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Archive images show the MASSIVE wind tunnels that NASA used to test aircraft

Neil Patrick

nasa

The NASA Ames Research Center wind tunnels are known not only for their immense size, but also for their diverse characteristics that enable various kinds of scientific and engineering research.The Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel (UPWT) was completed in 1956 at a cost of $27 million under the Unitary Plan Act of 1949. Since its completion, the UPWT facility has been the most heavily used NASAwind tunnel. Every major commercial transport and almost every military jet built in the United States over the last 40 years has been tested in this facility. Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft space shuttle models were also tested in this tunnel complex.

A 24-foot swinging valve in the 10 x 10-foot Supersonic Wind Tunnel.

A 24-foot swinging valve in the 10 x 10-foot Supersonic Wind Tunnel.

 

A Langley researcher observes a Sperry M-1 Messenger, the first full-scale airplane tested in the Propeller Research Tunnel.

A Langley researcher observes a Sperry M-1 Messenger, the first full-scale airplane tested in the Propeller Research Tunnel.

 

A prototype Vought-Sikorsky V-173 airplane mounted in the Full Scale Wind Tunnel.

A prototype Vought-Sikorsky V-173 airplane mounted in the Full Scale Wind Tunnel.

 

One of Langley's Sikorsky YR-4B/HNS-1 helicopters is seen in the 30 x 60 Full Scale Tunnel. The technician is setting up camera equipment for stopped-action rotor-blade photos. Sikorsky built hundreds of R-4 helicopters during World War II. It was the first mass-produced helicopter.

One of Langley’s Sikorsky YR-4B/HNS-1 helicopters is seen in the 30 x 60 Full Scale Tunnel. The technician is setting up camera equipment for stopped-action rotor-blade photos. Sikorsky built hundreds of R-4 helicopters during World War II. It was the first mass-produced helicopter.

 

8ft x 6ft Supersonic Wind Tunnel Test-Section showing changes made in Stainless Steel walls with 17 inch inlet model installation. The model is the ACN Nozzle model used for aircraft engines. The Supersonic Wind Tunnel is located in the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory, now John H. Glenn Research Center

8ft x 6ft Supersonic Wind Tunnel Test-Section showing changes made in Stainless Steel walls with 17 inch inlet model installation. The model is the ACN Nozzle model used for aircraft engines. The Supersonic Wind Tunnel is located in the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory, now John H. Glenn Research Center

 

Engineers make a check of a model of a supersonic aircraft before a test run in the 10 x 10-foot Supersonic Wind Tunnel test section.

Engineers make a check of a model of a supersonic aircraft before a test run in the 10 x 10-foot Supersonic Wind Tunnel test section.

 

The 16-foot High Speed Tunnel at Langley Research Center.

The 16-foot High Speed Tunnel at Langley Research Center.

The 40 by 80 foot wind tunnel circuit was originally constructed in the 1940s and is now capable of providing test velocities up to 300 knots (560 km/h; 350 mph). It is used to support an active research program in aerodynamics, dynamics, model noise, and full-scale aircraft and their components. The aerodynamic characteristics of new configurations are investigated with an emphasis on estimating the accuracy of computational methods. Aeromechanical stability boundaries of advanced rotorcraft and rotor-fuselage interactions are explored. Stability and control derivatives are also determined, including the static and dynamic characteristics of new aircraft configurations. The acoustic characteristics of most of the full-scale vehicles are also determined, as well as acoustic research aimed at discovering and reducing aerodynamic sources of noise. In addition to the normal data gathering methods (e.g., balance system, pressure measuring transducers, and temperature sensing thermocouples), state-of-the-art, non-intrusive instrumentation (e.g., laser velocimeters and shadowgraphs) are available to help determine flow direction and velocity in and around the lifting surfaces of models or aircraft undergoing investigation. The 40 by 80 Foot Wind Tunnel is primarily used for determining the low- and medium-speed aerodynamic characteristics of high-performance aircraft, rotorcraft, and fixed wing, powered-lift V/STOL aircraft.

The 40 x 80-foot wind tunnel at Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, Moffett Field, California. At the time of its construction it was the largest wind tunnel in the world.

The 40 x 80-foot wind tunnel at Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, Moffett Field, California. At the time of its construction it was the largest wind tunnel in the world.

 

The Viking aeroshell which protected the lander during its entry into the Martian atmosphere.

The Viking aeroshell which protected the lander during its entry into the Martian atmosphere.

 

The Rutan Model 33 VariEze was built by the Model and Composites Section of Langley Research Center and then tested in the 30 x 60 Full Scale Tunnel. The craft was not built for flight, but did have an electric motor installed to drive the propeller as part of its aerodynamics study in the Tunnel.

The Rutan Model 33 VariEze was built by the Model and Composites Section of Langley Research Center and then tested in the 30 x 60 Full Scale Tunnel. The craft was not built for flight, but did have an electric motor installed to drive the propeller as part of its aerodynamics study in the Tunnel.

 

One of three control panels in the control room of the Lewis Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel. The tunnel model (top center) shows position of the valves that control the operating cycle of the tunnel. The TV monitor screens can be connected to any of 3 closed-circuit TV cameras used to monitor tunnel components.

One of three control panels in the control room of the Lewis Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel. The tunnel model (top center) shows position of the valves that control the operating cycle of the tunnel. The TV monitor screens can be connected to any of 3 closed-circuit TV cameras used to monitor tunnel components.

Although decommissioned by NASA in 2003, the NFAC is now being operated by the United States Air Force as a satellite facility of the Arnold Engineering Development Complex

 

All Photos by NASA