Drucella Andersen Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

March 4, l992 (Phone: 202/453-8613) Don Haley Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, Calif. (Phone: 805/258-3456) RELEASE: 92-29 NASP PROPULSION TESTS PLANNED FOR NASA SR-71 A key propulsion concept for the X-30 National Aero-Space Plane (NASP) is being designed for tests on a NASA SR-71A "Blackbird" research aircraft. The experiment is expected to be the first major research project flown in the SR-71 program in NASA service. An SR-71A, which can cruise at three times the speed of sound, would act as a high-speed testbed to prove the concept of burning hydrogen fuel outside the X-30's engine exhaust nozzles as a way to improve overall flight efficiency. If the initial design work is accepted and SR-71 program operations are approved through the 1993 fiscal year, the SR-71A will be modified and flown at NASA's Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, Calif. The X-30 is a future flight research vehicle that will take off horizontally, fly into Earth orbit and return through Earth's atmosphere for a runway landing. The NASP Joint Program Office, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, is funding preliminary design work for the experiment. The NASP program is a joint effort involving NASA, the Department of Defense and a U.S. industry team.

The bottom rear part of the X-30's fuselage will be shaped to act as an exhaust nozzle, which will increase thrust. But computer and wind tunnel studies predict that the area near the exhaust will experience low pressures when the Aero-Space Plane flies at lower altitudes and at speeds from Mach 0.8 to Mach 3. - more -2The low pressures will increase drag and reduce the vehicle's maximum planned performance. Injecting hydrogen fuel into the air stream under the X-30's engines and then igniting it -- a concept dubbed "external burning" -- is being studied as a way to increase pressure near the engine nozzles to reduce drag. "The NASP external burning concept has progressed steadily from the drawing board through wind tunnel tests and computer simulations to the point where we're ready to move to larger scale, high-speed flight tests" said Vincent Rausch, Director for the National Aero-Space Plane at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. "The tests with NASA's SR-71A should be an important milestone in that effort." The external burning experiment will mount a 10-foot-long, half-scale X-30-type aft-engine cowling and exhaust nozzle model atop the SR-71A's fuselage midway between the nose and twin vertical rudders. According to David Lux, SR-71 Project Manager at Ames-Dryden, the test fixture's location on the aircraft will be free from aerodynamic disturbances. "We'll be flight testing the experiment to a speed up to Mach 3," said Lux. "We believe this type of flight environment will give us a true simulation of what external burning will be on the X-30." Current plans call for about 10 flights of the external burning experiment at speeds up to Mach 1.5. The final six flights will be made at speeds up to Mach 3. The tests will study ignition limits of the hydrogen at high speeds, conditions that could lead to engine flameout and levels of turbulence that may result from the burning process.

The hydrogen will be carried in seven pressurized tanks located in chine equipment bays that run along the sides of the SR-71's fuselage. The fuel will be fed to 19 openings on the test model and dispersed into the exhaust flow. Sensors in the exhaust plume area will record air pressure and temperature data for comparison with earlier computer and wind tunnel results. The test aircraft for the external burning experiment is one of three SR-71s on loan to NASA from the U.S. Air Force for use as high-speed research testbeds. According to John Lutes, SR-71 Program Manager at NASA Headquarters, a Dryden-led inter-center team is developing a national plan involving industry, universities and other government agencies. "The purpose of the planning effort is to identify experiment needs that would use the unique flight research capabilities offered by these aircraft," said Lutes. - more -3Tests with a small "boilerplate" fixture previously proved that hydrogen can be burned externally at supersonic speeds. The 14-inch-long test apparatus was mounted on the wing tip of an F-18 and flown to Mach 1.26 at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Md. The external burning project participants are Ames-Dryden; NASA's Lewis Research Center, Cleveland; the Naval Air Test Center; Lockheed Advanced Development Company, Burbank, Calif.; The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, Laurel, Md.; and the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB, Calif. -endNOTE TO EDITORS: Photographs are available to illustrate this release by calling 202/453-8375. Color: 92-HC-110 92-HC-111 B&W: 92-H-127 92-H-128