For over three decades, the drive system in NASA’s Langley Research Center’s
14- x 22 ft. subsonic wind tunnel has been in almost continuous operation.
Scientists conducting advanced aeronautical research depend on the tunnel to
prove theories and test new ideas.

To ensure the continued vitality of this national resource, a new 12,000
horsepower, 6600-volt electric motor with advanced control and safety
systems is being installed. The 80-ton motor, built by ALSTOM in France, was
designed specifically for the Langley Research Center application. ALSTOM
has wide experience in custom designing and building motors for power
generation, ship propulsion and high speed rail systems. The tunnel’s
existing 40-ft. diameter, 9-blade fan assembly will be attached to the new
motor once it is in place.

The new motor and control system will be able to operate continuously at
peak efficiency and will provide accurate speed control over a range between
1 and 300 rpm.

To make the motor exchange, the top of the wind tunnel will be cut and
lifted off. A 300-ton mobile crane is being moved into position for the lift
tentatively scheduled for Tuesday morning, September 25.

In preparation for the installation, the focus is on safety. Overhead power
cables along Route 172 had to be buried. And, due to the size of the crane,
one lane of Armistead Avenue (Route 172) will be closed during the lifting

After the installation and extensive testing, the 14- x 22-ft. subsonic wind
tunnel is expected to be back in operation this December.