June 27, 2012
On Wednesday June 27th the Space and Aeronautics Academies toured Dryden Flight Research Center in southern California. Dryden is located at Edwards Air Force Base and, appropriately, has aeronautics-based research. After having lunch and exploring the gift shop the Academy Research Associates began their tour. The first stop on the tour was SRAT (Subsonic Research Aircraft Testbed). This was an instrument-heavy aircraft that allows scientists to perform various types of research. The aircraft can carry passengers, meaning scientists on the plane and on the ground can simultaneously analyze data. Upcoming tests to be conducted using SRAT include the Adaptive Compliant Trailer Edge Experiment. The main focus of this experiment was to reduce fuel burn.
The second stop on the tour was the Lunar Lander Research Vehicle. This vehicle was used by lunar mission commanders to practice lunar landings. After lunar missions were complete, commanders commented that, “Landing on the moon was easy because we had already done it”. Despite the fact that the landers ran on 8 K of RAM, they were clearly an integral part of the lunar missions.
The third stop was a hanger that contained the first Global Hawk ever built. The Global Hawk is an Earth science research vehicle that investigates environmental conditions like ozone holes, air characteristics, and hurricane conditions. The Global Hawks are now owned in a 50/50 partnership between NASA and Northrop Grumman. With their high altitude and long distance flying capabilities, the Global Hawks still play a useful role for NASA and have been on important flights like monitoring storm conditions during the Japanese Tsunami. The Global Hawk presentation was especially applicable to the NASA Academy because guided dropsondes (the focus of the Space Academy’s group project) are dropped out of Global Hawks.
The next stop on the tour was at the X48C to view an engine run test and examine the X48C after the test was over. The X48C is a scaled down aircraft that blends the wing body with the fuselage in a design known as a blended wing body. This is a partnered project between NASA and Boeing. The end goal is developing an aircraft with significantly less fuel usage and noise.
The final stop on the tour was near the entrance where the Academy learned about the planes that Dryden had on display and about historical aeronautic achievements. The tour was enjoyed by all and left the Academy with a better understanding of the aeronautical side of NASA.