The Langley Aerothermodynamic Laboratory (LAL) consists of four hypersonic blow-down-to-vacuum tunnels that represent 100% of NASA’s and over half of the Nation’s conventional aerothermodynamic test capability. These economical facilities are relatively small, and ideally suited for fast-paced aerodynamic performance and aero-heating studies aimed at screening, assessing, optimizing, and benchmarking advanced aerospace vehicle concepts and basic fundamental flow physics research.
The development, assessment, and optimization of aerospace vehicles can require testing in the entire family of LAL facilities due to their wide range of hypersonic simulation parameters and unique characteristics. Collectively, this suite of facilities provides a wide range of Mach numbers, Reynolds numbers, and normal shock density ratios.
Over the years the tunnels have been modified and upgraded with hardware components and instrumentation designed to increase capability, reliability, and productivity. Maximum flexibility for our customers is achieved with the commonality of LAL systems and hardware, which usually promotes the use of the same test articles between facilities. The complex uses state-of-the-art tools and test techniques including advanced laser-based nonintrusive flowfield diagnostics and two-color phosphor thermography.
In conjunction with experimental capabilities, extensive expertise resides within the LAL team of researchers, test engineers and technicians, who provide an interactive, flexible, teaming atmosphere for our research partners. Extremely complex, 3-D configurations can be handled in flight regimes from continuum to rarefied, ideal to real gas, and laminar to turbulent flow. This synergistic approach, utilizing both experimental and computational expertise that resides in the LAL, will contribute to the success of your mission.
Since the 1960’s the hypersonic tunnels that make up the LAL have provided support to a wide variety of national, international, and industry led test programs. LAL has proven to be indispensable in the development of vehicles ranging from unmanned planetary entry probes and scramjet demonstrators, to manned spaceflight. The LAL has contributed to most major hypersonic vehicle programs from the Apollo, Viking, Space Shuttle Orbiter Development, and Hyper-X, and continues to play a critical role in the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, Space Shuttle Operations, and advanced hypersonic technology demonstration vehicles.