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Reynolds Draft #2 3/27 ABSTRACT: In 1958 the Eisenhower Administration signed into law the National Space Act under which a new organization, the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) was created. This new Agency was built on the existing National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics that had been functioning since its creation during the First World War. The National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) was a prestigious and successful organization headed by a board that included over time the leading aerodynamicists, military aviators, and scientists of the time. At the time of the change over to NASA there were about 8000 people in the business of national civil aeronautics research. ( ) Forty years later the numbers of people engaged in federal civil aeronautics research was less than this even though NASA had reached a peak in Civil Service employment of over 27,000. In the intervening years from 1958 to the present the civil space interests dominated NASA to the exclusion of all but a few critical aeronautical research projects. This paper comments about this demise and gives examples of what was lost to civil aviation. NACA circa 1958: A listing of the more important aeronautical activities that NACA had been engaged upon in the later 1950s would include the following: • The first X-15 hypersonic rocket aircraft was at the NACA High Speed Flight Station formerly the Muroc Flight Test Unit. The X-15 program was the logical successor of NACA’s involvement from the start with the first rocket plane, the XS-1 and throughout the famous X-1A, B, E series as well as the D-558-1 and D-
As is true for all successful advancements of aerodynamics. developed from ideas generated in house and evolved into a rather sophisticated flight test program of its own. On the other side of the spectrum was the concept of lifting bodies and the demonstration that wingless flight was. The NASA lifting body history. • • NACA and the Air Force were exploring the applications of variable sweep wings on the X-5 test aircraft. Richard Whitcomb of Langley had brought forth the concept of “area rule” that led to a significant advancement in the reduction of transonic drag. to a degree.558-2 high-speed research aircraft. The SST and HSCT: 2 . In light of the X-15 program it is remarkable that NASA has not been able to duplicate those successes. possible. It was also a major challenge to the people who lived with it for a decade. The X-15 persona is still remembered at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center as the defining moment for NASA aeronautics. The X-15 as an extension of the high speed and high altitude advancements of the technologies applicable to aerodynamics was impressive. A small group of Australians achieved what Hyper X was to accomplish ( ). NACA was pushing the boundaries of highspeed flight. X-15 and the Lifting Bodies: In looking back at the achievements of NASA in Aeronautics two flight programs stand out above the rest. The expectations for the X-30 and X-33 were still born. which overlapped with the X-15 testing. Today the concept of a space plane still eludes the leaders in NASA but at one time the vehicle that could have led to what we need today was the X-15 and that program ended in 1968. certain key individuals were allowed to pursue the boundaries of what could be accomplished.
One of the vagaries of publicly funded research and development programs is that if they become too public and too scrutinized they will fall victim to groups who oppose them. NASA underwent a postpartum depression. The success of Apollo in 1968 and 1969 so overshadowed the aeronautics side of NASA for all intents and purposes it ceased to exist.It can be pointed out that at no time has the economic survival of our nation been directly dependent upon the advancement of our civilian aerospace programs. the challenge to provide supersonic travel in the reach of the public was daunting. The Vietnam War sapped the energies of the government in many ways and the military. When President Kennedy announced in his speech to the Fifth Graduating Class of the United States Air Force Academy in June 1963 that his administration was committed to building a supersonic transport it became the catalyst for invigoration of the civil side of NASA Aeronautics. Even if the vehicle was made operational the major Air Carriers 3 . A time of war generally causes a diminution of civilian technologies. Indeed after the Apollo Program ended in 1972-73. The first reason had to do with the cost of developing this large supersonic transport was becoming excessive. It was also an idea vulnerable to the new concerns of environment and cost. Aeronautics suffered as well during this time and the SST was cancelled for two reasons. The only incentive to go higher and faster in aeronautics was to develop and produce a supersonic transport. and finally the Apollo Programs were easy compared to the SST. Gemini. Much like his challenge to the Space side of NASA two years before to put a man on the moon. Yet the contributions by civil aeronautics contributed significantly to the wealth of the nation. Selling the Mercury. Somehow the successes of the X-15 were not being translated in a format to convince the country that NASA and its big subcontractors could have equally great successes in aeronautics. On the other hand in order to keep Congressional and White House support such R+D efforts need to show dramatic success from time to time. Any weakening of this contribution would be bothersome. It proved to be a more difficult chore to “sell” the notion of a supersonic transport than anything that NASA had to do in its brief history. especially the Air Force and Navy learned the practical limitations of speed and altitude in combat.
