Aerospace science and research is top notch in the "Aerospace Valley": NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., helped advance the agency’s overall mission of Earth and space science and aerospace technology research as it continued supporting NASA's four mission areas during 2012.Aeronautics
The famous X-48
A remotely piloted "C" version of the X-48 Blended Wing Body sub-scale research aircraft successfully flew for the first time on Aug. 7, 2012. The new X-48C model was modified from its earlier X-48B configuration to evaluate the low-speed stability and control of a low-noise version of a proposed future Hybrid Wing Body (HWB) aircraft design.
Ths project’s 100th flight milestone occurred Oct. 30 when the X-48C made its seventh and eighth flights. Between 2007 and 2010, the aircraft, then in the X-48B configuration, made 92 flights. Designed by the Boeing Co. and built by Cranfield Aerospace Ltd. of the United Kingdom, the X-48 is flying in partnership with NASA.
Fighting the sonic boom
NASA Dryden flew a series of low-supersonic, high-altitude flight profiles during the Farfield Investigation of No Boom Threshold, or FaINT, flight research project. The effort, involving several NASA centers, industry and university partners, collected data to expand the collective knowledge of sonic boom propagation effects to provide the data necessary for engineers to design future low-boom supersonic aircraft. The overarching goal of NASA's sonic boom reduction research is to shrink the sonic boom "footprint" in order to make civil supersonic flight over land practical.
Avoiding ground collision danger
Dryden researchers successfully conducted flights tests of a miniature automatic ground collision avoidance system (Auto-GCAS) for small unmanned aircraft last May. During final test flights of the software integrated into an autopilot on the Dryden Remotely Operated Integrated Drone (DROID) research aircraft, the smartphone-assisted system consistently commanded evasive maneuvers when it sensed the aircraft was getting too close to rocky, mountainous terrain or ridgelines and impact with the terrain was imminent.
NASA's Dryden facility completed the first flights in the Unmanned Air Systems in the National Airspace (UAS in the NAS) project, using the unmanned MQ-9 Ikhana aircraft for evaluation of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) aircraft tracking system adapted for UAS. All aircraft operating in certain U.S. airspace must adopt ADS-B aircraft tracking technology by January 2020 in order to comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations. The flight was the first time an unmanned aircraft as large as the MQ-9 had flown equipped with ADS-B. The initial flights checked out the system's capabilities in the "out" or transmit mode, while more recent flights evaluated the system's "in" or receive data mode and its ability to downlink information to the ground control station.