Breathtaking views of hot air balloons filling the skies will captivate enthusiasts at the 45th annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico from October 1- 9.
NASA representatives will add to the festivities with an exhibit that showcases the latest in aeronautics innovations.
“People will have an opportunity to learn about the many exciting things NASA is working on right now, such as the X-57 distributed electric propulsion aircraft and other New Aviation Horizons initiative proposed aircraft that will lead to reduced aircraft noise and emissions and maximize fuel economy,” said Tony Springer, director of the Integration and Management Office at NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.
NASA’s aeronautics efforts are conducted at four field centers across the nation including Ames Research Center and Armstrong Flight Research Center in California; Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and Langley Research Center in Virginia.
A motor and propeller from a 31-foot-span, carbon-composite wing section called the Hybrid-Electric Integrated Systems Testbed will be on display. That research project was a step toward the distributed electric propulsion system developed for the X-57 Maxwell, NASA’s first human piloted experimental aircraft in decades.
Under NASA’s Transformative Aeronautics Concepts program, the wing of an Italian-built Tecnam P2006T is being enhanced to feature an electric system. Eventually a special high aspect ratio wing with a distributed propulsion system will be used. Starting with an existing airframe, engineers will be able to compare the performance of the X-plane with the original aircraft. The project, which involves multiple NASA centers and industry partners, also could lead to improved aircraft efficiency, safety and economic benefits.
Another NASA exhibit attraction is a demonstration-sized scientific balloon from NASA’s Balloon Program Office, which is based and managed at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Staff members will be on-site at the fiesta to welcome visitors and answer questions about the balloon program’s mission.
NASA’s scientific balloons offer low-cost, near-space access for payloads weighing up to 8,000 pounds to conduct technology demonstration tests as well as scientific investigations in fields such as astrophysics, heliophysics and atmospheric research. Standard NASA balloons are very large structures, some as large as football stadiums when fully inflated, comprised of 10 to 50 acres or more of polyethelene film that is similar in appearance and thickness to the type used for sandwich bags, but stronger and more durable. Depending on the goals and objectives of a specific mission, balloon flight durations can run hours to multiple days or weeks for longer-term exposures and data collection.
The fall balloon launch campaign is currently underway from the Balloon Program’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, about 150 miles southeast of Albuquerque.
For an event with vehicles full of air, the half-scale, inflatable model of a NASA F/A-18 research and mission support aircraft fits in at the entrance to the NASA exhibit.
Other aspects of NASA’s exhibit at the balloon fiesta include:
Former NASA astronaut Mike Mullane, a veteran of three space shuttle missions, offers a view from above at two presentations. He is scheduled to speak about the Space Shuttle Program and life as an astronaut Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. MDT at the 7-Eleven Balloon Discovery Center. An aeronautics book give away also is planned for the same day.
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy is a combination of the world’s largest airborne infrared telescope integrated into a NASA 747SP aircraft. An infrared camera display is used to show attendees how that type of imaging works.
Former NASA Armstrong aerospace engineering technician Jim Sokolik will demonstrate a high-altitude pressure suit used by pilots of the retired Mach 3 SR-71 and the high-altitude ER-2 Earth resources aircraft.
A tabletop pressure chamber will explain the requirements for high-altitude pressure suits with water boiling at low temperatures and marshmallow Peeps expanding and contracting.
An F-15 cockpit simulator gives visitors the chance to picture themselves in the pilot’s seat of the high-performance jet.
A no-cost photo kiosk allows visitors to take a picture in a virtual environment that places them in a spacesuit. Nearby will be a machine that will turn a penny into a NASA souvenir.
NASA Armstrong is lead for the agency’s exhibit at the balloon fiesta.