The Society of Flight Test Engineers 




Lt. Col. Timothy R. Jorris, USAF
Director, Hypersonic Combined Test Force (HCTF), Senior Member SFTE
Capt. Ryan W. Carr, USAF 
Chief, Reentry Vehicle Branch, HCTF

  Edwards Air Force Base has long been host to unusual aircraft and unique concepts for fight. During the 1960s and 1970s a series of manned lifting body aircraft were flight tested with the intention to improve access to and return from orbit. Those flight tests were extremely complicated and risky, but hard-working teams successfully applied innovative engineering solutions to successfully achieve their goals. A completely new set of unmanned aircraft have been tested recently with this same objective, but now with significant challenges unique to autonomous vehicles. Most significantly, a greater burden has been placed on the modern range to protect its assets and people from unexpected and uncontrolled deviations in the planned flight path of an unmanned aircraft. To illustrate one approach to solving these problems, a flight test buildup scenario of an unmanned, generic lifting body has been described. Additionally, a range safety analysis unique to a lifting body has been performed.