Transcript for NASA Connect - The Future of Flight Equation


[Armstrong] Hi.

I'm Neil Armstrong, commander
of the Apollo 11 mission.

[Recording] It's one small step for
man, one giant leap for mankind.

I'm working with the American
Institute of Aeronautics

and Astronautics on the
Evolution of Flight Campaign.

This campaign marks the
100th anniversary of flight.

And lays the groundwork for the
next 100 years of innovation

and aviation in space technology.

The I-AA and NASA Connect are
excited to give you the opportunity

to learn about the
aircraft design process.

You'll see a really cool
experimental aircraft.

You will observe NASA engineers
and researchers using math, science

and technology to
solve their problems.

In your classroom, you'll
test and improve wing designs.

In our instructional
technology activity,

you will become an employee
of Plane Math Enterprises.

To design and test
aircraft using a computer.

So stay tuned as host
Dan Jerome takes you

on another exciting
episode of NASA Connect.


[Dan] Hi. Welcome to NASA Connect,
the show that connects you to math,

science, technology, and NASA.

I'm Dan Jerome.

And today, I'm at the national air
and space Museum in Washington, DC.

Over my shoulder is
the Wright Flyer.

This is the first manned airplane
to fly under its own power.

It was built by the
Wright brothers.

This is the Bell X1, the first
plane to break the sound barrier.

Notice how sleek its shape is.

And this is the X-15.

It's the first airplane
to fly into space.

Notice how closely
shaped it is to a rocket.

There are tons of planes here.

Let's take a look.


[Dan] Now, before we continue our
show, there are a few things you

and your teacher need to know.

First, teachers, make sure
you have the lesson guide

for today's program.

It can be downloaded from
our NASA Connect web site.

In it, you'll find a great
math based hands on activity,

and a description of our
instructional technology component.

Kids, you'll want to keep
your eyes on Norbert.

Because every time he appears
with questions like this,

have your cue cards from the
lesson guide and your brain ready

to answer the questions
he gives you.

Oh, and teachers, if you
are watching a taped version

of this program, every time you
see Norbert with the remote,

that is your cue to
pause the videotape

and discuss the cue card questions.

This show is about
the future of flight.

But before we talk
about the future,

what is commercial
flight like today?

And what current technologies
are being used by pilots?


[Tobias] Hi.

I'm Connie Tobias.

And I'm a pilot with US Airways.

This modern Airbus aircraft
gives us the tools we need

to navigate safely and efficiently

in today's complex air
traffic control systems.

The Airbus aircraft has an
array of computer screens

that give the pilot information
about performance, navigation,

weather, and the location of
other aircraft in our airspace.

About 10 years from now,

over 3 million people
will be flying every day.

That's about 1 million
more than today.

Updated computer technology and
faster aircraft will be needed

to deal with this increase,

and to reduce the travel
time between destinations.

[Dan] Thanks, Connie.

Now that we know what pilots
have to keep in their minds

with today's aircraft, let's
consider the future of flight.

Have you ever wondered
what the airplanes

of tomorrow will look like?

Or how fast they will travel?

Will tomorrow's planes travel
into space or beyond turn

on today's show, we're going
to learn how NASA researchers

and engineers are using geometry
and algebra to design, develop,

and test future experimental

[Voice] What is an
experimental plane?

[Dan] Experimental planes, or X
planes, are tools of exploration

that come in many shapes and sizes.

They fly with jet engines, rocket
engines, or no engines at all.

Which means that NASA flies
not only the fastest airplanes,

but the slowest as well.

Some planes are too
small for a pilot,

and some are as large
as an airliner.

The research conducted

in experimental aircraft today
gives us a glimpse into the future.

NASA is developing one of the
fastest experimental X planes ever.

It's called the Hyper X.

[Voice] What is the Hyper X?

[Dan] The Hyper X research
vehicle is an experimental plane

that uses this really cool engine
technology called the scramjet.

Unlike rockets, such as the
space shuttle main engines,

which must carry both
fuel and oxygen,

the scramjet will only
carry hydrogen fuel.

It will take in oxygen out
of the thin upper atmosphere

as it travels along.

We call this kind of
engine and air breather,

that will allow the Hyper X
to fly at incredible speeds.

In fact, the Hyper X will fly
at about 3020 m per second,

which is about 6750
mph, or Mach 10.

[Voice] What does Mach number mean?

[Dan] Mach numbers represent
how many times the speed

of sound vehicle is traveling.

