Aviation - Avions NASA-Prototypes
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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Systems Research Aircraft (SRA), a highly modified F-18 jet fighter, shows its colors during a recent research flight. The former Navy aircraft is being flown by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, to evaluate a number of experimental aerospace technologies in a multi-year, joint NASA/DOD/industry program. Among the more than 20 experiments being flight-tested were several involving fiber optic sensor systems. Experiments developed by McDonnell-Douglas and Lockheed-Martin centered on installation and maintenace techniques for various types of fiber-optic hardware proposed for use in military and commercial aircraft, while a Parker-Hannifin experiment focused in alternative fiber-optic designs for postion measurement sensors as well as operational experience in handling optical sensor systems. Other experiments being flown on this testbed aircraft include electronically-controlled control surface actuators, flush air data collection systems, ''smart'' skin antennae and laser-based systems. Incorporation of one or more of these technologies in future aircraft and spacecraft could result in signifigant savings in weight, maintenance and overall cost.