Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC)

The Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) is NASA’s primary center for atmospheric flight research and operations. The center’s location at Edwards Air Force Base, California in the Mojave Desert provides excellent year-round flying weather in a remote area, and is a main testing location for new aircraft.[1]

In partnership with the Johnson Space Center and Lockheed Martin, AFRC manages the launch abort systems testing and integration for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle that will replace the Space Shuttle. The Center also supports space-to-ground communications for the International Space Station. In addition, AFRC manages the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) program in partnership with the Ames Research Center and the German Aerospace Center.  SOFIA is a flying telescope aboard a Boeing 747SP aircraft.

AFRC operates manned and unmanned aircraft for Earth science missions such as atmospheric sampling, environmental imaging, and satellite sensor validation, under the Airborne Science Program. In support of aeronautical research and development AFRC has recently worked on projects including:

  • “Improving fuel efficiencies and reducing potentially harmful exhaust emissions
  • Noise reduction on takeoff and landing via aerodynamic improvements including flexible control surfaces
  • Research into vehicle integrated propulsion
  • Development of systems and procedures to safely integrate remotely or autonomously operated aircraft into the national airspace with aircraft flown by on-board pilots
  • Mitigation of sonic booms that could make supersonic commercial flight feasible over the U.S.
  • Improved ground and airborne automatic collision avoidance systems”[2]

AFRC also supports space technology development through the Flight Opportunities Program, which it manages. This program enables developers to flight-test payloads on a variety of sub-orbital vehicles, balloons, and aircraft. Armstrong’s assets include the Research Aircraft Integration Facility, simulation laboratories, a high-temperature and flight loads-calibration laboratory, aircraft flight test instrumentation capability, a data analysis facility for flight research data, and expertise in remotely operated aircraft flight research.[3]

The Armstrong Flight Research Center leadership team is shown below.

Source: NASA

AFRC published a Strategic Plan in 2015 that sets out goals and initiatives for the Center’s future. The 2015 AFRC Strategic Plan can be accessed here.

Information on doing business with AFRC is available here.

Updated April 2018 by Rachel Werth

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