For example, Mach 1
equals the speed of sound,

which is approximately 302
m per second, or 675 mph,

at an altitude of 100,000 feet.

Which is the test altitude
of the Hyper X. Mach 2,

which is twice the speed of sound,

would approximately be 604 m
per second, or were 1350 mph,

at an altitude of 100,000 feet.

Mach numbers are used by NASA
researchers describe the speed

at which a plane is flying.

Let's use algebra to calculate
the Mach number of Hyper X,

flying at 3020 m per
second, or 6750 mph.

This algebraic equation shows that
the Mach number equals the speed

of the plane divided by the
speed of the sound in the air,

where M is the Mach number.

B is equal to the speed of
the plane, and A is equal

to the speed of sound in the air.

If the speed of the plane is 3020
m per second and the speed of sound

at 100,000 feet is
302 m per second,

then what is the Mach number?

That's right.

3020 m per second is about Mach
10, or 10 times the speed of sound.

We'll learn more about Mach
numbers later on in the show.

But first, let me tell you

about the Hyper X. The Hyper X
is designed as a flying engine,

which means the airplane
and the engine are one unit.

The unique shape of the airplane
develops the lift necessary

to keep the plane up in the air,

so it doesn't need
wings to produce lift.

The entire undersurface of the
airplane is designed to act

as part of the engine.

In order to test the scramjet
engine, the Hyper X is launched

by a NASA B-52, and boosted by
a rocket to testing altitude.

It will then separate
from the rocket,

and the scramjet engine
begin its test flight.


[Dan] So, have you
ever wondered what goes

into designing an experimental
plane such as the Hyper X?

I know I have.

I'm here at NASA Langley
research Center in Hampton,

Virginia to talk to Dr. Scott Hall.

[Voice] What are the steps
in designing an aircraft?

[Voice] How do the
mission requirements

of an aircraft determined
its shape?

[Voice] Wow.

Wind tunnels test aircraft design.


[Dr. Hall] Hi, Dan.

Hyper X. is definitely
a very exciting program.

In my job I use wind tunnels

to determine the flying

of different vehicles that fly
many times faster than the speed

of sound, like the
Hyper X exciting part

of the Hyper X program is
that it's truly pioneering.

That means no one's
ever done it before,

so we have to blaze the trail.

[Dan] NASA sure has
blazed many trails.

How do they do it?

[Dr. Hall] The first thing you
have to do in blazing a trail is

to determine a mission
where you want to go.

We develop a set of
requirements for the vehicle,

and then we begin the process

of designing the vehicle
to meet that mission.

Have you ever been to an
air show to see a bunch

of different airplanes?

[Dan] Yeah.

Some planes are short.

Some are long and slender.

Some fly slow, and some fly fast.

[Dr. Hall] You're right.

They perform differently
because they were designed

to satisfy different missions.

With the Hyper X program,
our mission is

to have it fly very fast.

We also want to be able to
control it, and we want it

to be able to propel itself.

You see, NASA has many years

of experience testing
fundamental shapes, to understand

and document how those shapes,
we call them geometries,

respond to the airflow
at various speeds.

Let me show you.

The Apollo capsules used to bring
the astronauts back to Earth

after their trips to the moon
were designed as blunt bodies.

This is because this
particular shape has high drag,

the force that slows
an object down.

[Voice] The blunt body creates
the drag needed to deploy the

[inaudible] parachute,
followed by the main parachutes.

The force of drag then gently
lowers the vehicle safely

to the earth.

[Dr. Hall] NASA had to design
a vehicle that would slow

down to speeds where it was safe

to deploy the parachute
landing in the ocean.

[Dan] OK, I get it.

But what about other shapes?

[Dr. Hall] Well, we know

that slender shapes like
the Concorde has less drag.

A vehicle that has to propel
itself, like the Concorde

or the Hyper X, has to have
an engine with enough power

to overcome the vehicles drag.

So if you were preparing the Hyper
X propel it self and fly very fast,

would you want a blunt
body or a slender body?

[Dan] Well, I would
like a slender body.

[Dr. Hall] That's right.

The Hyper X is designed
as a slender body

because it has less drag
the engine to overcome.

You are on your way to becoming
a conceptual designer, Dan.

[Dan] I am?

Sweet. So once you've decided
on a mission, what's next?

[Dr. Hall] Detail design.

A conceptual designer makes
decisions like the one you just

made, to find the geometry that
will meet the mission requirements.

A detail designer uses tools such
as CAD or computer aided drafting

to turn ideas into drawings.

