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NASA Facts F-15 ACTIVE Advanced Control Technology for Integrated Vehicles (2)

NASA Facts F-15 ACTIVE Advanced Control Technology for Integrated Vehicles (2)

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Jun 10, 2011
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National Aeronautics andSpace Administration
Dryden Flight Research Center
P.O. Box 273Edwards, California 93523AC 805-258-3449FAX 805-258-3566pao@dfrc.nasa.gov
Project Summary
The Advanced Control Technology for IntegratedVehicles—or “ACTIVE”—program at NASA’s DrydenFlight Research Center is a multi-year flight research effortto enhance
the performance and maneuverability of futurecivil and military aircraft. For this program, advanced flightcontrol systems and thrust vectoring of engine exhaust havebeen integrated into a highly-modified F-15 researchaircraft. The program is a collaborative effort by NASA, theAir Force Research Laboratory, Pratt & Whitney, andBoeing (formerly McDonnell Douglas) Phantom Works.The ACTIVE program supports the Revolutionary Tech-nology Leaps pillar of NASA’s Aeronautics and Space
F-15 ACTIVE:Advanced Control Technology for Integrated Vehicle
Transportation Technology Enterprise by revolutionizing theway in which aircraft are designed and built by providing thedesign tools to increase design confidence and cut designtime for next-generation aircraft in half.
Aircraft Description& Modifications
The F-15 ACTIVE research aircraft, the first two-seat F-15 built by McDonnell Douglas, was used initially fordevelopmental testing and evaluation. In the mid 1980’s, theaircraft was extensively modified for the Air Force’s ShortTakeoff and Landing Maneuvering Technology Demonstra-tor (S/MTD) program.
Those modifications included
F-15 ACTIVE in flight, NASA photo EC96 43485 13 
the aircraft
with a digital fly-by-wirecontrol system, canards (modified F-18 horizontalstabilators) ahead of the wings and two-dimen-sional thrust-vectoring, thrust-reversing nozzleswhich could redirect engine exhaust either up ordown, giving the aircraft greater pitch control andaerodynamic braking capability.After beingloaned to NASAfor the ACTIVEprogram, the twin-engine F-15 wasequipped with apowerful researchcomputer, higher-thrust versions of the Pratt &Whitney F-100engine
and newlydevelopedaxisymmetricthrust-vectoring engine exhaust nozzles that arecapable of redirecting the engine exhaust in anydirection, not just in the pitch (up and down) axisor direction.The new nozzles can deflect—or vector—enginethrust
up to 20
off center line,
giving the aircraft thrustcontrol in pitch (up and down) and yaw (left and right),or any combination of the two axes. This deflected(vectored) thrust can be used to reduce drag and increasefuel economy or range as compared with conventionalaerodynamic controls. The nozzles are
a productiondesign that
be incorporated into current or futureaircraft.In addition, an integrated system to control its aero-dynamic control surfaces and its engines was installed inthe ACTIVE F-15 along with cockpit controls andelectronics from the F-15E.
Project Status
Several flight research milestones have been re-corded in the ACTIVE program to date. The firstsupersonic yaw-vectoring flight was flown in early1996, and pitch and yaw thrust vectoring at speeds up toMach 2—twice the speed of sound was evaluatedduring several flights late in the year. On subsequentflights, Dryden research pilots flew the F-15ACTIVE at angles of attack up to 30
while employingyaw vectoring.“Angle of attack” describes the relation-ship between the aircraft’s body and wings to its actualflight path.
Pratt & Whitney's Yaw Balanced  Beam Nozzle, Pratt & Whitney photo.
Thrust vectoring nozzle Use of propulsion controls in place of aerodynamic controls.
Thrust vectoringRuddersThrust vectoringStabilators
An adaptive performance software program was devel-oped and successfully tested. The performance-optimizationprogram installed in the aircraft’s flight control computerautomatically determines the optimal setting or trim for thethrust-vectoring nozzles and aerodynamic controls tominimize aircraft drag.
On the last flight of 1996, the F-15ACTIVE demonstrated
the software’s
effectiveness bygaining a speed increase of Mach 0.1 with no increase inengine power while in level flight at 30,000 ft altitude and aspeed of approximately Mach 1.3.The F-15 ACTIVE has continued to expand the limits of its thrust-vectoring capabilities during 1997 and 1998,including an experiment which combined thrust vectoringwith its regular aerodynamic controls to improve theperformance of the F-15E tactical fighter on ground attack missions.
Testbed Experiments
The F-15 ACTIVE's unique propulsion control systemsand flight test instrumentation have allowed it to be used asa testbed for several research experiments unrelated to theACTIVE program. Each experiment contributed to goalswhich will benefit Global Civil Aviation, another one of thethree pillars of NASA’s Aeronautics and Space Transporta-tion Technology Enterprise.
This experiment, developed and managed byNASA’s Lewis Research Center, evaluated a computerizedsystem that can sense and respond to high levels of engineinlet airflow turbulence to prevent sudden in-flight enginecompressor stalls and potential engine failures. The systemused a high-speed processor to process the airflow datacoming from sensors on the left engine, and it in turn directedthe aircraft’s engine control computer to automaticallycommand engine trim changes to accommodate for changingturbulence levels. The system can enhance engine stabilitywhen the inlet airflow is turbulent, and increase engineperformance when the airflow is stable or smooth. Approxi-mately one dozen flights were flown in the summer of 1997to validate the HISTEC concept. The project contributed tothe Affordable Air Travel goal of significantly reducing thecost of air travel, and the Safety goal to reduce the aircraftaccident rate.
Theunique ability of the thrust-vectoring nozzles to change the“area ratio”—the difference in the geometric area—betweenthe nozzles’ throat and exit led to the F-15 ACTIVE beingused for research in the fall of 1997 on how to reduceperceived engine noise. Conducted on behalf of LangleyResearch Center’s High-Speed Research program, this flightexperiment focused on validating noise prediction data thatcould be applied to reducing noise generated during takeoffsand landings of the High Speed Civil Transport, the proposedsecond-generation American supersonic jetliner. By fullyexpanding the nozzles’ exit area, noise generated by the hot jet exhaust entering the surrounding cooler air is reduced.The acoustics research involved flying the F-15 ACTIVE inprecise patterns over an array of 30 microphones spread outover more than a mile along the northeast side of Rogers DryLake. The project contributed to the Environmental Compat-ibility goal of significantly reducing the perceived noiselevels of future aircraft.
Thisexperiment, planned for flight testing in late 1998-early1999, is intended to assist development of advanced “neuralnetwork” flight control computer technology that wouldallow aircraft control systems to adapt to unforeseen changesin aircraft operating conditions, such as sudden equipmentfailures or battle damage, by directing the aircraft’s remain-ing functional control systems to compensate for the failureor damage. Successful development and validation of theIntelligent Flight Control concept will contribute to NASA’sSafety goal by allowing safe return of aircraft that otherwisemight be uncontrollable after sustaining damage or majorsystem failures.
NASA Dryden’s two F-15B aircraft fly in tight formation during a research mission. The F-15 ACTIVE, right, is distinguished by the canards mounted outside the engine air inlets and by its distinc- tive red, white, and blue color scheme. NASA photo EC943656-1

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