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. NASA sources note that Orion Ascent Abort (AA)-2 launched July 2, 2019, which marked a milestone in NASA’s preparation for Artemis missions to the Moon. 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. [2] 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:

  • “Collecting data that could make supersonic flight over land possible, reducing travel time in the United States or anywhere in the world
  • Improving commercial aircraft energy and environmental impacts by designing tools to test and validate electrified aircraft propulsion technologies
  • Helping industry to safely develop an advanced air mobility system to move people and cargo between places previously not served or underserved by aviation.”[3]

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.[4]

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 2020 AFRC Strategic Plan can be accessed here.

Information on doing business with AFRC is available here.

Updated November 2020, by Theresa Pipher