Image Credit: NASA Langley/George Homich
Almost since the dawn of powered flight, military aircraft have benefitted from NASA aeronautics research. Back then – in 1917 – it wasn’t called NASA. It was the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which changed its name to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1958.
That legacy continues today and is getting recognition. A government/industry team, led by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and including NASA, won Aviation Week magazine’s 2013 prestigious Laureate Award in Aeronautics and Propulsion for the Speed Agile Powered Lift System Concept Demonstrator. The idea behind the program is to design a next-generation tactical mobility aircraft that could give the U.S. Air Force more flexibility to deliver supplies and troops to remote regions of the world that might not have traditional infrastructure such as long, paved runways. Included on the award winning research team were not only NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s Fixed Wing Project, but also Boeing Research & Technology; Lockheed Martin; Advanced Technologies, Inc.; and Williams International.
Since the research efforts started in 2002, AFRL and its partners have designed, tested and validated technology for cruise-efficient short takeoff and landing aircraft. NASA’s primary interest is in the dual use technology and its potential application to future airliners. NASA contributed computational tool, wind tunnel, simulator and aerodynamic expertise at its Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. and Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. Researchers tested several concepts in NASA Langley’s National Transonic Facility and 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel. They also used NASA Ames’ Vertical Motion Simulator to evaluate flying qualities and control schemes for an advanced transport.