In 2001, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center engineers,
technicians and pilots explored ways to save vast amounts of fuel by
flying in the wingtip wake of another aircraft. They flew a
solar-powered aircraft higher than any non-rocket plane has ever
sustained flight. They used the X-40A six times to validate
autonomous landing improvements for future reusable spacecraft.

They demonstrated an inflatable wing that can change the
performance characteristics of an aircraft in the blink of an eye.
They checked, on the ground, the flexible test wing they will soon
use in an effort to improve high-speed maneuverability of aircraft.
They flew through, and above, hurricanes.

And they cheered when the X-38 prototype sailed to safe
landings under the world’s largest parafoil wing, as well as when the
space shuttle boomed its way into the landing pattern at the
Dryden/Edwards Air Force Base complex.

The NASA Center in the Mojave Desert employed nearly 1,400
civil servants and contractors during 2001. To keep cutting-edge
aerospace research happening, the Dryden Center employs a diverse
support staff with specialties ranging from medicine to maintenance;
sheetmetal to shipping.

For the year, Dryden research and support aircraft logged
about 2,260 flying hours. Dryden’s F-15B research aircraft made its
200th NASA flight on December 18.

The new year promises ongoing flight tests like the X-38
space station crew return vehicle prototype, expanded hypersonic
research, new Active Aeroelastic Wing F-18 flights, creative
adaptations of flight control software leading to artificial
intelligence, and as always, a safe port for the space shuttle if its
primary landing site in Florida is weathered-in.

Dryden’s airborne sciences team will again probe the earth’s
atmosphere with a long-ranging DC-8 transport and two ER-2 earth
sciences aircraft, all instrumented to monitor a variety of
atmospheric phenomena. And NASA’s Space Launch Initiative is
expected to bring testing to Dryden as contractors explore new space
vehicle technologies.


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