Not this time due to politics of the environment. yet ended what once began as a hope for high-speed flight. This doubly impacted the aeronautics side of NASA. By mutual. By the 1990s there were solutions and new technologies that altered the original supersonic “brute” into something with promise. Secondly NASA could not resolve the noise and pollution problems or what we call to day the environmental impact of the SST on the nation. conflicted again with a crisis in the space side of the NASA stables. some said acrimonious agreement. NASA’s Administrator abruptly cancelled the HSCT leaving a lot of researchers and engineers hanging. Yet the timing for the re-emergence of the High Speed Civil Transport (HSCT) as it was called. The Space Station was going to be built but by that time an insufferable amount of money had been pumped into the program and the situation was getting worse. These two overshadowed other more serious technical issues that would have threatened the aircraft design in a more conventional sense. After NASA was committed to underwriting the Russian portion of the space station work Congress refused to appropriate any more funds to cover these cost over-runs. 4 . The air carrier industry was still skeptical about the economic viability of the HSCT and NASA could not continue to fund such R+D when the prime contractors doing the studies and research began bailing out of the program.could not see how to make money on their use. The hope existed that some large company would take over the work. In 1998 the second try for a national supersonic transport ended. but because NASA simply could not afford to go any further. nor of the cost to operate. Twenty years later the idea was resurrected by NASA and money allocated to projects whose goals were solving technical issues raised in the first SST attempt. The engineers and scientists that had been working to solve the problems of twenty years before were meeting with success. There was a growing pressure on all government agencies to “privatize” but in this instance it was not going to happen. The time for a Supersonic Transport was not yet at hand. Not only were NASA personnel affected but those working for subcontractors were dealt a hard blow.
The contributions of these make piece projects are not to be discounted but they were not on the order of an X-15 program. There were three significant projects that came to Dryden in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Take for example the X-15 program. Dryden found itself without a sustaining long term research project. Every program that NASA cancelled did not result in relocation of the people who were part of that program nor were they gainfully employed elsewhere in NASA. The engineering expertise that had been associated with the X-15 program drifted away. engineers. When the time came for putting 5 . This was at the nadir of the Apollo manned space program.What Was Lost? Every program that NASA inherited from NACA was peopled with technicians. At that time there were just so many flight research programs available in the NASA portfolio. When it came to an end the majority of the people working at the Dryden Flight Research Facility on Edwards AFB in the western end of the Mojave Desert were involved with it. In short the technicians tended to remain in place but the researchers disappeared. The flight test of the supercritical wing on a modified F-8 Crusader and the use of another F-8 as the test bed for a digital flight control system paralleled work being done in industry. It proved to be important to the next generation of combat aircraft and eventually both the supercritical wing and the digital fly by wire systems were found to be important in the next generation of transport category aircraft such as the Boeing 777 and the Airbus 320 series aircraft. Along with the last flights of the HL-10 and X-24B lifting bodies in 1970-71 the NASA core flight research efforts wound down and were supplanted by small projects to assist the Air Force in the advancement of aerodynamics and technologies that had their origins in industry or in the Air Force development laboratories. As a result of these diverse projects the management of NASA’s flight test center was altered to handle a lot of small “programs” or pieces of programs without demanding an increase in personnel. These kept the technical staff alive through the next decade. Dryden also participated in the Air Force Transonic Aircraft Technology Aircraft project using a highly modified F111A with the supercritical wing design. scientists and administrators.
It eventually led to the privatization of the Space Shuttle launch teams with consequences that were all too evident five years later. Privatization was the expectancy for the X-33. and the third at Lockheed’s home in Marietta Georgia. In February 1999 when the funds were cut off for the High Speed Research effort. Unfortunately that program was cancelled due to a fundamental lack of commitment on the part of either NASA or the Air Force. The X-33 was to be the prototype for a future launch vehicle that would be unmanned and would carry the same payloads into orbit that the shuttle was carrying. Rogers dry lake and the long runway at Edwards would act as recovery locations for the X-33 during its initial testing. SR-71 fame. The others were in Fort Worth and Lockheed’s newly acquired General Dynamics plant that built the F-16.together the X-30 program with the Air Force in 1990 much of the research work would have to come from other sources. The test vehicle launch pad was built near the northeastern edge of the Edwards AFB range and restricted areas. ( ) That project was being carried on by Lockheed Skunk Works a name used to evoke the successes of the past but in fact a new company and not the core “Skunk Works” of U-2. The nearest was at Palmdale and the Skunk Works secret plant at that location near to Edwards AFB. It was an 6 . both industry and NASA researchers in aeronautics that found careers facing bleak propositions. NASA managers and engineering staff were cohabitating at the Lockheed plant in Palmdale. The hope was that the replacement single stage to orbit vehicle would reduce the cost of delivering payloads to near earth orbit by initially a factor of ten and eventually a factor of one hundred. Without industry financial support these advances stagnated. The term “privatization” was now the key behind anything that NASA attempted to accomplish. There is little hope that they will be resurrected at some future date. Technically the list of advancements in solving problems identified by the first SST in the 1960s was impressive. Industry backing was what Congress wanted to see happen. The nearness of the Skunk Works and the X-33 project team to NASA Dryden at Edwards was fortuitous and it appeared in the 1990s that this might finally be the program that would regenerate the flight test center. Lockheed had closed its plant in Burbank and moved all those production and development works to one of three places.
