Measuring the performance of the wind tunnel—not just the model aircraft, but the test apparatus itself—may help researchers at NASA and the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR) create more capable computer models to accelerate the design of more efficient aircraft.
NASA and DLR collaborated on recent tests at the Braunschweig Low-Speed Wind Tunnel using a model of a commercial aircraft that was also tested in NASA's wind tunnel, with the project team collecting data for comparison to understand the effects on air movement generated by each wind tunnel. Measuring how the test apparatus affects results from different facilities allows those results to be reconciled, and will ultimately improve computer simulation of airflow around aircraft.
Modeling turbulent airflow is challenging, in part because high-precision aerodynamic modeling of aircraft—and engines—still being designed devours limited supercomputing resources. Making such digital modeling simpler and more accurate could accelerate the long process of designing new aircraft—and more accurately assessing the limits of aircraft and engine designs in the virtual world before the first test pilot flies a prototype.