These drawings help us work out
the details of how to design parts

of the Hyper X like engines,
the control surfaces,

the fuel tanks, and so forth.

Once we have an initial design, we
begin the process to improve it.

We compare the design of the
Hyper X to other vehicles

with similar characteristics.

We may need to make
changes to the geometry

to improve the performance.

[Dan] How do you know if you
need to change the shape?

[Dr. Hall] One way is
conducting wind tunnel tests.

You see, during the design
and computer modeling stages,

we extensively use our wind tunnels

to quickly screen
our Hyper X designs.

And then the wind tunnel tests
help us determine the best design,

and understand how
the vehicle will fly.

[Dan] OK. So what is a wind tunnel?

[Dr. Hall] Wind tunnels are
devices that allow us to move air

over a scale model of a flight
vehicle is Hyper X we use models

instead of the real vehicle because
they are smaller, less expensive,

and easier to change is needed.

This is NASA Langley's 31
inch Mach 10 wind tunnel.

This tunnel can get the air moving
up to 10 times the speed of sound.

Once we've placed the model of
the Hyper X in the wind tunnel,

we make measurements to
determine how the air interacts

with the model.

At the nose of the vehicle, the air
near the surface is very smooth.

We call it the laminar.

But as the air moves down
the length of the body,

it changes it becomes turbulent.

You can see this natural
process by looking at the smoke

after you blow out a candle.

After you've blown out
a candle, you'll notice

that the smoke near the
candle rises smoothly.

That's laminar flow.

But farther away from the candle,

you'll notice it becomes
rough and irregular.

That's turbulent flow.

Normally, we think of laminar flow
when designing aerodynamic shapes.

We want the air to flow
smoothly around them.

However, the Hyper X geometry
requires turbulent flow.

[Dan] Why would you want
turbulent flow on the Hyper X?

[Dr. Hall] In order for the
scramjet engine to work properly.

You see, turbulent airflow
enhances the mixing of the air

with hydrogen fuel for
better engine performance.

Turbulent airflow is created
by a device called the trip,

located underneath the belly of
the Hyper X Using the wind tunnel,

we tested several trips with
different shapes were geometries

to see which one worked
best to change the airflow

from laminar to turbulent.

Our wind tunnel tests determined

that this triangular shaped
trip was the best design

for creating turbulent flow

for the scramjet engine
on this vehicle.

[Dan] How do you test
the scramjet engine?

[Dr. Hall] We have
specialized wind tunnels capable

of testing scramjets,
but the ultimate proof

for the Hyper X is
a flight testing.

That's the last phase in
designing an aircraft.

NASA conducts all of its
flight tests on aircraft

at the NASA Dryden Flight Research
Center in Edwards, California.

[Dan] Thanks, Scott.

We'll visit NASA Dryden Flight
Research Center later in the show.

But first, join me

[inaudible], where we'll
use technology to prepare

for today's map based
hands-on activity.


[Dan] Welcome to my domain.

In just a minute, we'll get
to the hands-on activity,

which will require that
you use different shapes

in designing airplanes.

Before we do, let's take a look

at Liberty Interactive Learning's
Destination Math tutorial.

It's available free for
NASA Connect educators.

You can get to it from
the NASA Connect web site.

It's part of the mastering skills

and concepts free section
of destination math.

With this lesson, you
will explore the geometric

and algebraic characteristics
of basic shapes.

Teachers, this is an
excellent tutorial

that can give your students
information and assistance

as they prepared to do the
hands-on activity for the show.

In this tutorial, digit explores
parallelograms, trapezoids,

and right triangles while
examining the flags of some

of the countries in
the United Nations.

Many thanks to

[inaudible] for providing
NASA Connect

with this exciting instructional
technology enhancement to our show.

Now, let's do an aircraft
design activity

which you can do in your classroom.


[Voices] We're from
Pulaski Middle School here

in Newberry Connecticut.

NASA Connect has asked us to show
you this shows hands-on activity.

Here are the main objectives.

We Use algebra to calculate
wing area and aspect we go.

We use a portable

[inaudible] catapult to
analyze wing geometry.

We design, construct, and
test an experimental wing.

And you'll work in teams to solve
problems related to wing design.

The list of materials you'll need
for this activity can be downloaded

from the NASA Connect web site.

The class will be divided
into groups of four.

Each group will need a portable

[inaudible] catapult, or PGC,

which your teacher made
previous to this activity.

[Teacher] Good morning,
boys and girls.

This morning, NASA has
designated this class

as aeronautical engineers
in training.

Your job is to test current wing
designs based on distance traveled,

glide and speed observations.

