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Lewis Research Center, located in Cleveland, Ohio, is NASA's Center of Excellence in turbomachinery. This center has a primary mission to work in aeropropulsion in support of NASA's Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology Enterprise.

Organized in 1941 by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the forerunner organization to NASA, research efforts at Lewis have impacted every United States aircraft built since the early 1940s. This tradition continues with Lewis engineers and scientists engaged in advancing propulsion technology, allowing aircraft to fly farther, higher, and faster. Research in gaining aircraft fuel economy, noise abatement, and reducing aircraft engine pollution is also underway.

"A dream of wings to come" is a theme actively embraced by Lewis engineers working on the High Speed Research (HSR) Propulsion Project. Early in the next century, American-made supersonic airliners could be carrying millions of passengers per year around the globe at more than twice the speed of sound. Lewis is working on developing the propulsion technology needed to make a new high speed aircraft cost-effective, reliable, and environmentally compatible. This second-generation supersonic airplane is known as the High Speed Civil Transport (HSCT). To be successful, it must be economically competitive with subsonic aircraft while meeting stringent environmental requirements.

Why a High Speed Civil Transport? World population and economic growth, coupled with lower real travel costs and growing discretionary income, indicate that air traffic is likely to double by 2005. On HSCT international routes--North America to Asia, North America to Europe, and Europe to Asia--demand is expected to grow from 795 billion passenger miles per year in 2005 to more than 2.1 trillion by 2025. High speed travel by HSCT can reduce the travel time to the Far East and Europe by fifty percent within twenty years, and will do so at today's subsonic ticket prices.

One of the more important challenges undertaken at Lewis is HSCT emissions effects on the atmosphere. Under NASA sponsorship, an international group of leading atmospheric scientists are developing atmospheric models which predict ozone depletion to analyze the potential impact of exhaust emissions from a high speed transport fleet. The results to date are very promising. There appear to be areas in the lower stratosphere where future supersonic airliner engines with low emissions could operate without damaging the fragile ozone layer.

painting depicts a conceptual supersonic airliner traveling over the Seattle skyline with Mt. Rainier in the background
Early in the next century, American-made supersonic airliners traveling at twice the speed of sound will carry millions of people around the world. To bring that dream to life, NASA is developing the technology needed to make the High Speed Civil Transport (HSCT) cost effective, reliable, and environmentally compatible.

As part of the HSR program, for which Lewis has responsibility, American industry and government teams have joined forces with Russia's Tupolev Design Bureau. This unprecedented partnership is built upon use of the Russian TU-144 supersonic transport, built in the late 1960s, and withdrawn from passenger service in 1978.

In the TU-144 program, Lewis personnel have worked with researchers from General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, and Russian design teams to plan and conduct two engine ground test experiments. These experiments have provided insight into the inlet/engine interactions which might be expected for an HSCT.

Another exciting research area at Lewis Research Center is the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS). This spacecraft was launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in September 1993. Deployed from the shuttle's cargo bay, ACTS has given industry, academia, and government organizations an opportunity to investigate new ways of communicating. In conjunction with industry, Lewis was responsible for developing the ACTS, and is now in charge of management and operation of the unique spacecraft. The ACTS program encompasses an extensive network of ground stations to test and prove pioneering communications concepts and technologies that will advance cheaper, on-demand, flexible communications. Using advanced antenna beams and advanced onboard switching and processing systems, ACTS is pioneering new initiatives in communications satellite technology.

ACTS experiments are showing the way to 21st century applications in telecommunications. The results of the investigations could yield numerous benefits to business, health care, education, national defense, and emergency/disaster relief; and advance the technology in high data rate communications.

Highlighting just a few of the projects under the ACTS Experiments Program would include:

  • Increasing the efficiency and lowering the cost of business communications by enabling real-time communications and the use of smaller satellite dishes. ACTS-type technologies can augment fiber-optic networks to extend communications capacity to remote areas, creating new telecommunications users and enhancing the "information superhighway" with Earth/space linkages;

  • Transmit images and information to physicians and specialists for use in diagnoses. High-resolution medical imagery from X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans can be sent to another location for review by consulting physicians. The ACTS Mobile Terminal has been used to transmit data from emergency vehicles en route to a hospital.

  • ACTS-type technology can provide real-time, more advanced communications capability to the classroom or the workplace. Long-distance, real-time, interactive communications to educate people outside of major learning institutions are being spurred by ACTS demonstrations. Entirely new educational networks could be created.

  • The value of advanced military and disaster communications has been clearly reaffirmed since the Persian Gulf war and the aftermath of such disasters like Hurricane Andrew when it battered Florida. Experimenters with ACTS are gaining insight into improved military and emergency/disaster communications by testing new concepts.

ACTS experimenters are exploring a range of voice, video, and digital communications. Investigators include Bellcore, CBS Radio, Stanford Telecommunications, University of Florida, University of Washington, Cray Research, Hughes Network Systems, Sprint, and the U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command.

Personnel in a computer provide support for the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite
The Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS) provides for the development and flight test of high-risk, advanced communications satellite technology. Using advanced antenna beams and advanced onboard switching and processing systems, ACTS is pioneering new initiatives in communications satellite technology.

Lewis Research Center is playing a critical role in assuring American leadership in telecommunications, as well as 21st century aeronautics--two high-technology arenas that will shape national competitiveness in the world community of nations.

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