Hot answers tagged

70

NASA has lots of cool aircraft. They get them sometimes when they get to the end of their life/retired, sometimes they are custom built trainers, and sometimes they are used to test research projects. You can find the full history of that particular 737 here NASA’s Boeing 737-100 Transport Systems Research Vehicle was the prototype 737, acquired by the ...


53

@Adam is right. The aircraft, NB-52B has smoke generator installed to assist in tracking. A smoke generator has been installed on the left wing of the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress mothership to assist in tracking the airplane. Its use during the test of X-38 is detailed here: Outside I could see the white trail from the smoke generator in the number-2 ...


52

If you're looking for a definitive source, how about the Shuttle Crew Operations Manual. It's essentially the POH for the Space Shuttle. Secton 2.14-2 says: The landing gear is deployed at 300 ± 100 feet and at a maximum of 312 knots equivalent airspeed (KEAS). Although, the targeted deploy speed was 288 KEAS according to the Normal Procedures section 5....


45

What the T-38 airplane provides NASA is currency and proficiency in high performance aircraft operations in a jet which has many of the same characteristics as the shuttle in this respect ie high wing loading, high approach and landing speeds, similar glide descent ratios. The White Rocket is a temperamental and challenging little jet to land and will not ...


37

NASA uses them for pilot training and as chase planes for research aircraft. The two-seat F/A-18 support aircraft are normally used for photo or video chase. They are configured to transmit live video pictures from the air back to Dryden so engineers can visually monitor the mission as it is being flown. This feature greatly enhances flight safety. There'...


31

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that they are using a smoke generator to make the B-52 aircraft easier to visualize. Typically for flight tests like this they would be doing optical tracking from the ground (essentially a telescope) and this would make it easier to locate the target. (I was going to add also for the pilot of the dropped aircraft, but ...


19

I flew the T-38 in pilot training. (They ended Vietnam and tossed most of us out before we could finish since they no longer needed pilots. Which also means I am now officially old.) Reasons to use a T-38 for NASA. The T-38 is a HIGH performance aircraft designed to be a to see if trainees could handle that type of plane. And to also emulated performance ...


18

The main advantage is its lower flight Mach number of 0.74. This allows it to use minimum sweep, which in turn reduces wing area, structural masses and thrust requirements. Now pick the right definition for efficiency (one that neglects speed), add the engine fuel consumption expected in 20 years, and the concept looks like a winner. If fuel prices go to \$...


17

Non-pilot astronauts are not required to become pilots. They fly in the backseat of T-38's partially for transportation purposes, and partially for flight regime training. They are called "mission specialists" and since their job does not require piloting skills, there is no reason to train them as such. NASA literature says "The T38 is used for flight ...


16

The official source says that the landing gear is deployed at around 1700ft AGL, however I suspect an error in that statement. According to the document though, the spaceshuttle has a 1.5 degree glideslope in the short final and around 200kt. In this video the landing gear is extended 18 seconds before the touchdown. 1.5° glideslope equals 2.6% glide path (...


15

They're mostly chase planes (source: NASA). NASA has four of them, two single-seat and two two-seaters. They provide more eyes on the plane for safety purposes (they are in communication with the pilot), and assist NASA's flight test missions. The two-seaters are also useful for photos and videos of flight tests so engineers have more info.


10

Because it's what they had at the time and it's what the astronauts were flying. Only one of the NASA F/A18's is actually a two seater: The aircraft were obtained from the U.S. Navy between 1984 and 1991. One has a two-seat cockpit while the others are single-seat aircraft. NASA research support aircraft are commonly called chase planes and fill ...


8

The temperature of the environment doesn't have a significant impact on the performance of a rocket engine. Air breathing engines have better performance in cold air because the mass density is higher at a given pressure, which allows them to ingest more air, and because the thermodynamic efficiency of a heat engine increases when the temperature of the cold ...


7

Looking at MIT's presentation, more specifically pages 13 - 15, they're counting on the fuselage being a lifting body, among other things. For most aircraft, the fuselage encompasses the passenger cabin, cargo cabin, fuel tanks etc. and is designed to impose as little drag as possible in the process. With a lifting body, the fuselage actually provides lift,...