From your analysis of the data that
you collect, you will have the task

of designing and testing
an experimental wing

to achieve maximum
distance traveled.

[Voices] First cut out the
templates for the fuselage, wings,

and horizontal stabilizers.

Place the templates on the trays,
and trace around the templates.

Stick a piece of masking tape
to the nose of the fuselage,

to prevent the nose of the
fuselage from breaking.

[inaudible] will calculate the
wing area, the wingspan, the

[inaudible] for each wing.

The average cord can be
calculated using this formula.

Next have students
calculate the aspect ratio

for each wing using the formula
wingspan divided by average cord.

Record all values
onto the data chart.

Prep the launch area by
measuring 12 m in the PGC.

Mark the distance at 1 m intervals.

Place tables or desks
of equal height

[inaudible], to elevate
the portable.

Place a book with the
height of approximately 5 cm

under the front portion of the PGC.

Select a wing shape to test.

You will be testing four
different shapes: delta, oblique,

straight, and swept back.

Attach a small binder clip to the
aircraft to give it some weight

in order to achieve
maximum distance traveled.

Position the aircraft on the PGC.

Using a rubber band, pull the
aircraft to the launch position.

Then announce, crew
to flight deck for


5, 4, 3, 2, 1, launch.

Conduct five trials
for each wing shape.

Measure the distance
traveled in centimeters,

and record the value
onto the data chart.

Record your observations on glide

and speed rating using the skills
provided from the lesson guide.

From the data collected,
each group will design

and construct their
own experimental wing.

Design your wing to fly farther
than the original test wings.

[Teacher] OK now.

How successful or
unsuccessful was your design?

What were the factors?


[Voices] Mine had a
lower aspect ratio.

Mine had a better sweptback wing.

Special thanks to the AIAA,
Connecticut section, and the AIAA

[inaudible], who helped
us with the set.

[Voice] Thanks.

We had a great experience today.

And we encourage teachers to
visit our web site to learn more

about the AI AA mentorship
program in your area.


[Dan] OK. We've learned
how geometry is important

in designing an experimental

With also learned some steps
in the aircraft design process.

But there's still
one more step to go.

Got mentioned earlier
that the last stage

in designing an aircraft
was flight testing.

Well, the lead center for a flight
testing is NASA Dryden flight

research Center in
Edwards, California.

Let's take a look and see what
they're doing with the Hyper X



[inaudible] How do the Hyper
X engineers collect the

research information?

Why is algebra important
in Hyper X research?

[Marshall] Hi.

I'm Laurie

[Marshall] I'm a research engineer
in the aerodynamics branch here

at NASA's Dryden flight
research Center.

I'm a one of the engineers

for getting the Hyper
X ready for flight.

In order to do this, we perform
tests on the vehicle to ensure

that the instrumentation system
will measure the necessary data.

We make sure that the control
room is set up properly

to record this data during flight.

We also perform inspections of the
Hyper X during assembly and testing

to ensure that the
systems are operational

and that no damage has occurred.

You see, the Hyper X is a
thermal protection system,

similar to the space shuttle.

The exterior is covered with
special tiles that allow it

to withstand the high
temperatures of high-speed flight.

If any of the tiles were damaged,

not only would the vehicle's
structure be compromised,

but the aerodynamic shape

that we've tested during the
design process could also

be altered.

And this can affect the flight.

[Voice] How do they flight test
the Hyper X at such high speeds?

[Marshall] Great question.

The Hyper X is a very small
vehicle, about the size

of two kayaks side by side.

As Scott told you earlier, it
will fly out about Mach 10.

Now because of its size, we
only have enough fuel for use

at test conditions, or when
the Hyper X reaches Mach 10.

[Voice] How'd you get the
Hyper X to reach Mach 10?

[Marshall] The Hyper X is
attached to the nose of a rocket.

The rocket is mounted under
the wing of a B-52 jet.

Let's see what happens.

The B-52 takes the Hyper X,
which is attached to the rocket,

up to a preset altitude
and speed and releases it.

Then the rocket ignites
and flies to an altitude

of approximately 100,000 feet,
traveling to the test conditions.

The Hyper X separates
from the rocket,

and the scramjet engine ignites.

This is when the flight
test begins.

The Hyper X generate over 600
measurements that are sent

to the control room
during the flight.

These measurements allow the
research engineers determine the

success of the flight.

Each engineer can access their
data on specially designed displays

which are also recorded
for post-flight analysis.

[Voice] How do they
analyze all this data?

