NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

The first A in NASA stands for aeronautics. The federal agency best known for rockets started out as the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1915 and became NASA in 1958. These are the picture so from my trip to Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. This facility has served as a flight test environment since the 1940s.

I was lucky enough to be selected as part of a NASA Social event where 30 folks were brought in to see and hear about what NASA is working on. NASA is not all about rockets. Aeronautics is the first “A” in there. The pictures here show some of the active NASA fleet and some retired NASA Andy Air Force icons. Check the captions for details.

The Mach 2.24 X-1E sits in honor in front of NASA Armstrong
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836 is the oldest flying F-15 in the world. It is a preproduction 1973 model that isn’t used as a test bed for high speed experiments. It is lovingly maintained and has been extensively updated by NASA over the years.
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There is a small hidden marker in one of the hangars. It marks the spot where test pilot Scott Crossfield ran an F-100 into the wall after a dead stick landing (no one thought it was possible). After the landing he taxied to hangar and when he hit the brakes there was no pressure left to avoid the X-15s in the hangar he steered into the wall.
Three F-18s are use daily by NASA for various testing. One is being used for low impact sonic boom testing. One was used to test ground avoidance equipment. They are also used as chase planes.
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IKHANA is a NASA operated MQ-3 (Preditor) UAS. NASA is using it to work with the FAA on integrating UAS into the National Airspace. Building logic and trust is a big deal with this tech. The drone has also been used to image wildfires in California to help firefighters and hurricanes.
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This is a small scale aircraft that is testing low drag designs. Increased wing span offers an 11% improvement in efficacy over conventional aircraft.
The model shop and the NASA Social crew.
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An Oppo member and test article for UAS that would be used on Mars. The Mars flyers will be about this size.
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The pink boots of test pilot Bill Dana. Don’t laugh, they’ve gone faster than you
A tire from STS-77 Endevour.
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NASA was having an issue with shuttle tires overheating and failing. This little RC tank was intended do to roll up to a Shuttle tire and drill a hole if pressures rose too high after landing
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A cool price of art showing the legacy of the X-15.
The list of famously pilots and engineers who have walked through these doors makes my eyes water.
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At the guest entrance to Edwards Air Force Base is Century Circle. Home to one of each of the century series fighters. Near by is The Boeing YC-15 technology demonstrator.
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F-100 Super Sabre
NASA had some great 1960s and 1970s murals
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One of two X-29s with its forward swept wings.
A selection of retired NASA aircraft with the stunning F-104 Starfighter. This particular Starfighter flew Shuttle tiles through the rain at high speeds to see how they would do.
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ALF was a mascot of the X-29 program. The more you know...
This aircraft helped pioneer digital fly by wire tech.
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The F-15 ACTIVE tested advanced menuvorability tech including those huge canard sure and vectored thrust.
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Blackbird 844 it flew with NASA until 1997.
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The F-16XL. I had a poster of this beauty hung on my wall when I was a kid.
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955 was an Air Force test bed.

At the event we got to hear the NASA administrator talk about the plans for the next 10 years. We then heard NASA Armstrong director talk about their mission. They will have two new X planes in the coming years. One will be an electric aircraft looking to improve efficiency over gas fuels planes by 500%. The other will focus on efficiency improvements for commercial aircraft. We heard about their efforts with drones (UAS) with everything from large scale aircraft flying in the airspace like crewed aircraft like everything’s else and little tiny ones to fly on Mars. In the middle of all the panels a plane flying over the field broke the sound barrier and we were treated to a boom. The pressure wave pushed the doors to the auditorium open a bit.

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We had two hangar tours. One took us to IKHANA, their large drone adapted from the Predator. We then hit their model airplane shop. They test a lot of concepts on models first. The large flying wing offers an 11% efficiency increase over standard designs. The small one I’m holding is roughly the same size and shape that they will send to Mars.

Later we hit the big aircraft hangar. This is home to F-15s and F-18s along with a King Air and a couple of other transport planes.

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The NASA Armstrong folks were great. I had good talks with their head UAS pilot and one of their engineers. These folks are passionate about what they’d do, but are also realistic. A lot of hard work is needed to. Ale the concepts they are working on viable in the operational world.

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