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70 votes
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How did NASA Langley end up with the first 737?

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. ...
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54 votes
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Why does NASA's B-52 008 have a smoking engine in this photograph?

@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 ...
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45 votes
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What's the point of using T-38 to instill flight proficiency in Space Shuttle pilots?

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 ...
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37 votes
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Why does NASA have F/A-18s?

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 ...
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31 votes

Why does NASA's B-52 008 have a smoking engine in this photograph?

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 ...
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  • 1,959
19 votes

What's the point of using T-38 to instill flight proficiency in Space Shuttle pilots?

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 ...
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18 votes
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How is the D8 Double Bubble aircraft by NASA so efficient?

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 ...
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15 votes

Why does NASA have F/A-18s?

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 ...
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  • 4,183
10 votes
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Why was F-18 chosen to escort Space Shuttle Endeavour?

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 ...
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8 votes
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How is the camera positioned for these plane-to-plane Schlieren images of shock waves?

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 ...
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8 votes
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How unusual is it for remotely piloted aircraft to fly through commercial or general aviation airspace?

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 ...
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8 votes
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Why Apollo 11 was launched in summer? (Performance question)

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 ...
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8 votes
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What does it mean exactly when an aircraft is "35% unstable"? (aircraft stability factor)

At the most fundamental level, aircraft stability is governed by the relative positions of the center of gravity and the neutral point. The neutral point being the point about which the pitching ...
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7 votes

How is the D8 Double Bubble aircraft by NASA so efficient?

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 ...
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7 votes

How did NASA Langley end up with the first 737?

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 ...
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  • 171
6 votes

Why does the NASA GL-10 Greased Lightning run on diesel?

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 ...
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6 votes
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What might the business model be for a hypersonic jet?

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, ...
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6 votes

Could the vertical stabilizer be removed on the NASA X-57?

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 ...
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6 votes

What astronauts and/or pilots had their "own" T-38 for transportation and practice?

No pilot or astronaut has "their own aircraft". Not in any unit I've ever seen. Their name might be painted on the side of one, but they fly whatever the maintenance shop gives them for that ...
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5 votes
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How did pilots maintain the Vomit Comet's parabolic trajectory?

The NASA Vomit Comet was flown manually. From The dynamics of parabolic flight: flight characteristics and passenger percepts The control inputs required by the pilots of a parabolic flight aircraft ...
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5 votes
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Details about video equipment used to help assemble X-59?

The system may have many names depending on detailed configuration, but it is basically a mixed reality assisted manufacturing system. One example is described in this pdf document. The system ...
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5 votes

Could the Mars helicopter Ingenuity have been test-flown outdoors at JPL just for the heck of it? (not that they would)

No, Ingenuity was too heavy and underpowered to fly while on Earth. From 27:30 to 29:00 in the video of a 2021 May 13 press event, one of its designers, Matt Keennon, manually pilots what he called a &...
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4 votes

How unusual is it for remotely piloted aircraft to fly through commercial or general aviation airspace?

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 ...
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  • 96.3k
4 votes

Could the vertical stabilizer be removed on the NASA X-57?

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, ...
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  • 41
4 votes

How is the camera positioned for these plane-to-plane Schlieren images of shock waves?

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 ...
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  • 4,630
4 votes

Did NASA just broke the world record for fastest aircraft by going over 10 times faster than the previous record?

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 ...
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3 votes
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Is it viable to put an engine at the rear of the plane like in this photo?

As you look closely to the picture, there are also engines located under the main wings. Thus this is a trijet, a concept that has been used in the past by for example the MD-11, Lockheed tristart and ...
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3 votes
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How many B747s SCA does NASA have?

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 ...
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3 votes

How is the D8 Double Bubble aircraft by NASA so efficient?

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 ...
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