Imagine working at the world-renowned NASA Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC) every day. Well, the SHS aviation, aerospace and defense team was fortunate enough to do that. Okay, it was only for four days, but we were still working at NASA alongside client Aerion Corporation and NASA DFRC on natural laminar flow (NLF) testing.
Aerion is developing the world’s first supersonic business jet, the SBJ. Their pioneering jet design will take advantage of NLF to use much less power and fuel to achieve and sustain supersonic flight. The applications for subsonic flight are also revolutionary. Read all about it at the Aerion website.
Full disclosure: We let the scientists handle the science. We were there to develop the message. NASA often collaborates and shares data with companies like Aerion that are deeply committed to developing aerospace’s next frontier, and NASA and Aerion have worked together for years on supersonic NLF for civil applications. NASA’s interest is in NLF data for all kinds of future aircraft. Aerion’s is in making the next big step toward the actual manufacturing specs of the SBJ. Our challenge: Communicate this highly technical story of ongoing development, progress and advancement to a wide-ranging civil aviation audience.
NASA DFRC makes up a small part (only about 2,500 acres) of Edwards Air Force Base located in the Mojave Desert. The stretch from the main gate to the DFRC facility itself is barren desert. The most historic test aircraft ever flown – X-1A, X-15, M2-F1, HL-10, F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire, F-8 Supercritical Wing and SR-71 – welcome visitors to the remote base. And for aerospace enthusiasts like us, walking the halls that Neil Armstrong, Chuck Yeager, Scott Crossfield and Bill Dana once walked is nearly overwhelming.
We saw firsthand that NASA’s current work is as significant as ever, as they continue to push the outer edge of aerospace’s development. We learned the background and passion of the committed NASA and Aerion professionals. The fact that they work in the Mojave Desert (one of the most inhospitable places on earth) alone speaks volumes to their dedication and desire.The Aerion test article, a facsimile of an aircraft wing, rides under one of NASA’s F-15s, and test data is sent back to master control. Air-to-air video is collected by a chase plane, in one case, an F-16. Dozens of professionals pour hundreds of hours of preparation into a half-hour of supersonic test flight.
We took this sense of excitement and discovery home with us, along with a couple terabytes of video. Visitors to the Aerion booth at the world’s major general aviation conventions, as well as visitors to the Aerion website, will see the results as close to firsthand as we can make it. We’re happy to report that those results were successful. And we look forward, with the rest of the aerospace world, to the next great leap in technology coming out of the combination of private and public genius.