May 17, 2012

Second set of SBLT tests planned on NASA’s F-15B

Aerion Corporation’s test article used in the initial Supersonic Boundary Layer Transition flight test project in 2010 is shown attached to the Centerline Instrumented Pylon slung beneath NASA’s F-15B research aircraft.

Aerion Corporation is continuing its partnership with NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center with a scheduled second round of Supersonic Boundary Layer Transition research flights slated for this summer on NASA Dryden’s F-15B Research Test Bed aircraft.

The last round of tests during the summer of 2010 reached Mach 2.0 and used an instrumented flat plate to map the high-speed flow field under the F-15B and validate computer modeling. After analyzing the resulting data, aerodynamic design work for the new test article began in late 2010, followed by mechanical design in mid-2011. Fabrication of the 40-inch vertical span by 80-inch chord device is now underway and will be complete by the end of May.

A series of ground checks will be followed by one-hour supersonic test flights.

The new test article will be more representative of the Aerion wing in order to evaluate supersonic boundary layer transition properties as they relate to manufacturing standards for surface quality and assembly tolerances, both crucial to future production of the SBJ.

The flights gather baseline data on a composite flat plate designed to calibrate instrumentation designed to investigate the extent and stability of natural laminar or smooth flow at supersonic speeds over a special test airfoil section during the flights.

NASA Dryden’s SBLT principal investigator Dan Banks oversaw initial flight tests of Aerion Corporation’s flat-plate Supersonic Boundary Layer Transition test article in 2010. The left side of the test fixture contained five air data probes near the leading edge that provided air data. The right side held the composite flat plate.

Additionally, engineers will use the data to determine the effect of airfoil manufacturing tolerances on laminar airflow. In 2010, the company flew an SBLT flat plate experiment on Dryden’s F-15B to gather airflow data that is aiding company engineers in preparing a representative airfoil shape for the upcoming flights.

“This year’s planned F-15B test flights of the latest Aerion test article prove our partnership continues to be mutually beneficial,” said Dr. Richard Tracy, Aerion’s chief technology officer. “Our work with NASA will further refine future practical applications of aerodynamics for safe and efficient flight at higher speeds compared to today’s conventional subsonic civil aircraft.”

In addition to flying the test article on its supersonic F-15B, NASA Dryden is providing the required ground and flight support for the effort, which is being accomplished through a Space Act Agreement between the two partners. NASA is sharing in the resulting data from the flights, which take the experiment to speeds up to Mach 2, or twice the speed of sound.

Aerion, headquartered in Reno, Nev., built the flight test article.

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