Dryden History

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60 Years of Cutting-Edge Flight Research Marked at NASA Dryden
NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center is located at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Image above: NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center is located immediately adjacent to the compass rose on the bed of Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air ForceBase, Calif. NASA Photo

Sixty years ago, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) helped launch a new era in aviation. The NACA and its successor, NASA, have had a significant and uninterrupted presence in the high desert of Southern California ever since, leading to an unbroken chain of advances in aerospace.

Today the Hugh L. Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base is NASA's - indeed, the world's - premier flight research center, dedicated to exploring the unknowns in atmospheric flight.

Highlights of the past 60 years include:

--The X-1 series of research aircraft demonstrated that one could successfully fly faster than the speed of sound.

--X-15, the greatest rocket plane of them all, that caught the world's attention. The X-15 explored hypersonic flight - above Mach 5 - attaining a speed of 4,520 mph on one flight; and exo-atmospheric flight, reaching an altitude of 67 miles on another.

--The Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, developed as a tool to train astronauts for actually landing on the moon.

--Lifting bodies, aircraft that had no wings but whose blunt shape made it possible to enter Earth's atmosphere from space and glide to a controlled landing on a designated runway.

--Digital-fly-by-wire. Dryden engineers modified an F-8, removing all mechanical and hydraulic controls, resulting in the world's first digital fly-by-wire airplane.

--Space Shuttle: Dryden has not only hosted nearly half of all space shuttle landings, it conducted essential research and testing for the shuttle, including the all-important validation of its unpowered approach and landing on return from space.

--The X-43, the world's first airframe-integrated scramjet; the two research vehicles reached speeds of nearly Mach 7 and Mach 10 during their missions, becoming the fastest air-breathing aircraft in the world.

--Now, Dryden is aiding NASA's space exploration effort by managing the Constellation program's launch abort system testing for the new Orion capsule planned for the next lunar missions.

NASA Dryden's six decades of achievement in flight research has laid the framework for advancing space and aeronautics technology through flight in the decades to come. As it celebrates its 60th anniversary, the nation's premier high-speed, high-altitude flight test and aerospace research facility looks to the future by continuing to fly what others only imagine.

+ 60th Anniversary News Release

NASA Dryden Public Affairs