Then the technical problems began. A list of programs that Dryden attempted to manage to fill these voids include Hyper X (X-43 hypersonic test vehicle that failed but was given a reprise). Today the people who were part of that program are scattered about. All of these programs given to that remote flight test location to keep it existence justified were pursued with vigor by the researchers. In order to keep sufficient staff at the center to justify the overhead the Center Directors* over this period of time resorted to calumny in picking up support for any flight program that they could. It was with some irony that the test pilots realized their future in NASA was over and their only contribution was to chase around with small experimental packages on board their fleet of old fighter aircraft. Along with it died the hope of all the talent and experience in aerodynamic research and flight test that resided in NASA. either to other efforts or to retirement. There were insufficient funds available to keep the program going. After nearly 150 million dollars had been spent and the first vehicle was still to be built NASA refused to continue pumping money into it and the project died. Airborne Science Program that was stolen from Ames Research Center and suffered in its first years in that desert environment with a reduced funding and horrible logistics. Dryden’s role was of support. In the end as the airframe design faltered costs began to rise. yet the talent and ingenuity associated with the represented programs came from outside of NASA. safety.exciting program for the promise was a decade of focus and commitment for the people at Dryden. The real reason to keep Dryden open was that it was the only remaining Governmental non-military civil flight test center. *In 1996 Dryden Flight Research Facility was separated from the Ames Research Center and became Dryden Flight Research Center with its own Center Director. The loss of these aerodynamic research projects has stymied the contribution of NASA in that field. As of this date there have been two directors. 7 . Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) Program that was a bid to develop unmanned aircraft to take over the Airborne Science Program efforts and was under funded. and fiscal management.
What happened to its expertise in this arena? Like Lockheed it had look for other paths to develop competitive products. What then should we look to for encouragement? 8 . In time this industry will take a back seat to other more aggressive entrepreneurs. Little by little the United States is losing is expertise in advanced aeronautics. Boeing. None of these corporations face a certain future. has been hurt by the same factors that have injured the air transport business along with stiff competition from Airbus Industries.Civilian Industry Loss: It should be obvious to the observer of the aerospace industry over the past decade that the major aircraft manufacturers have dwindled (or expanded depending upon the viewpoint) to three corporations. Lockheed continues to hold out hope for a piece of the recently announced new initiatives in manned space flight but again the will of the Federal Government is not to be trusted in the long run. When NASA needed Boeing to continue funding its large part in the High Speed Civil Transport the company CEO refused and this ended any hope of privatization for a future supersonic transport. over the past 80 years there will be no competition. Such a loss of research to a company like Boeing has a major impact. no incentive and no vision to do more than what we are currently doing: stagnating on old designs with fancy electronics. the giant of the industry. its European counterpart. Without the “pioneering” research and development that the United States has made in aeronautics. The loss to the aerospace industry when space overshadowed aeronautics is in people and vision. Boeing would have benefited from a healthy and vibrant civil aeronautics program but instead it has had to go its own way in the development of the newest applications of transonic flight research to develop with its 7E7.
