Langley Research Center

Langley Research Center
NASA Langley Research Center
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Langley research center.jpg
Aerial view of Langley Research Center
Agency overview
Formed 1917
Preceding agency Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory
Jurisdiction U.S. federal government
Headquarters Hampton, Virginia
Agency executive Lesa B. Roe, director
Parent agency NASA
Langley home page

Langley Research Center (LaRC) is the oldest of NASA's field centers, located in Hampton, Virginia, United States. It directly borders Poquoson, Virginia and Langley Air Force Base. LaRC focuses primarily on aeronautical research, though the Apollo lunar lander was flight-tested at the facility and a number of high-profile space missions have been planned and designed on-site.

Established in 1917 by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the Center currently devotes two-thirds of its programs to aeronautics, and the rest to space. LaRC researchers use more than 40 wind tunnels to study improved aircraft and spacecraft safety, performance, and efficiency. Between 1958 and 1963, when NASA started Project Mercury, LaRC served as the main office of the Space Task Group, with the office being transferred to the Manned Spacecraft Center (now the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center) in Houston in 1962–63.

The current director is Lesa B. Roe.



In 1917, less than three years after it was created, the NACA established Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory on Langley Field. Both Langley Field and the Langley Laboratory are named for aviation pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley.[1] The Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps had established a base there earlier that same year. The first research facilities were in place and aeronautical research was started by 1920. Initially the laboratory included four researchers and 11 technicians.[2]

NASA Langley 14-foot (4 m) x 22-foot (7 m) Subsonic Wind Tunnel

Langley Field and NACA began parallel growth as air power proved its utility during World War I. The center was originally established to explore the field of aerodynamic research involving airframe and propulsion engine design and performance. In 1934 the world's largest wind tunnel was constructed at Langley Field which was able to test full scale aircraft. One of the first wind tunnels able to do this. [3][4]

Early in 1943 the center expanded to include rocket research, leading to the establishment of a flight station at Wallops Island, Virginia. A further expansion of the research program permitted Langley Research Center to orbit payloads. As rocket research grew, aeronautics research continued to expand and played an important part when subsonic flight was advanced and supersonic and hypersonic flight were introduced.[citation needed]

Langley Research Center can claim many historic firsts, some of which have proven to be revolutionary scientific breakthroughs. These accomplishments include the development of the concept of research aircraft leading to supersonic flight, the world's first transonic wind tunnels, the Lunar Landing Facility providing the simulation of lunar gravity, and the Viking program for Mars exploration.[5]


Full scale model of the X-43 plane in Langley's 8-foot (2 m), high temperature wind tunnel.

Langley Research Center performs critical research on aeronautics, including wake vortex behavior, fixed-wing aircraft, rotary wing aircraft, air safety, human factors and aerospace engineering. LaRC supported the design and testing of the hypersonic X-43, which achieved a world speed record of Mach 9.6 (almost 7,000 miles per hour). LaRC assisted the NTSB in the investigation of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587.[6] [7]

Work began in July 2011 to remove the 1940's era 16 16 feet (4.9 m) transonic wind tunnel. The facility supported development and propulsion integration research for many military aircraft including all fighters since 1960 (F-14, F-15, F-16, F-18 and the Joint Strike Fighter) but had been inactive since 2004. [8] Langley retained transonic wind tunnel testing capabilities facilities in the National Transonic Facility, a high pressure, cryogenically cooled 8.2 feet (2.5 m) closed loop wind tunnel.[9]

Fabrication research and development

Electron beam freeform fabrication (EBF³)

The EBF³ process produces structural metallic parts with immense strength, and is conducive to performing repairs in remote locations. In addition, the ability to build functionally graded, unitized parts directly from CAD data offers enhanced performance in a great number of applications. Just recently LaRC has become home to this new type of machining process, which is used by their new room-sized electron-emitting device. This machine uses a High Frequency 42 kW, X-ray emitting electron gun, (A cousin to the ones found in television Cathode Ray Tubes), which, at high speeds, melts either aluminum or titanium wire, (positioned by dual independent wire feeders), into the desired 3-dimensional metallic parts with material strength comparable to that of wrought products. The machine's deposition rate is 150 in³/h (690 mm³/s), similar to that of its plastic-fabricating counterpart. Metallic parts are also built directly from CAD, without molds or tools, leaving the end product with absolutely no porosity. Other facts include:

  • A 6-axis positioning
  • Heated or cooled platen
  • 1x10^-6 torr vacuum capability (needed for the high power Electron beam gun)
  • 72 x 24 x 24 inch build envelope
  • Power efficiency in excess of 90%
  • Near 100% feedstock efficiency
  • Can deposit reflective materials not processable with lasers
  • Potential portable EBF³ system (Under Development)
  • Potential Fabrication & repair from the plants to the planets
  • Research assistance for developing large scale fabrication in space

Overall, Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication is a layer-additive technique that offers potential for improvements in cost, weight, and performance to enhance mission success for aircraft, launch vehicles, and spacecraft.

Plastic fabrication

LaRC also houses a large collection of various, inexpensive plastic reformation machines. These machines are generally very critical in the freeform fabrication department for faster timing, better precision, and larger quantities of low-cost toy, model, and industrial plastic parts. The fabrication of plastic parts is not all that dissimillar to the EBF³ process, except the melting apparatus is a thin, grated heating element, but other than that they are quite similar, e.g. they are both run completely by CAD data and deal with various freeform fabrication of raw materials. Plastic reformation machines have also come to the interest of graphical artist, opening a whole new world of bringing their masterpieces to life, all with a 'flick' of a switch, so to speak.[citation needed]



Gantry used in lunar landing training as well as testing of land-based landings of the Orion spacecraft

Since the start of Project Gemini, Langley was a center for training of rendezvous in space. In 1965, Langley opened the Lunar Landing Research Facility for simulations of moon landings with a mock Apollo Lunar Module suspended from a gantry over a simulated lunar landscape. There was experimental work on some Lunar Landing Research Vehicles (LLRV).


Langley Research Center supported NASA's mission by designing a spacecraft for a Mars landing. (see the Mars Exploration Rover.)

Earth science

Langley Research Center conducts earth science research to support NASA's mission.


LRC scientists and engineers have has won the Collier Trophy 5 times. In 1929d for the development of low-drag cowling for radial air-cooled aircraft engines, 1946 to Lewis A. Rodert, Lawrence D. Bell and Chuck Yeager for the development of an efficient wing deicing system, 1947 to John Stack of the then Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory for research to determine the physical laws affecting supersonic flight, also shared in this trophy for their work on supersonic flight, 1951 to John Stack for the development and use of the slotted-throat wind tunnel, 1954 Richard T. Whitcomb for the development of the Whitcomb area rule, according to the citation, a "powerful, simple, and useful method of reducing greatly the sharp increase in wing drag heretofore associated with transonic flight, and which constituted a major factor requiring great reserves of power to attain supersonic speeds."[10]


See Also

External links

Coordinates: 37°05′34″N 76°22′53″W / 37.09277°N 76.38133°W / 37.09277; -76.38133

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