Future Changes at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

NASA's DC-8 Flying Lab (817NA) sits outside the new Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, CA 11/8/07
Photo: NASA / Tony Landis

1/21/2008 - Some changes are in the works at the NASA Dryden FRC. Numerous aircraft will have their base of operations moved to the new NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility, located in Palmdale, CA. One noteworthy aircraft will also be leaving the NASA fleet altogether.

In late 2007 NASA announced that it had leased the former Rockwell International / North American B-1 production facility at Air Force Plant #42 in Palmdale, CA. What's known as Building #703 at Site 9, will now become NASA Dryden's "Aircraft Operations Facility". The facility consists of 210,000 square feet of hangar floor space on 16.2 acres of land. The hangar door height is over 71 feet, allowing even the largest aircraft to be stored inside. Two 25 ton overhead cranes are available in the hangar as well. The facility will also offer office, lab, conference and storage spaces to staff and visitors.

Gulfstream III (502NA) is seen on the Dryden ramp with the Synthetic Aperture Radar pod mounted 1/22/07
Photo: NASA / Tom Tschida

Not all of the Dryden aircraft will be relocated to the new location... For the time being, the facility's primary tenant is NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The specific aircraft to be based at Palmdale for now are the 747SP 'SOFIA' (747NA), DC-8 "Flying Lab" (817NA), Gulfstream 3 (502) and both ER-2 aircraft, #806 and #809 (806NA and 809NA). Dryden's F/A-18 Hornets, T-38B Talons and other various aircraft, will all remain at their Edwards AFB facilities. Moving some of the aircraft from Dryden and basing them at Palmdale will also free up hangar space at the Edwards AFB facilities, which will be needed for new arrivals, such as the two RQ-4 Global Hawks recently acquired from the USAF 452nd Flight test Squadron.


NASA B-52H #61-0025 is displayed at the 2005 Edwards Air Expo 10/22/05
Photo: The North Spin

On a sad note, it's been reported that NASA's B-52H #025 will be departing Dryden for good. USAF B-52H #61-0025 had been obtained by NASA in mid 2002 as a replacement for the famous NB-52B #008 "Mother Ship". #008 was retired in 2004 after decades of supporting everything from the X-15 program to the X-43A program. #025 had been painted up in a striking new white paint scheme, in preparation for what looked to be the continuation of the captive carry mission at NASA Dryden. But in early 2007, it was rumored that the new B-52 might be returned to the USAF. It's now been confirmed that #025 is due to go back to the Air Force in February of 2008. The plan is to take it to Sheppard AFB where it will be utilized as a ground maintenance trainer. Exact details of why the aircraft is being returned have not been made public. It's believed that the decision to transfer the X-37 program from NASA to DARPA and contract Scaled Composites' "White Knight" as the captive carry aircraft, most likely spelled the end of a need for the B-52 captive carry ability at NASA.

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