Peter Boschert at Edwards AFB / NASA

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Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base

An article about Edwards Air Force Base isn’t complete if you don’t mention the Flight Research Center at the base.

This is the NASA with its Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center (until 01st March 2014 Dryden Flight Research Center). Mid 1954 the name of the installation was shortened to High-Speed Flight Station (HSFS). After the changing from NACA to NASA, the center was renamed NASA Flight Research Center on 27th September 1959. At this time 340 people were working there. The renaming into Dryden Flight Research Center to honour the long-time NACA director Hugh L. Dryden happened on 26th March 1976. 560 persons were working at this time at the Center. On 16th January 2014, president Barack Obama signed the bill to rename the research center into the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center which honours the astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, who was active here between 1955 and 1962 as test pilot. The renaming took place on 01st March 2014. The western part of the test area (Western Aeronautical Test Range) was renamed the same day as “NASA Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range“. NASA is developing and testing here new technologies, mostly connected with propulsion and aerodynamics. Different aircraft were used over the years like F-8, F-104, YF-107, X-Planes, SR-71, B-52, F-15 and F-18. Nowadays, there is only a small part left, the inventory for the Center includes 4 FA-18A/B, 3 F-15C/D, 2 U-2s, a few MQ-9 aqnd a Gulfstream III, further aircraft, including RQ-4 and Boeing 747, are detached to Palmdale.

Here are some important events which took place in conjuction with the NACA/NASA facility.

– 09th December 1946, Chuck Yeager flew the first time with the rocketpropelled Bell X-1, the first supersonic flight was done by him on 14th October 1947.

– 20th November 1953, Scott Crossfield reached twice the speed of sound with the rocketpropelled Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket.

– 30th October 1964, the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV), nicknamed “Flying bedsteads“ was “flown“ by test pilot Joe Walker the first time. It trained the astronauts of the Apollo-program for the landing on the moon, the LLRV is still present at the Center.

– 17th December 1968, the pilots Fitz Fulton and Ted Sturmthal reached at the last flight of the XB-70 Valkyrie Mach 2.53.

– 14th April 1981, space shuttle Columbia landed successfully after its first flight (STS-1) at Edwards AFB. 320,000 people were present, including 20,000 invited by the DFRC, a further 300,000 were on the open east side. The largest audience was present at the fourth Shuttle-landing on 04th July 1982. Nearly 500,000 people attended, a further 45,000 guests were at the DFRC area, including the then active president Ronald Reagan.

01st December 1984, the spectacular video with the remote controlled Boeing 720 to demonstrate a new non-flammable fuel addition was made. Unfortunately, the plane burst in flames.

05th April 1990, the Pegasus-carriersystem was started the first time from a B-52 and brought its commercial freight into a 515 km high orbit.

01st November 1993, the last planned landing of a space shuttle (STS-58) was attended by 40,000 spectators, when Columbia landed at the runway at the salt lake.

16th November 2004, the Boeing X-43A, a hypersonic unmanned research aircraft with a scramjet propulsion, flew with Mach 9.8 a new world record.

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Peter Boschert

Peter is a photographer covering events in the United States and in Europe. He likes to cover Nellis AFB, NAS Fallon and RAF Lakenheath.

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