Long, flexible aircraft wings can also bend under pressure from wind gusts and atmospheric turbulence, and researchers will use the MUTT to discover ways to compensate for these factors to make future lightweight aircraft safer, according to NASA. Following the Air Force tests, NASA will take over ownership of the MUTT to continue its own research into lightweight structures and other technologies for future low-emissions transport aircraft.
“To maintain the long-term health of the structure and ride quality in a more flexible airplane, we need to actively alleviate gust loads on the airplane and suppress flutter, so gust load alleviation and active flutter suppression are two of the key technologies that NASA is working to advance,” says Gary Martin, deputy project manager for NASA’s Subsonic Fixed Wing Project at Dryden, in a press statement.
To allow for the testing of various wing configurations and other advanced aerodynamics concepts, designers have outfitted the MUTT with two key features, according to the AFRL. The aircraft’s wings can easily be replaced, and designers are also building a hard point into the X-56A’s fuselage so researchers can mount an additional third engine or some other structural support for testing of joined wing configurations.
The X-56A will also include built-in software to allow engineers to practice flutter suppression by adjusting programs within the flight control computer, according to the AFRL.