August 8, 2012
New Unmanned Aircraft X-48C Flies Successfully: NASA
[ Watch the Video: NASA's X-48C Test Flight Successful ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe OnlineThe unmanned aircraft X-48C successfully flew for the first time on Tuesday at the Edwards Air Force Base, according to NASA.
The Boeing aircraft was formerly known as the X-48B Blended Wing Body aircraft, and was modified to evaluate the low-speed stability and control of a low-noise version of a notional, future Hybrid Wing Body (HWB) aircraft design.
This HWB design, NASA said, stems from kept studies being conducted at the space agency´s Environmentally Responsible Aviation project of future potential aircraft designs.
"We are thrilled to get back in the air to start collecting data in this low-noise configuration," Heather Maliska, X-48C project manager at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, said in a press release. "Our dedicated team has worked hard to get the X-48C off the ground for its first flight and we are excited learning about the stability and control characteristics of this low-noise configuration of the blended wing body."
NASA said the changes made to the C model from the B model were geared to transforming the aircraft to an airframe noise-shielding configuration. External modifications included relocating the wingtip winglets onboard next to the engines, turning them into twin tails.
The aircraft's aft deck was extended about 2 feet to the rear as well, and the team replaced the X-48B's three 50-pound thrust jet engines with two 89-pound thrust engines.
The X-48C will also be a better handling craft than its predecessor, because the team developed flight control system software modifications for it, according to NASA. The space agency said this will enable the aircraft to have a stronger and safer prototype flight control system.
"We are very pleased to begin flight tests of the X-48C," Mike Kisska, Boeing X-48C project manager, said in a press release. "Working with NASA, we've successfully passed another milestone in our work to explore and validate the aerodynamic characteristics and efficiencies of the blended wing body concept."
During the upcoming test, the X-48C will also help researchers further develop methods to validate the design's aerodynamics and control laws, including a goal of reducing aerodynamic drag through engine yaw control tests.
NASA will be testing engine yaw control software during the second block of flight testing planned for this fall. The team will use asymmetric engine thrust to create nose left or right movements, for trim and for relatively slow maneuvers.