National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex set to reopen

  • Published
  • By Tim White and Andy Roake
  • Arnold Engineering Development Center Public Affairs
The Arnold Engineering Development Center and the U.S. Air Force recently signed a lease with NASA to reopen the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex located on NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.

Under the terms of a 25-year lease, NASA will retain ownership of the facility while AEDC operates NFAC. NASA will provide general support services such as building maintenance, fire protection and security. Technical support can also be provided under provisions allowing the Air Force to purchase additional services as required. The value of the lease is estimated to be between $2 million and $4 million per year, depending on workload and services required. The initial term of the lease is six months, with a following 4½-year primary term. The lease may be extended for four additional 5-year terms.

AEDC will operate the facility as a separate operating location, reporting directly to the AEDC commander at Arnold Air Force Base. AEDC has successfully operated its Hypervelocity Tunnel 9 in Silver Spring, Md., under the same arrangement for the last decade.

AEDC Operating Location 2 will be under the leadership of Col. Vince Albert, former AEDC vice commander. The U.S. Army Aeroflightdynamics Directorate of the Army's Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center will provide a civilian deputy. An initial contractor work force of 30 personnel will perform facility reactivation followed by operation of the facility supporting test customers.

Congress authorized $5 million in fiscal year 2005 and $14 million in fiscal year 2006 to reopen NFAC, which is a critical national aerodynamic test capability used primarily for rotorcraft. Significant work is in progress to install a functional instrumentation system and return NFAC systems to service.

A limited Initial Operational Capability may be achieved by fall 2006, depending on the extent of maintenance and repair actions required. Full operational capability is expected in summer 2007. The anticipated majority customer for the NFAC will be the U.S. Army, as it was when the facility was open under NASA management.

"We are very pleased that the NFAC will be re-opening," said Dr. Lisa Porter, associate director of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. "This facility is a national asset of critical importance for aeronautics research, particularly rotorcraft research, and we intend to collaborate with the U.S. Army in rotorcraft research in the coming years."

NFAC was built in 1944 to support research in aerodynamics, structural dynamics and acoustics. Research at NFAC will involve using critical components (especially rotor blades) and, on occasion, full-size aircraft, to focus on the aerodynamic characteristics of new configurations with an emphasis on validating design estimates.

NFAC has two test sections. One test section is 40 feet high by 80 feet wide and is capable of obtaining velocities up to 250 knots. The other test section is 80 feet wide by 120 feet high and is capable of obtaining velocities up to 80 knots.

NASA closed NFAC in 2003 due to budget pressures.