Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center
Armstrong Flight Research Center from the air
|Preceding agencies||Dryden Flight Research Center
Muroc Flight Test Unit
High-Speed Flight Research Station
|Jurisdiction||U.S. federal government|
|Headquarters||Edwards Air Force Base, California, U.S.|
|Agency executive||David D. McBride, director|
The Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, located inside Edwards Air Force Base, is an aeronautical research center operated by NASA. It was originally named in honor of Hugh L. Dryden, a prominent aeronautical engineer who at the time of his death in 1965 was NASA's deputy administrator, and it is still variously known as Dryden or the Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC) while the details of the name change are decided. First known as the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Muroc Flight Test Unit, the DFRC has also been known as the High-Speed Flight Research Station (1949) and the High-Speed Flight Station (1954). The facility was renamed, effective March 1, 2014, the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center in honor of Neil Armstrong, the first human being to walk on the surface of the moon. Similarly the Western Aeronautical Test Range at the facility was renamed the NASA Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range.
The facility is NASA's premier site for aeronautical research and operates some of the most advanced aircraft in the world. It was also the home of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), a modified Boeing 747 designed to carry a Space Shuttle orbiter back to Kennedy Space Center if one landed at Edwards. David McBride is currently the center's director. He succeeded Kevin Petersen, who retired in April 2008.
Until 2004, Armstrong Flight Research Center operated the oldest B-52 Stratofortress bomber, a B-52B model (tail number 008) which had been converted to drop test aircraft, dubbed 'Balls 8.' It dropped a large number of supersonic test vehicles, ranging from the X-15 to its last research program, the hypersonic X-43A, powered by a Pegasus rocket. The aircraft was retired and will eventually find a permanent home at the North Gate of Edwards; a fitting location for an aircraft that was arguably the greatest contributor to aerospace and flight test development.
NASA's predecessor, NACA, operated the Douglas Skyrocket. A successor to the Air Force's Bell X-1, the D-558-II could operate under rocket or jet power. It conducted extensive tests into aircraft stability in the transsonic range, optimal supersonic wing configurations, rocket plume effects, and high-speed flight dynamics. On November 20, 1953, the Douglas Skyrocket became the first aircraft to fly at over twice the speed of sound when it attained a speed of Mach 2.005. Like the X-1, the D-558-II could be air-launched using a B-29 Superfortress. Unlike the X-1, the Skyrocket could also takeoff from a runway with the help of JATO units.
Controlled Impact Demonstration
The Controlled Impact Demonstration was a joint project with the Federal Aviation Administration to research a new jet fuel that would decrease the damage due to fire in the crash of a large airliner. On December 1, 1984, a remotely piloted Boeing 720 aircraft was flown into specially built wing openers which tore the wings open, fuel spraying everywhere. Despite the new fuel additive, the resulting fire ball was huge; the fire still took an hour to fully extinguish.
Even though the fuel additive did not prevent a fire, the research was not a complete failure. The additive still prevented the combustion of some fuel which flowed over the fuselage of the aircraft, and served to cool it, similar to how a conventional rocket engine cools its nozzle. Also, instrumented crash test dummies were in the airplane for the impact, and provided valuable research into other aspects of crash survivability for the occupants.
Linear Aerospike SR-71 Experiment
LASRE was a NASA experiment in cooperation with Lockheed Martin to study a reusable launch vehicle design based on a linear aerospike rocket engine. The experiment's goal was to provide in-flight data to help Lockheed Martin validate the computational predictive tools they developed to design the craft. LASRE was a small, half-span model of a lifting body with eight thrust cells of an aerospike engine. The experiment, mounted on the back of an SR-71 Blackbird aircraft, operated like a kind of "flying wind tunnel."
The experiment focused on determining how a reusable launch vehicle's engine plume would affect the aerodynamics of its lifting body shape at specific altitudes and speeds reaching approximately 750 miles per hour (340 m/s). The interaction of the aerodynamic flow with the engine plume could create drag; design refinements look to minimize that interaction.
Lunar Landing Research Vehicle
The Lunar Landing Research Vehicle or LLRV was an Apollo Project era program to build a simulator for the Moon landing. The LLRVs, humorously referred to as "Flying Bedsteads", were used by the FRC, now known as the Armstrong Flight Research Center, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to study and analyze piloting techniques needed to fly and land the Apollo Lunar Module in the moon's airless environment.
Satellite image of Armstrong Flight Research Center and the Edwards compass rose
- "NASA Center Renamed in Honor of Neil A. Armstrong". NASA.
- "NASA Honors Astronaut Neil Armstrong with Center Renaming". NASA Press Release 14-061. 28 February 2014.
- An Act to Redesignate the Dryden Flight Research Center as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center and the Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range
- "New Dryden Director: Administrator Bolden Selects David McBride". NASA. 2010-01-15. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
- "NASA Dryden Director Kevin Petersen to Retire in April". NASA. 2009. Retrieved September 16, 2009.
- Official website
- X-Press official newsletter
- Photo Collection for NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
- The Spoken Word: Recollections of Dryden History, the Early Years, edited by Curtis Peebles
- Flight Research: Problems Encountered and What They Should Teach Us by Milton O. Thompson The early days of the DFRC