12/17/2007 - EDWARDS AFB, CA -- 2007 marked another
year of accomplishment and growth, tempered by the
passing of old friends, for NASA's Dryden Flight
Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.
In 2007, NASA Dryden supported a number of research
projects and environmental science efforts, gathering
and analyzing data that contributed to aerospace
technology, the agency's space exploration goals and
the knowledge and protection of our environment.
Now in its seventh decade as NASA's lead center for
atmospheric flight research and operations, NASA
Dryden is actively engaged in all four of NASA's
mission concentrations – exploration systems, space
operations, aeronautics research, and science.
Dryden has a critical role in the early development
of NASA's Constellation Program systems. Applying
Dryden's expertise with testing unique flight
configurations, Dryden is helping to manage and
implement the abort system flight tests for the Orion
crew module, the first new manned spacecraft since the
Space Shuttle. Dryden manages procurement and oversees
development of the solid-fuel abort test boosters used
for ascent abort testing and is responsible for the
integration of the Orion test articles with their
Facilities construction began for the Orion abort
flight tests at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile
Range in New Mexico in early October. Dryden is
leading the development and integration of the
full-size Orion test articles, along with development
of the ground support equipment, flight
instrumentation and launch facility construction for
the Pad Abort and all Ascent Abort flight tests.
The completed Orion flight test boilerplate module is
scheduled to arrive at Dryden in early 2008. While
here, technicians will install the flight computers,
instruments, and other electronics in preparation for
flight tests at White Sands next fall.
Future Dryden support roles include Orion lunar heat
shield and skip entry flight tests, Lunar Lander
flight testing, Orion parachute drop test, flight
simulation support of the Constellation training
facility and west coast recovery operations.
Space Shuttle Atlantis landed at Edwards/Dryden on
June 22, 2007 to conclude mission STS-117 to the
International Space Station. The mission delivered the
second starboard truss segment and energy systems as
well as the S3/S4 Truss and a set of solar arrays to
The first flight of the X-48B Blended Wing Body
sub-scale research aircraft on July 20, 2007
inaugurated a flight research program on the unique
design. After initial flight-envelope expansion and
various software and hardware upgrades, flight testing
of the 21-foot wingspan, 500-pound, remotely piloted
test vehicle will continue well into 2008.
The X-48B is a hybrid configuration that combines the
best attributes of a conventional tube-and-wing
aircraft with a flying wing. It has the potential to
meet expected future Next Generation Air
Transportation System requirements for low noise, low
emissions and high performance. The X-48B Blended Wing
body is a collaborative effort involving the Boeing
Co. which designed the craft, NASA's Fundamental
Aeronautics Program and the Air Force Research
Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Sonic Boom Tests
NASA Dryden researchers examined the structural
response of modern housing construction to both normal
and low-amplitude sonic booms in the Housing
Structural Response to Sonic Booms Test project from
July 11 to July 20. The experiment consisted of NASA
F-18 research aircraft flying unique profiles in order
to present sonic booms to an Edwards Air Force base
house instrumented to measure both pressure and
NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared
Astronomy, or SOFIA, arrived at NASA Dryden May 31
from Waco, Texas, where L-3 Communications Integrated
Systems installed a German-built 2.5-meter infrared
telescope and made other major modifications over the
past several years.
The aircraft started a series of flight tests in
October to confirm the structural integrity and
performance of the highly modified Boeing 747SP
aircraft with the telescope cavity door closed.
Following a couple of flights in December and January
to check the functionality of the telescope in flight,
the SOFIA will be transferred to its base of
operations at Dryden's new Aircraft Operations
Facility in Palmdale, Calif. Installation of mission
systems and further flight tests in 2008 and 2009 with
the telescope cavity door open will verify that the
unique airborne observatory is ready to perform its
future astronomical science mission.
After arriving at NASA Dryden in June, the Ikhana, a
Predator B unmanned aircraft system adapted for civil
science and research missions, was quickly put to
operational use. Equipped with sophisticated infrared
imaging equipment, Ikhana flew a series of wildfire
imaging demonstration flights over the western states,
and then assisted firefighters battling several large
Southern California wildfires in October in response
to a request from the California Office of Emergency
Services and the National Interagency Fire Center.
Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility
In September, NASA Dryden leased a portion of the
former Rockwell International / North American
Aircraft B-1B production plant in Palmdale, Calif.,
from Los Angeles World Airports for a new Aircraft
Operations Facility. NASA signed a 20-year lease on
the property, which consists of a large hangar and
office building and related infrastructure on 16.2
acres. Five of Dryden's environmental and space
science aircraft will be based at the facility in the
The facility has immediate access to the adjacent
U.S. Air Force Plant 42 and its two 12,000-ft runways,
subject to Air Force procedures. With over 210,000
square feet of hangar space and an equivalent amount
of space for offices, labs, conference accommodations
and storage, the facility is ideal for collaborating
with industry, visiting scientists and researchers,
and aviation-related activities. Dryden anticipates
this facility will become valuable to aerospace and
aviation-related businesses looking for a new location
or expansion opportunity.
NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory returned to
NASA's Dryden Nov. 8 after an absence of more than two
years. The University of North Dakota had managed the
flying science lab's missions since late 2005,
although Dryden flight crews continued to operate the
aircraft on worldwide missions. The converted jetliner
is the first science aircraft to be based at Dryden's
new Aircraft Operations Facility.
NASA Dryden continued efforts to improve science and
mathematics education during 2007. Dryden welcomed two
new NASA Explorer Schools, San Cayetano middle school
in Fillmore, Calif., and Vintage Magnet School in
North Hills, Calif. Two teachers from Arrowhead
Elementary, a NASA Explorer School in Phoenix, Ariz.,
along with a Dryden education specialist, flew a
student/teacher experiment aboard NASA's DC-9 reduced
gravity aircraft in February.
The center's staff bid a final farewell to several
members of the Dryden family whose contributions cover
more than 60 years of innovative engineering and
piloting accomplishments at Dryden.
Among them were former NASA Dryden engineer William
P. Albrecht, who died July 16 at the age of 83.
Retired NASA Dryden engineer and acting director De E.
Beeler passed away on Sept. 11 at the age of 92.
Former NASA Dryden research pilot Stanley P. Butchart
died Oct. 1 in Lancaster at the age of 85. NASA Dryden
research pilot Edwin W. Lewis Jr. died Nov. 8 at the
age of 71, in the crash of a Civil Air Patrol plane
southwest of Las Vegas, only hours after he led the
flight crew in flying NASA's DC-8 science laboratory
back to Dryden. Their legacy will live on as NASA
Dryden moves forward into the future of aerospace
research in 2008.
Source: NASA Dryden Press Release