November 1, 2006 Ground testing of the X-48B Blended Wing Body (BWB) concept will start in the near future in preparation for flight testing early next year. The X-48B ground and flight testing will take place at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California, where two high-fidelity 21-foot wingspan prototypes have been delivered. The prototypes were produced to explore and validate the structural, aerodynamic and operational advantages of the BWB concept and were designated X-48B by the U.S. Air Force based on its interest in the design's potential as a future military aircraft. The X-48B's three turbojet engines will allow the 500-pound, composite-skinned, 21-foot wingspan prototype to fly up to 120 knots and 10,000 feet in altitude during flight testing.
"Earlier wind-tunnel testing and the upcoming flight testing are focused on learning more about the BWB's low-speed flight-control characteristics, especially during takeoffs and landings," said Norm Princen, Boeing Phantom Works chief engineer for the X-48B program. "Knowing how accurately our models predict these characteristics is an important step in the further development of this concept."
X-48B Ship 1 completed extensive wind tunnel testing at the Old Dominion University NASA Langley Full-Scale Tunnel this year before being shipped to NASA Dryden as a backup to Ship 2, which will be used for flight testing early next year.
In preparation for first flight, the X-48B Ship 2 will undergo ground testing to validate its engine- and fuel-system integrity, battery endurance, telemetry link communication, flight-control software, and low- and high-speed taxiing characteristics.
The X-48B research project is led by Phantom Works, Boeing's advanced R&D unit chartered to provide innovative technology and system solutions to meet future aerospace needs. Cranfield Aerospace, Ltd., in the United Kingdom built the two X-48B prototypes for Phantom Works in accordance with Boeing requirements and specifications. NASA's participation in the project is focused on fundamental, edge-of-the-envelope flight dynamics and structural concepts of the BWB, while AFRL is focused on the BWB's potential as a flexible, long-range, high-capacity military aircraft.