In cooperation with NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the Phantom
Works organization of Boeing is taking another step toward exploring and
validating the structural, aerodynamic and operational advantages of a
futuristic aircraft design called the blended wing body, or BWB.
Two high-fidelity, 21-foot wingspan prototypes of the BWB concept have been
designed and produced for wind tunnel and flight testing this year. The Air
Force has designated the vehicles as the "X-48B," based on its interest in the
design's potential as a flexible, long-range, high-capacity military aircraft.
X-48B Ship No. 1 began wind tunnel testing on April 7 at the Langley Full-Scale
Tunnel at NASA's Langley Research Center. When testing is completed in early
May, it will be shipped to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California to
serve as a backup to Ship No. 2, which will be used for flight testing later
this year. According to the team, both phases of testing are focused on learning
more about the low-speed flight-control characteristics of the BWB concept.
The X-48B cooperative agreement by Boeing, NASA and the Air Force Research
Laboratory (AFRL) culminates years of BWB research by NASA and Boeing. AFRL is
interested in the concept for its potential future military applications.
NASA also is committed to advancing the BWB concept. NASA and its partners have
tested six different blended wing body models of various sizes over the last
decade in four wind tunnels at the Langley Research Center.
The two X-48B prototypes were built for Boeing Phantom Works by Cranfield
Aerospace Ltd., in the United Kingdom in accordance with Boeing requirements and
specifications. Made primarily of advanced lightweight composite materials, the
prototypes weigh about 400 pounds each. Powered by three turbojet engines, they
will be capable of flying up to 120 knots and 10,000 feet in altitude during
Boeing also contracted with Cranfield Aerospace to provide the ground-control
station, in which a pilot will remotely control the X-48B during flight research
testing. As part of Boeing's long-range business strategy, its Phantom Works
advanced research and development organization defines and develops innovative
technologies and systems such as the blended wing body concept to meet future
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