D12 – F15

NASA utilized a fleet of McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagles.

As part of NASA’s space shuttle return-to-flight effort following the loss of the shuttle Columbia and its crew during the STS-107 re-entry from space on Feb. 1, 2003, engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center asked Armstrong to help model insulating foam loss from the shuttle’s external fuel tanks.

The flight test effort, called the Lifting Insulating Foam Trajectory project, used a Dryden-designed foam ejection system installed in the F-15B’s flight test fixture to acquire data on how insulating foam debris or “divots” behaved when the small pieces were shed from shuttle external fuel tanks during launch. The F-15B tested the flight characteristics of the divots in a real flight environment at speeds up to Mach 2.

The F-15B Research Testbed continues to be an innovative and cost-effective tool for flight test of advanced propulsion concepts. Also known as #836, this is a modified twin-engine jet aircraft that provides NASA, industry, and universities with long-term capability for the efficient flight test of aerodynamic, instrumentation, propulsion, and other flight research experiments. This aircraft is a unique airborne resource, and is considered by researchers to be a virtual “flying wind tunnel” and reliable supersonic testbed.