7/26/2007 - EDWARDS, Calif. -- NASA's Dryden Flight Research
Center in Edwards, Calif., provided critical support for the
first flight July 20 of the X-48B. The 21-foot wingspan, 500-pound
remotely piloted test vehicle took off for the first time at
8:42 a.m. PDT and climbed to an altitude of 7,500 feet before
landing 31 minutes later. The Boeing Co. of Seattle developed
the blended wing body research aircraft.
"Friday's flight marked yet another aviation first achieved
by a very hard-working Boeing, NASA and Cranfield team,"
said Gary Cosentino, Dryden's Blended Wing Body project manager.
"The X-48B flew as well as we had predicted, and we look
forward to many productive data flights this summer and fall."
NASA's participation in the blended wing body effort is focused
on fundamental, advanced flight dynamics and structural concepts
of the design. It is a Subsonic Fixed Wing project managed by
NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, Washington.
In addition to hosting the X-48B flight test and research activities,
NASA provided engineering and technical support -- expertise
garnered from years of operating cutting-edge air vehicles.
NASA assisted with the hardware and software validation and
verification process, the integration and testing of the aircraft's
systems and the pilot's ground control station. NASA's range
group provided critical telemetry and command and control communications
during the flight, while flight operations provided a T-34 chase
aircraft and essential flight scheduling. Photo and video support
completed the effort.
Boeing's Phantom Works designed the X-48B flight test vehicles
in cooperation with NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory
at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to gather detailed
information about the stability and flight-control characteristics
of the blended wing body design, especially during takeoffs
The Boeing blended wing body design resembles a flying wing,
but differs in that the wing blends smoothly into a wide, flat,
tailless fuselage. This fuselage blending provides additional
lift with less drag compared to a circular fuselage, translating
to reduced fuel use at cruise conditions. Since the engines
mount high on the back of the aircraft, there is less noise
inside and on the ground when it is in flight.
Three turbojet engines enable the composite-skinned, 8.5 percent
scale vehicle to fly up to 10,000 feet and 120 knots in its
low-speed configuration. The aircraft is flown remotely from
a ground control station in which the pilot uses conventional
aircraft controls and instrumentation while looking at a monitor
fed by a forward-looking camera on the aircraft.
Up to 25 flights are planned to gather data in these low-speed
flight regimes. Then the X-48B may be used to test the aircraft's
low-noise and handling characteristics at transonic speeds.
NASA long has supported the development of the blended wing
body shape and concept, participating in numerous collaborations
with Boeing on vehicle design and analysis, as well as several
wind tunnel entries of various sizes and design models.
NASA is interested in the potential benefits of the aircraft:
increased volume for carrying capacity, efficient aerodynamics
for reduced fuel burn and possibly significant reductions in
noise due to propulsion integration options. In these initial
flights, the principal focus is to validate the research on
the aerodynamics and controllability of the shape, including
comparisons of the flight data with the extensive wind-tunnel
Later studies will be conducted to provide a detailed understanding
of this unique aircraft shape and a knowledge database to enable
a future full-scale design.
Two X-48B research vehicles were built by Cranfield Aerospace
Ltd., in Bedford, England, in accordance with Boeing requirements.
The vehicle that flew on July 20 is Ship 2, which also was used
for ground and taxi testing. Ship 1, a duplicate, completed
extensive wind tunnel testing in 2006 at the Full-Scale Tunnel
at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Ship 1 will
be available for use as a backup during the flight test program.
Source: NASA Dryden Press Release by Gray Creech