[Marshall] Well, we use
several different methods.

But algebra is the
foundation for all of these.

We use algebra throughout
the design, flight testing,

and post-flight analysis
phases of the experiment.

The vehicle's stability and
control system is a good example

of how algebra is used
during flight testing.

For example, take a seesaw.

A seesaw consists of a board
and a pivot point or fulcrum.

Suppose we have Norbert
on one side of the seesaw,

and Za on the other side.

Here the seesaw is not balanced.

[Voice] How do you
balance the seesaw?

[Marshall] Well, to balance the
seesaw, the product of the weight

and the horizontal
distance on the left side

of the pivot point must meet
with a product of the weight

and the horizontal distance on
the right side of the pivot point.

By moving Norbert on the
pivot point closer in,

can see the seesaw
becomes balanced.

In mathematical terms, the weight

of Norbert times his
horizontal distance

from the pivot point
is equal to the weight

of Za times his horizontal
distance to the pivot point.

Now in the case of the Hyper X, the
flight computer controls the wings

and details to keep
the vehicle flying

and stable throughout
the experiment.

If not for these calculations,
we wouldn't be able to fly

and get the necessary data.

[Voice] Have you flight
tested the Hyper X?

[Marshall] As a matter
of fact, we did.

Unfortunately, like
many experiments,

this one didn't go as planned.

And the Hyper X never made
it to the test conditions.

Sometimes when performing

unforeseen evidence can occur.

However, we were able
to receive data

from the Hyper X before
the test was terminated.

We will use this data

to successfully flight
test the Hyper X again

and achieve our mission of
testing scramjet technology.

[Voice] Wow.

If the Hyper X program
is so successful,

how will that affect
the future of flight?

[Marshall] Well, let's see.

Recently I flew from
NASA Langley in Virginia

to NASA Dryden here in California.

It took about five hours.

His commercial aircraft were
using the same technology used

in the Hyper X, my flight
time would've been reduced

to 30 minutes.

If you ever plan to go into space,
the same technology would allow

for larger cargo capacity, so
space travel would cost less.

This technology would also allow

for reusable vehicles
at a much lower cost.

This means we could
see more launches

and more exploration of space.


[Dan] Thanks, Laurie.

For the next couple of minutes,
we're going to take a look

at a web site that will reinforce
this shows hands-on activity

that you just saw.

It's called Plane Math.

And it's produced by Info-use,
in cooperation with NASA.

We're going to the Museum of
Flight in Seattle, Washington.

Where students from T. T. Minor
Elementary School will help show

you what the Plane Math
website looks like.

From Dan's Domain in the
NASA Connect web site,

go to

Click in activities for students.

Then choose plane math enterprises.

You'll need to visit each of
the eight training departments.

Each section is important

about aeronautical
principles and terminology.

There are a number of geometry
and algebra related math concepts.

And you'll also find plenty
of interactive activities

to help you understand the
concepts presented in the web site.

Experts will guide
you through training

as you design an aircraft
based on certain requirements.

When your training is complete,
enter the design department,

where you meet your client before
beginning the design process.

Then you'll design the size
of your fuselage and wings.

The building department
will make a prototype,

which you'll test in a wind tunnel.

Based on these results, you'll
choose an engine for your plane.

There will be a flight test to
see if your plane can take off

and reach its cruising speed.

If they succeed in taking
off, you'll get results

on how your plane flies
under different conditions.

Based on your results, you
can either make adjustments

to your plane and retest it

or present your design
to your customer.

Well, that's Plane Math.

Special thanks to
the Museum of Flight

and are AI-AA student mentors
from the University of Washington.

Teachers, if you would like
a student mentor to help you

in your classroom, find out more
in the NASA Connect web site.


[Dan] Well, that wraps up
another episode of NASA Connect.

We'd like to thank everyone
who made this program possible.

Got a comment, question
or a suggestion?

E-mail them to

Or pick up a pen and mail
them to NASA Connect,

NASA Center for Distance Learning,

NASA Langley Research
Center, Mail stop 400.

Hampton Virginia, 23681.

Teachers, if you would like
a videotape of this program

and the accompanying lesson guide,

check out the NASA
Connect web site.

From our site, you can link to the
NASA Educator Resource Network.

These centers provide
educators free access

to NASA products like NASA Connect.

Or from our site, you can
link to CORE, the NASA Center

of Resources for Educators.

For information about other
NASA instructional resources,

visit NASA quest at

So until next time,
stay connected to math,

science, technology, and NASA.

See you then.