One might predict that the low drag 7E7 would appeal to those carriers who are offering shorter more discounted routes. The cyclic trend of the aviation industry is legendary. Definitive computations leading to a prototype could lead to a compatible aerodynamic shape. Each company is betting on the airline industry to go one-way or another in delivering for its customers. ( ) On the way changes in the way the air carriers conduct business are taking place. If the industry looked at this possibility perhaps NASA would regenerate its old partnership with the aircraft builders and continue to explore some of the questions still be resolved about high speed large category aircraft. The air carrier business has run through numerous up and down cycles. 2001 level until sometime in 2008. Soon arriving on the European market is the Airbus 380 the 550 plus passenger behemoth that continues in the line of heavy lifters after the 747. This is not strictly limited to the air machine.05 per pound of fuel burn and as difficult as this appeared to be to achieve new engine technologies have nearly demonstrated those levels. The high sustained thrust levels were demanding higher temperatures in the hot sections of 9 . The problem of damping the noise and overpressure from the shock wave of a supersonic aircraft was never completely resolved although great strides were made in determining how to reduce its impact. The studies showed that a long stiletto shape airframe would reduce the N wave than is typical of a high speed jets shock wave as it expands over time and distance. the emissions level of NO was targeted to be lowered to 0.September 11.The Future Hope: In the aviation business there is a saying that what goes up must come down. Concerning propulsion. In any event there may still be a niche for the supersonic transport in the next two decades. The current recovery of the commercial airlines is not expected to reach its pre. The most recent new aircraft is the Boeing 7E7 a medium size passenger carrying aircraft with higher transonic speeds that its cousins the 767 and 777. The sound level of the engines operating a full thrust had to meet the Stage 3 noise requirements and progress on the inlet and exhaust noise levels was well along at the time the program was cancelled.
Flexibility in design was now available in ways that were not conceived in 1963.the engines but the composite technology solutions that are being applied in other engine programs proved promising. In summary the future for high speed aviation is primed by these technical advancements that have been made in the decades since the SST was cancelled. It is unlikely in the present economic and political climate of the United States that such a prototype will be built simply for the sake of demonstrating the viability of civilian high speed transport. Relaxed static margins to give larger ranges of center of gravity movement and more controllability are now understood and implemented. What remains is to produce a prototype. The aero-structural design had not changed in thirty years but the electronics (avionics and computer control devices) could now be used to resolve the problems of forward vision and low speed maneuverability. F-35. and the F-22 Raptor could be adopted for the high speed transport. A clear separation of roles and responsibilities can be made. Many of the advances in aero-technology requirements for the Joint Strike Fighter. Spaceflight versus Aviation: It may be time to separate the national space agency out of NASA and return the advancement of aviation back into the modern equivalent of NACA. reliable aircraft for the general aviation market have been fueled by NASA’s Small Aircraft 10 . In any event such an undertaking would be expensive but it is just the sort of thing that the Federal Government would do if it thought it would give the United States leverage in any number of areas where we are competing in the global economy. The hopes of providing simple. Aerothermal problems have been addressed and are solvable. On the other hand combinations of two or more of the technology advancements that need to be demonstrated may occur in staged development with such new aircraft as the 7E7 and the high speed business jet. The use of thrust vectoring to achieve shorter take off and landing rolls is quite in the realm of possibility for the high speed transport.
Funds will be thrown at manned spacecraft and some of it will fall onto aviation but with no focus or vision what was begun in 1958 will continue to diminish aeronautics in this country for the foreseeable future. The ideas of what kind of vehicle will take men and cargo into near earth orbit will remain confused. The functions of the Federal Aviation Administration that deal with technology and airworthiness advances could be combined with the aeronautics sector of NASA to recreate an agency dedicated solely to the advancement of aviation. 11 . The political will to make these changes does not yet exist.Transportation System initiatives. Until it does the large private corporations will tend to dominate the future of aviation.
. Flight without Wings. Christine M. the Story of the Lifting Bodies. NASA Langley Research Center. 1L1. Oct 911. Greece. Yokohama.. 1998. High Speed Civil Transport Study. Japan. 11. 1998 European Community on Computational Methods in Applied Sciences. Allen H. “Affordable.. 12 . Is it Near?”.. 3. NASA Langley Research Center. Allen H. Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Mark. 2.. VA 23665. Sep 7-11. “Impact of Environmental Issues on the High Speed Civil Transport”. VA 23665. Jr. 16th International Session in 40th Aircraft Symposium. Darden. 10. Thomson. Hampton. 1999. Paper No. NASA Langley Research Center. Whitehead. Hampton. 2002. Acceptable Supersonic Flight. 1999.REFERENCES 1. NASA document 19990018244. “An Overview of NASA’s HSR Program: Environmental Issues and Economic Concerns”. NASA document 19990018242. “Status of NASA High-Speed Research Program”. Whitehead. NASA Contractor Report 4233. Darden. Jr. Mark and …. Thompson. VA 1989. Athens. 4.The X-15 1. Christine M.
2. Photo of the 1968 proposed used of the X-15 as a space plane. Excerpt of press releases about the cancellation of the NASA HSR program 13 .RSR 3/17/04 Attachments: 1.
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