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