Feb. 14, 2006
Phone: (202) 358-1600
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
Phone: (256) 544-0034
NASA’S EXPLORATION SYSTEMS PROGRESS REPORT
Testing is under way by engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight
Center, Huntsville, Ala., to lay the foundation for developing the
Crew Launch Vehicle, the agency’s future launch vehicle system.
Sixty-six wind tunnel tests were conducted on a 16.5-inch scale model
of the vehicle. The tunnel is 48 inches long with a 14-inch by
14-inch cross section. Wind tunnel “flights” are used to assess new
geometric configurations before designs are incorporated into space
In the tube-like, tunnel structure, giant fans or high-pressure air
generate artificial wind to flow over vehicles, engines, rockets or
scale-model hardware, helping scientists determine flight performance
characteristics of new concepts.
The first, two-week entry in the test series began in December and was
performed at Marshall’s Aerodynamic Research Facility. The facility
is used for concept validation of space launch vehicles. Additional
testing continues this month.
The initial test data are the foundation for more detailed testing
this spring and summer. Bigger vehicle models will be used in larger
wind tunnel facilities at NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton,
Va., and Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
The scale model for the Marshall tests included the crew capsule,
service module and escape tower. The model simulated the full Crew
Launch Vehicle take off load. NASA’s Constellation Program is
developing both crew and launch vehicles as it follows NASA’s Vision
for Space Exploration by returning humans to the moon and preparing
for voyages to Mars and beyond.
Engineers also conducted flow visualization tests. The imaging is used
to identify shock waves and component expansions similar to those
experienced during supersonic flight. The test series was intended to
provide the first actual crew launch vehicle configuration data for
guidance, navigation and control systems analysis. Testing was
performed over a Mach .5 to 4.96 range.
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