Drucella Andersen Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

May 24, 1993 (Phone: 202/358-4727) Don Nolan Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, Calif. (Phone: 805/258-3447) RELEASE: 93-95 NASA SYSTEM RESEARCH AIRCRAFT MAKES FIRST TEST FLIGHT A NASA F/A-18, specially modified to test the newest and most advanced system technologies, made its first research flight on May 21 at NASA's Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, Calif. The Systems Research Aircraft (SRA) is evaluating technologies that will benefit both civilian and military aircraft. "The SRA systems testbed aircraft is a faster, better and cheaper approach that lowers systems development cost and cuts the time needed to develop new technologies," said Denis Bessette, Project Manager at Dryden. "This project will help ensure that new aerospace concepts are transferred to U.S. industry to accelerate transition of those advanced technologies." The plane's first mission involved tests of an electric actuator that has two small computers to monitor the position and control of one of the aircraft's ailerons. An actuator takes signals from the aircraft's flight control computer and translates them into mechanical actions that move control surfaces such as flaps, ailerons and rudders. The "smart" actuator being tested needs less wiring and should have better performance and reliability than the mechanical actuators now in general use. The second program scheduled for the aircraft will investigate

the use of optical systems on future aircraft. Fiber optic cable is lighter, carries more signals and is resistant to interference from strong radio signals and lightning.

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NASA and industry are working on fiber optic sensors to measure the position of aircraft control surfaces, pilot input to the controls, engine temperatures and other aircraft and engine functions. The measurements from these optical sensors will be compared to the standard aircraft sensors to obtain information on how well the optical systems perform. A third program will develop a new way to measure an aircraft's speed, altitude and other air data parameters. The method to be tested has no moving parts which will increase accuracy and reliability. Unlike traditional air data sensors which protrude into the airstream and produce drag, the new system uses several flush ports arranged around the tip of the plane's nose. The advanced actuator program is a joint effort by Ames-Dryden, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy. The fiber optic research program is a joint program by Ames-Dryden and the Lewis and Langley Research Centers. The air data system studies are a NASA-industry cooperative program with Honeywell and McDonnell Douglas Corp. -endNOTE TO EDITORS: Video and still photos of the System Research Aircraft's first flight are available from the Ames-Dryden media relations office, 805/258-3448.