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Ground testing begins for X-48B Blended Wing Body Concept

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October 31, 2006

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November 1, 2006 Ground testing of the X-48B Blended Wing Body (BWB) concept will start in the near future in preparation for flight testing early next year. The X-48B ground and flight testing will take place at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California, where two high-fidelity 21-foot wingspan prototypes have been delivered. The prototypes were produced to explore and validate the structural, aerodynamic and operational advantages of the BWB concept and were designated X-48B by the U.S. Air Force based on its interest in the design's potential as a future military aircraft. The X-48B's three turbojet engines will allow the 500-pound, composite-skinned, 21-foot wingspan prototype to fly up to 120 knots and 10,000 feet in altitude during flight testing.

"Earlier wind-tunnel testing and the upcoming flight testing are focused on learning more about the BWB's low-speed flight-control characteristics, especially during takeoffs and landings," said Norm Princen, Boeing Phantom Works chief engineer for the X-48B program. "Knowing how accurately our models predict these characteristics is an important step in the further development of this concept."

X-48B Ship 1 completed extensive wind tunnel testing at the Old Dominion University NASA Langley Full-Scale Tunnel this year before being shipped to NASA Dryden as a backup to Ship 2, which will be used for flight testing early next year.

In preparation for first flight, the X-48B Ship 2 will undergo ground testing to validate its engine- and fuel-system integrity, battery endurance, telemetry link communication, flight-control software, and low- and high-speed taxiing characteristics.

The X-48B research project is led by Phantom Works, Boeing's advanced R&D; unit chartered to provide innovative technology and system solutions to meet future aerospace needs. Cranfield Aerospace, Ltd., in the United Kingdom built the two X-48B prototypes for Phantom Works in accordance with Boeing requirements and specifications. NASA's participation in the project is focused on fundamental, edge-of-the-envelope flight dynamics and structural concepts of the BWB, while AFRL is focused on the BWB's potential as a flexible, long-range, high-capacity military aircraft.

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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