This is One Extremely Large, Impressive Wind Tunnel

Illustration for article titled This is One Extremely Large, Impressive Wind Tunnel

May 17, 1956: The swinging doors of this massive supersonic wind tunnel utterly dwarf the puny engineer deluding himself that he can control its voracious appetite.


The 7.3 meter (24 foot) diameter swinging valve grants access to the Abe Silverstein Supersonic Wind Tunnel (10x10 SWT) with its 3 meter (10 foot) diameter and 12.2 meter (40 foot) length. It’s big enough to handle large-scale models and full-scale engines or aircraft components, with airflow ideal for testing below Mach 0.36 or between Mach 2.0 to 3.5, but can hit gusts between March 1.5 and 4.1.

When set as a closed-loop system, air is run through an air dryer to filter out moisture before feeding into the loop and exhausting it back into the outside environment. This is perfect if the aircraft might introduce contaminants. The heater can also be used to simulate atmospheric conditions when in an aerodynamic cycle, simulating pressure conditions between 15,240 and 46,940 meters (50,000 and 154,000 feet). It can also be run in an open-loop setup for testing in a propulsion cycle, where it can simulate pressure conditions from 17,370 to 23,470 meters (57,000 to 77,000 feet).

Illustration for article titled This is One Extremely Large, Impressive Wind Tunnel

The wind tunnel is located at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. The facility was originally named the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory when established as part of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1941, and has changed names several times over the intervening decades.

Image credit: NASA

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That’s really awesome, in the ancient sense of the word.

I half wonder if there's a way to give telepresence tours of installations like this, since they're assuredly too sensitive or dangerous for actual tours. Recording them in a VR view like Google Street View would be cool too.