NASA’s Research Center, Dryden Flight, will soon have an unmanned aircraft named X-56A MUTT – short for Multi-Use Technology Testbed – it is being developed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to start on testing technologies needed for new kinds of lightweight and flexible aircraft.
The newly-built aircraft is under contract to Lockheed Martin Corp., it is being made in California and will conduct the flight experiments for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). X-56A MUTT is one of the Air Force’s newest designed X-planes. The 7.5 foot-long aircraft has a 28-foot wingspan and will be powered by two 52-pound thrust has JetCat P200 SX turbine engines.
Gary Martin, the Deputy Project Manager for NASA’s Subsonic Fixed Wing Project at Dryden Flight said to the press, “flexible wings and fuselages can result in significant reductions in the structural weight of aircraft. To maintain the long-term health of the structure and ride quality in a more flexible airplane, we need to actively alleviate gust loads on the airplane and suppress flutter, so gust load alleviation and active flutter suppression are two of the key technologies that NASA is working to advance.”
The MUTT is designed to address this problem by enabling engineers to practice suppressing flutter by adjusting software programs in the aircraft’s flight control computer. Researchers also expect to learn how better to ease gust loads, which will make flexible airplanes safer when they experience in-flight turbulence. The knowledge gained about flutter and gust suppression will be used in designing the proposed supersonic X-54, an aircraft that will demonstrate sonic boom-quieting technologies that could someday alleviate the noise concerns currently preventing supersonic commercial flight over land in the United States.
Dryden Research Center will oversee the flights for AFRL during summer 2012, and then take ownership of the X-56A MUTT for follow-on research after the Air Force tests are finished in early autumn.
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