This Space Shuttle Test is Serious Science Wrapped in Pure Visual Extravagance

A mahogany wind tunnel for testing spacecraft aerodynamics is just too delightfully steampunk for real life. Or is it a real-life simulation of a 1980s-style overly-exuberant display of photographic superposition?

Take a tiny space shuttle, suspend it with magnets, and you have this beautiful low-speed wind test in a transparent hexagonal tunnel wrapped in mahogany. The shuttle model is suspended within the test section by magnets using the MIT/NASA Langley 6-inch Magnetic Suspension/Balance System (MSBS) as part of early testing on space shuttle aerodynamics.


The hand-crafted low-speed mahogany wind tunnel was built at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the 1960s, and relocated to NASA’s Langley Research Center in the mid-1980s. It’s since been retired from active research, and donated to Old Dominion University.

Image credit: NASA

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