Volume 6, Number 1 January/February 1998
Aerospace Technology Development
Aerospace Technology Development: 1997 Year in Review
ASA's 1997 aerospace research was not only successful in putting to use valuable technologies in space, but it also resulted in the discovery of numerous applications on Earth. The following is a summary of 1997 highlights featured in Aerospace Technology Innovation.
Damage from earthquakes and high winds could be reduced by applying technologies developed to protect delicate experiments from minor vibrations and movements aboard the Space Shuttle in orbit. The active control technology for vibration isolation is mature and has a great potential market. Of the actively controlled buildings in operation today, all are in Japan with the exception of one in Taiwan. Other new construction will incorporate the technology, particularly in seismically active regions; it may be possible to retrofit the technology to other existing structures.
The NASA/Boeing X-36 Tailless Fighter Agility Research Aircraft successfully completed its flight research program in 1997 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California. Engineers demonstrated the feasibility of future tailless fighters, achieving agility levels superior to today's best military fighter aircraft and the development of a low-cost alternative to full-size prototype aircraft.
Satellite telemetry systems, created in the 1980s, found a market in the commercial communications field in 1997 for quick processing of voice, imagery and text data. Jim Chesney, founder of Goddard's Microelectric Systems Branch, discovered commercial applications for the technologies from the new telemetry system he was building and started his own company (1994), TSI Telsys. TSI Telsys' products and technology were developed for satellite telemetry applications.
Space launch vehicles, the next generation, are a step closer after the successful completion of a critical series of tests on a rocket engine that could power these future vehicles. Tested at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the Fastrac engineonly the second American-made engine developed in the last 25 yearswill be the primary propulsion system for the X-34 technology demonstration vehicle scheduled to begin flight tests in late 1998.
Lower costs for space access, the creation of new space services and activities and the achievement of optimum performance and efficiency could result from the completion of the first in a series of in-flight qualification tests of a linear aerospike engine in 1997 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. The NASA/Rocketdyne/ Lockheed Martin Linear Aerospike SR-71 Experiment (LASRE), includes a half-span, one-tenth-scale model of the X-33 being tested to power in 1999.
New Millennium program microprobes, hitchhiking to Mars aboard NASA's 1998 Mars Surveyor Lander, are charting the course for science in the 21st century after being the first technology validated in 1997 in NASA's new network approach to planetary science. The 1998 Mars Surveyor Lander mission is carrying two highly advanced microprobes, which will demonstrate an advanced microlaser system for detecting subsurface water on the Red Planet.
Improving airplane traffic safety in low visibility, with reductions in ground accidents, close calls and miscommunication, looks promising following tests and technology demonstrations during 1997 in the eastern United States. Demonstrations of NASA and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aircraft technology on the runways and taxiways of Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta concluded that reductions were possible by increasing situational awareness of pilots and controllers using a combined ground and airborne system with computer-generated graphics. The overall system integrates many technologies, including ground surveillance sensors and other equipment developed by the FAA aboard NASA's Boeing 757 research aircraft.
Astronauts and engineers have successfully concluded tests on a computer-generated virtual laboratory that will allow researcherslocated anywhere in the worldto study potentially dangerous aircraft and spacecraft situations without risking human life. The world's largest flight simulator, located at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, is able to move airplane and spaceship cockpits in all directions, including 60 feet vertically and 40 feet horizontally. There are five interchangeable cockpits that are used to simulate the Space Shuttle, helicopters, airplanes and other aerospace vehicles.
Measurements at higher altitudes and durations may be possible with the recent unofficial world record for high-altitude flight set by a solar-powered aircraft. A sleek, solar-powered, remotely piloted vehicle named Pathfinder has moved NASA closer to fulfilling growing scientific requirements for measurements at higher altitudes and durations than the current fleet of scientific platforms permits.
NASA has partnered with the general aviation industry in introducing the V-JET II, a turbofan-powered light aircraft designed for future flight testing and aimed at revolutionizing and revitalizing general aviation with a safer, smoother, quieter and more affordable light aircraft. The aircraft demonstrates breakthrough, low-cost turbine-engine propulsion systems for light, general aviation aircraft with cruising airspeeds greater than 200 knots.
A NASA computer network tool being tested at Ames Research Center could revolutionize the design, testing and construction of airplanes, shortening the process by 25 percent and eliminating retesting by providing more accurate and readily accessible information. The tool, called "Darwin," funnels wind tunnel data into a server computer and sends knowledge back in "near real time"within about 30 seconds to 5 minutesto researchers at NASA, at academic centers and in the aerospace industry, all located hundreds or thousands of miles from one another but linked to the computer system.
Finally, in 1997, Innovation reported that NASA researchers have begun tests they hope will lead to improved commercial aircraft efficiency and $140 million in annual fuel cost savings by minimizing aerodynamic drag, the aerodynamic force from air pressure and friction that resists passage of an aircraft as it flies through the air. Adaptive Performance Optimization experiment tests will obtain data on putting an aircraft's control surfaces in the best position to reduce drag. Dryden Flight Research Center began tests in May 1997 using a modified Lockheed L-1011 TriStar operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Virginia.
As we progress into 1998,Aerospace Technology Innovation will continue to report updates of past highlights, as well as feature new and exciting stories about NASA's aerospace technology developments.
For more information, you may access 1997 issues of Innovation at
NASA's Commercial Technology web site at http://nctn.hq.nasa.gov Or
contact Karen Kafton at the National Technology Transfer Center.
Arrows indicate the linear aerospike
Public Transportation: The Next Generation
The ISS has not even been assembled