The National Model Aviation Museum recently received on loan from NASA the I2000 Inflatable Wing model aircraft. It was placed on exhibit in our Models at Work gallery, alongside other NASA research models we have on loan, including the Moth, Mothership, X-33 drop test model, Space Wedge, and X-38 drop test model.
In 2001, the I2000 was air launched from an altitude of 800-1,000 feet by a radio-controlled utility airplane. The first flight used a solid wing, the same size as the inflatable wing. The actual inflatable wings were then installed and flown inflated. These tests proved that the aircraft could be successfully flown.
The I2000 was then carried aloft with the wings stowed. After the aircraft was released, the wings were inflated with pressure provided by an onboard nitrogen bottle. The aircraft remained stable as it transitioned from wingless to winged flight, gliding down to a smooth landing under complete control.
The inflatable wing has a wingspan of slightly more than 5 feet, but when folded, the wings could fit into a small coffee can. Wing deployment took approximately a third of a second, while a pressure regulator mounted on the nitrogen bottle kept the internal pressure of the wings at a constant 200-250 pounds per square inch (psi), reducing the possibility of the wing sagging because of low internal pressure or high external pressure.
When completed, the inflatable wing was installed onto a “transformable winged lifting body model and test flown twice, proving the concept of using deployable inflatable wings with a lifting body vehicle. Potential advantages of utilizing inflatable wings on future lifting body vehicles include providing greater range, maneuverability, and lower landing speeds than wingless vehicles.”
For more information, please visit:
A full detailed report, Ground and Flight Evaluation of a Small- Scale Inflatable-
Winged Aircraft, www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/pdf/88735main_H-2471.pdf