7

Where is the camera relative to these target aircraft, and what's behind them? Straight from NASA themselves: NASA flew a B-200, outfitted with an updated imaging system, at around 30,000 feet while the pair of T-38s were required to not only remain in formation, but to fly at supersonic speeds at the precise moment they were directly beneath the B-200 ...


6

Well it’s cool but it’s nothing new. Hypersonic transports and runway to orbit vehicles have been proposed since the late 1970s but never materialized into flyable hardware for a number of reasons, mainly engineers have not been able to solve the technical challenges associated with structures, propulsion, mission profiles, heat transfer and protection, ...


6

There is a bit of a misnomer here, although the plane runs diesel engines it most likely does not run traditional diesel fuel as you would find at a gas station. Diesel engines can be run on Jet-A which is available far more widely than 100LL at airports outside the US which Ron mentions. There are even some applications for diesel engines in GA as noted ...


6

Differential thrust is not a good way to control the yaw of an airplane. For one thing thrust control has to be extremely quick, if it takes even a second between a control input and the thrust response then you won't have adequate control over the airplane. For another you are entirely dependent on having engine power available for stability, if you lose ...


6

The design was originally built for the military and Langley air-force base as Dave mentioned. It was then modified and given to NASA as the requested vehicle they needed. The ease of transfer was primarily due to NASA and Langley have been deeply connected, even since NASA was first formed. I cannot reveal all the details, but here is an example of ...


4

In the US, the main operators of large UAS (i.e. non CFR Part 107 aircraft) are Air National Guard (MQ-9) and the Department of Homeland Security (Customs and Boarder Protection, also MQ-9). Here is a table from the Pentagon on how many missions UAS flew domestically in FY2018. (Note that these are "missions" and do not include other types of operations such ...


4

Supplementary answer: As the question mentions this NASA page shows a diagram of traditional Schlieren photography and it's the idea I had in my head. I assumed you'd need a carefully prepared light beam and couldn't figure out how this was done. Than's to @ymb1's comment, here are some slides from the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center presentation ...


4

Doubtful. Aviation speed records are relative to the air or ground relative to the body they are flying. Ingenuity is currently a passenger on a spacecraft, it's not under its own power, it isn't flying and didn't do anything to get itself to the speed it is at. Once it is on Mars it will certainly be a record breaker, but that's when it's actually flying.


3

To answer the latter part of your question according to FAA regulations no UAS' may fly out of line of sight or without a chase plane: Flights below FL180 must have a dedicated observer. These duties may be performed by a ground based observer or chase plane. So in according to the legislation it never happens, at least not regularly. You can get a ...


3

Their presentation on page 87 specifically covers reasons for the fuselage design. Additional lift and more cabin room in a smaller fuselage seem to be the main reasons they give. But there are a lot of other details in the presentation too. But note: the fuselage shape is only part of the overall claimed efficiency improvements. There are many other ...


3

Another very good reason for not changing the tail surface at all is that this is a research aircraft--it is not an ideally optimized aircraft. By basing it on the Tecnam fuselage with no changes, NASA can get a baseline number for the drag reduction allowed by this small high aspect ratio wing vs. the original, much larger wing on the Tecnam twin engine ...


3

NASA had two Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. One was a modified Boeing 747-123. The other a 747-100SR-46. The SCAs were used to ferry space shuttle orbiters from landing sites back to the launch complex at the Kennedy Space Center and also to and from other locations too distant for the orbiters to be delivered by ground transportation. NASA 905, a Boeing 747-123 ...


2

The general idea is to keep the pilot thinking like a pilot. Even ordinary pilots have to have 3 landings in the previous 90 days before they can fly with passengers. It's like warming up before playing tennis; you have to be doing it to stay in the groove. Just like the first few balls you hit after not playing tennis for a while go over the fence, you can ...


2

Shuttle astronaut Mike Millane's autobiography, Riding Rockets, suggests that the mindset of flying a fast jet is a big factor, rather than the precise flight characteristics: NASA's simulators were great at preparing astronauts to fly the space shuttle, but they had one critical shortcoming. They lacked a fear factor. No matter how badly you screwed up, ...


2

NASA has a lot of aircraft that it uses for all kinds of things. Many of those were military aircraft that have had their weapons and such removed. They're still very high performance aircraft, much better than anything civilian, and that has pretty obvious appeal to NASA. In the original post, the F-18's appear to be an escort for a photo op. NASA has used ...


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