NASA Meatball The First Century of Flight: NACA/NASA Contribution to Aeronautics blank graphic 2000–03 space shuttles image
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1950 subheader
Axial Compressor Drawing

1950–1960—Engineers at the Lewis laboratory pursued development of an axial flow compressor for jet engines that improved efficiency by an order of magnitude. This research became the basis of the modern high bypass jet turbofan.

The Slotted Throat Picture

1951—The Slotted Throat Transonic Wind Tunnel, a revolutionary step in the field of aerodynamics, demonstrating much less wall interference and providing reduced “choking” effects, became operational. Experiments were run in 1947 on 12-inch models of the tunnel to verify the concept.

Richard T. Whitcomb

1951—Richard T. Whitcomb of NACA Langley Research Center determined the transonic “Area Rule” that explained the physical rationale for transonic flow over an aircraft. This concept is now used in designing all transonic and supersonic aircraft.

H. Julian Allen

1951—H. Julian Allen of Ames Research Center near San Francisco, California, develops blunt-body reentry theory. The foundation of all reentry vehicles, this theory showed that a blunt body would survive the harsh environment of reentry, experimentally verified in 1953.



Swept Wing Model Picture

1952—Variable sweep research began. A variation of the swept wing theory, the variable sweep wing mechanically adjusted to different sweep angles to conform to either subsonic or supersonic flight.



D-558-2 Model Picture

1953—D-558-2, flown by Scott Crossfield, was the first aircraft to break Mach 2, or twice the speed of sound. The achievement culminated a joint Navy/NACA high-speed flight research program.

NACA Report R1135 Picture

1953—NACA Report R1135, “Equations, Tables, and Charts for Compressible Flow,” a bible for compressible flow aerodynamics, was published.


October 1, 1958—National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed. The 1958 Space Act was signed, establishing NASA as the organization responsible for both aeronautics and astronautics. NACA formed the core of this new space agency with other organizations from the Army and the Navy.

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Updated October 28, 2002
Steve Garber, NASA History Web Curator
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