Search Langley


NASA Fact Sheet

Text Size

Langley Research Center: Continuing a Legacy of Aerospace Success

Along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay is the United States' first civilian aeronautics research laboratory. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics established the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Virginia, in 1917.

Aerial view of NASA Langley

Image above: Aerial view of NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Credit: NASA

Today, Langley continues this legacy of aerospace success with exciting research in aeronautics and space from understanding the benefits of remotely piloted aircraft, testing innovative materials for tomorrow's spacecrafts, determining how future astronauts will live and work on the Moon, to studying the Earth's atmosphere.

Langley's contributions in aerospace, atmospheric sciences, and technology commercialization are improving everyday life while supporting NASA's Exploration program.

Langley's Legacy Builders

About 3,600 employees work in Langley's wind tunnels, simulators, laboratories, and use experimental aircraft to further enhance the Nation's aerospace research.

Langley-developed complex computer codes have helped improve understanding of aircraft design and streamlined the design process.

With an annual budget of $758 million in 2007, Langley Research Center is a significant contributor to the Agency's Aeronautics, Exploration Systems, Science, and Space Operations missions.

Langley's Areas of Expertise

Langley provides an integrated approach to understanding robust aerospace systems that can perform in all atmospheres, Earth to Mars, and using new, innovative techniques and measurements that offer new scientific knowledge of Earth and other planetary atmospheres.

These unique Langley capabilities have led to the development of revolutionary aerospace, science, and engineering systems that have improved safety and air transportation, supported Space Shuttle missions, and provided a more detailed understanding of atmospheric conditions than traditional weather satellites and instruments.

Langley's Latest Achievements

Working on the Moon

Because the Moon has no atmosphere, extreme temperatures, and fine gray, corrosive soil, working and living there holds new challenges. To prepare for these challenges, NASA experts are determining what it may take to build a base camp on the lunar surface.

Launch abort system test hardwareImage to right: Langley has fabricated space hardware for testing the launch abort system. Credit: NASA

Langley's team of experts is performing experiments to evaluate such technologies as self-healing materials, radiation protection, and damage tolerance for a planetary surface habitat and airlock unit. Testing of this lunar base camp will help researchers determine the best materials and designs to use to construct future inflatable lunar habitats.

Guiding a New Constellation

With more than 2.5 times the interior volume of its early Apollo predecessors, the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) called Orion will carry NASA astronauts back to the Moon and in the future to Mars. This next generation spacecraft will bring the Vision for Space Exploration to life.

To permit Orion's four to six-member crew to safely escape from the Launch Vehicle, Langley's expertise will be used to design, develop, test, and evaluate the CEV Launch Abort System.

Langley has completed the design and fabrication of a space capsule mock-up that will be used in the first flight test of the launch abort system, presently set for late 2008. To help propel NASA's return to the Moon in the future, the Center will characterize the aerodynamics of the Ares I and V launch vehicles from the analysis phase to the recovery phase.


Langley scientists are gaining new insight about how clouds and airborne particles effect Earth's weather, climate, and air quality with the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO).

CALIPSO mission, artist's conceptImage to right: CALIPSO makes continuous readings of earth’s atmosphere. Credit: NASA

Since mid-June 2006, CALIPSO along with other earth-observing satellites, has collected data that will help improve scientific models and provide a better understanding of the human impact of the atmosphere. CALIPSO data are available via Langley's Atmospheric Sciences Data Center.

CALIPSO is collaboration between NASA and the French Space Agency, Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales.

Exposing Materials to Space

Space is a harsh environment containing ultraviolet radiation and atomic oxygen. These extreme conditions can have damaging effects on spacecraft materials.

The Material International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) managed by Langley has tested hundreds of material samples engineered to better understand the Sun's radiation, extreme temperatures and other elements.

In 2008, two suitcase sized, Passive Experiment Cases containing various materials from spacecraft coatings to solar cell technologies will be mounted to the International Space Station (ISS), and exposed to Space.

After orbiting 220 miles above the Earth, NASA scientists in 2007 began examining how the retrieved materials endured the starkness of space to improve materials used for future space missions as well as consumer products.

