NASA Aircraft Gets New Paint Job
An aircraft from the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration recently got a fresh coat of paint, including a new paint scheme and colors, in preparation for joining the fleet at the Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.
According to the release, the F/A-18D aircraft, received from the U.S. Navy in 2021, is now awaiting certification for flight. The aircraft, renamed NASA 862, will reportedly track the supersonic X-59 aircraft, as well as aiding videographers and photographers in documenting flights.
Preparation for the aircraft’s acquisition began in 2020, when Director for Flight Operations at NASA Armstrong Troy Asher began work to replace the center’s two-seat F/A-18B models with newer aircraft. As a result, NASA Armstrong Flight Operation Engineer Jack Ly was appointed to evaluate several aircraft’s that could “meet the center’s mission.
“We’re excited to have this aircraft in our fleet,” Ly said. “Our hope is in the next couple of months we will be able to integrate more instrumentation to support more missions.”
Ly identified the new NASA 862 aircraft in May 2021 at its home base at the U.S. Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. It was then recommended that it be selected following an inspection of the aircraft, its airframe and component records.
Though the F/A-18D is reportedly considered old by military standards, the parts are easier to find than previous models. The NASA 862 was then stripped of its military parts over a four-month period in preparation for its transfer to NASA Armstrong, the administration reports
In October 2021, the aircraft was delivered to Armstrong before being sent to the Naval Air Station North Island Base, near San Diego. There, the aircraft reportedly underwent “intense depot-level maintenance.” Funding for the aircraft’s rejuvenation was provided by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate and NASA Armstrong.
The overhaul reportedly involved removal of the wings, inspections for corrosion, modernizing aircraft systems and conducting other key inspections and services. Additionally, a second set of aircraft controls were reportedly installed in the rear cockpit for training purposes.
In March, NASA 862 was sent to the U.S. Air Force Corrosion Control Facility on Edwards Air Force Base, also known as the Paint Barn, for its facelift. Crews sanded, masked and prepped for painting, then painted the aircraft with the NASA Armstrong paint scheme.
Crews sanded, masked and prepped for painting, then painted the aircraft with the NASA Armstrong paint scheme.
Additionally, the final safety decals were applied, as well as the NASA and Armstrong identifications. The aircraft returned to NASA Armstrong May 15.
NASA expects maintenance on the aircraft to support a 40-year lifespan based on NASA Armstrong usage. The aircraft has also reportedly entered NASA’s Aircraft Management Information System, in addition to completing weight and balance checks.
The initial airworthiness review is expected this month. Once complete, its airworthiness certificate will be signed and sent to Center Director Brad Flick for final approval to begin flights.
Recent NASA Coatings News
In November, nanotechnology research company Advanced Material Development announced that it has signed a collaborative work contract with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for its thin-film coatings technology.
The work is anticipated to be used for the NASA Europa Clipper spacecraft electromagnetic compatibility test campaign. Launching in 2024, the Europa Clipper will perform dozens of close flybys of Jupiter’s moon Europa to gather measurements for an investigation into whether the moon could have conditions suitable for life.
Specializing in “cutting-edge” materials science, the thin-film coatings technology is a radio frequency-absorbing nanomaterial that can be applied to a variety of substrates. According to AMD, the materials could help enable the Europa Clipper project to confirm that the spacecraft’s sensitive ice-penetrating radar will operate properly at key frequencies so as to meet science objectives.
Earlier that month, NASA’s historic uncrewed test flight Artemis 1 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, featuring a collection of coatings technology.
Prior to takeoff, NASA reported that teams had applied its historic logo—also referred to as the “worm”—on visible parts of the Artemis I rocket and spacecraft. Originally introduced in 1975, the worm logo was retired in 1992, but brought back for the latest slew of planned Artemis missions.
According to the administration, coatings work for the worm logos was launched at the end of August 2020, when workers with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and their contractor Jacobs started painting the iconic design across two of the SLS booster segments.
The crew reportedly used a laser projector to mask off the logo with tape. This was followed by the application of the logo inside the center’s Rotation, Processing and Surge Facility. In total, the logo received two coats of paint and several clear coating applications.
In an emailed press release, Acrymax Technologies, Inc. (Media, Pennsylvania) shared that it was responsible for engineering a coating system for the bright red NASA worm logo. In addition to the SLS boosters, the worm and European Space Agency (ESA) logos were also applied to the Orion spacecraft.
In addition to coatings that were used for the worm logos, Acrymax coating systems were also used to protect the insulation on the solid rocket boosters (SRBs).
In the days following the launch of Artemis I, Imagineering Finishing Technologies (South Bend, Indiana) shared that it had also been involved with critical components of the spacecraft’s SLS. According to reports, the company provides non-destructive testing, paint and Chemical Conversion Coatings on rocket components.