Detail View: NASA Image eXchange Collection: DAST Mated to B-52 in Flight - Close-up from Below

DAST Mated to B-52 in Flight - Close-up from Below
This photo shows a BQM-34 Firebee II drone being carried aloft under the wing of NASA's B-52 mothership during a 1977 research flight. The Firebee/DAST research program ran from 1977 to 1983 at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California. This is the original Firebee II wing. Firebee 72-1564 made three captive flights--on November 25, 1975; May 17, 1976; and June 22, 1977--in preparation for the DAST project with modified wings. These were for checkout of the Firebee's systems and the prelaunch procedures. The first two used a DC-130A aircraft as the launch vehicle, while the third used the B-52. A single free flight using this drone occurred on July 28, 1977. The remote (ground) pilot was NASA research pilot Bill Dana. The launch and flight were successful, and the drone was caught in midair by an HH-53 helicopter. These are the image contact sheets for each image resolution of the NASA Dryden Drones for Aerodynamic and Structural Testing (DAST) Photo Gallery. From 1977 to 1983, the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California, (under two different names) conducted the DAST Program as a high-risk flight experiment using a ground-controlled, pilotless aircraft. Described by NASA engineers as a "wind tunnel in the sky," the DAST was a specially modified Teledyne-Ryan BQM-34E/F Firebee II supersonic target drone that was flown to validate theoretical predictions under actual flight conditions in a joint project with the Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia. The DAST Program merged advances in electronic remote control systems with advances in airplane design. Drones (remotely controlled, missile-like vehicles initially developed to serve as gunnery targets) had been deployed successfully during the Vietnamese conflict as reconnaissance aircraft. After the war, the energy crisis of the 1970s led NASA to seek new ways to cut fuel use and improve airplane efficiency. The DAST Program's drones provided an economical, fuel-conscious method for conducting in-flight experiments from a remote ground site. DAST explored the technology required to build wing structures with less than normal stiffness. This was done because stiffness requires structural weight but ensures freedom from flutter-an uncontrolled, divergent oscillation of the structure, driven by aerodynamic forces and resulting in structural failure. The program used refined theoretical tools to predict at what speed flutter would occur. It then designed a high-response control system to counteract the motion and permit a much lighter wing structure. The wing had, in effect, "electronic stiffness." Flight research with this concept was extremely hazardous because an error in either the flutter prediction or control system implementation would result in wing structural failure and the loss of the vehicle. Because of this, flight demonstration of a sub-scale vehicle made sense from the standpoint of both safety and cost. The program anticipated structural failure during
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center (NASA-DFRC) [ ]
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