New Airplane Shape Takes to the Skies

A remotely piloted prototype that was tested at NASA Langley could be the shape of airplanes to come.

X-48B wind tunnel testingImage to right: The X-48B scale model being tested in the Langley Full-Scale Wind Tunnel. Credit: NASA

The X-48B Blended Wing Body (BWB) looks more like a flying wing than a traditional tube and wing aircraft.

Engineers tested the eight and a half percent scale model in the Langley Full Scale Tunnel, before it started flight tests at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

The X-48B is part of a joint research effort between NASA, Boeing and the Air Force Research Laboratory. Langley engineers are studying advanced blended wing body designs, because they offer better fuel efficiency and payload capacity and produce less noise.

Langley Astronaut Delivers Columbus Laboratory to the International Space Station

Former Langley researcher Leland Melvin took his structures and materials expertise to space as a member of the STS-122 crew aboard space shuttle Atlantis.

Leland MelvinImage to right: Astronaut Leland Melvin in training gear. Credit: NASA

> STS-122 Mission Page

Melvin operated the 58-foot robotic arm on Atlantis that delivered the 22-foot-long, 13-ton Columbus Laboratory to the International Space Station.

The procedure took about 2 1/2 hours and will include carrying as astronaut on the arm during a spacewalk. The manuever's timing and distance are exact, and the movements are calibrated in minutes and centimeters.

While at Langley, Melvin was part of the Non-Destructive Evaluation Sciences Branch.

Langley Takes Invention of Year Honors

A Langley device that can act like muscle and nerves for a wide range of aerospace and down-to-earth applications was recently named the 2006 NASA Government Invention of the Year.

Macro-Fiber Composite can be attached to a structure to bend it, reduce vibrations and monitor force with the application of electrical voltage. The device is primarily used in industrial and research applications for vibration monitoring and dampening.

In addition to improved helicopter rotor blades performance, NASA uses include vibration monitoring of support structures near the space shuttle pads during launches.

Non-aerospace applications being evaluated include suppressing vibration in performance sporting equipment such as skis, force and pressure sensing for industrial equipment, and sound generation and noise cancellation in commercial grade appliances.

Record Number of Patents Awarded Langley

Langley researchers received 10 patents in 2007 covering such areas as aircraft wing design, various sensors, and spacecraft materials.

Leading the Agency with the most number of patents awarded over the past decade, Langley has received more than 200 patents between 1997 - 2007 for various inventions and technology breakthroughs.

As a result, people are benefiting daily from NASA inventions and technologies from monitors that alert persons of an unattended object or person, sensors that report atmospheric conditions to airplane pilots, tools that detect damage to airplane structures to lightweight polymers used in plastic food containers.

Engineering and Safety

The NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) is chartered to serve as an Agency wide technical resource focused on engineering excellence.

The NESC's objective is to improve safety by performing independent engineering assessments, testing and analysis to uncover technical vulnerabilities and to determine appropriate preventive and corrective actions for problems, trends, or issues within NASA's programs, projects, and institutions.

Using NASA's best engineering expertise and its government, university, national laboratory, and industry partners, the NESC accepts requests for involvement from all across the Agency, as well as from numerous external sources.

National Institute of Aerospace

Langley helped to establish the National Institute of Aerospace, a non-profit research and graduate education institute, to compliment its mission to conduct cutting-edge aerospace and atmospheric research.

Founded by a consortium of leading research universities and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Foundation, the institute integrates research and graduate education while creating new partnerships among academia, government, and industry to solve tomorrow's problems today.

Langley Leading the Way

Since its inception, NASA Langley has made significant contributions to the Nation's space program.

From training the original seven Mercury Project astronauts, conducting wind tunnel tests of the Saturn-Apollo vehicle, to developing the entry, descent, and landing flight dynamics simulation for the Mars Exploration Rover mission, Langley researchers have used their expertise to further mankind's understanding of the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

Today, Langley experts are readily preparing to chart a new course in space exploration, and achieve the goals outlined in the NASA Vision for Space Exploration. Likewise, they are also diligently working to develop new technologies to improve air transportation here on Earth as well as enhance our understanding of Earth's complex systems and the effects of climate change.

For more information about NASA Langley Research Center, visit us online at: