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Two SR-71A aircraft were loaned from the U.S. Air Force for use for high-speed, high-altitude research at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California. One of them was later returned to the Air Force. A third SR-71 on loan from the Air Force is an SR-71B used for training but not for flight research.
Developed for the U.S. Air Force as reconnaissance aircraft more than 30 years ago, SR-71 aircraft are still the world's fastest
These aircraft can fly more than 2200 miles per hour (Mach 3+ or more than three times the speed of sound) and at altitudes
Data from the SR-71 high-speed research program may be used to aid designers of future supersonic or hypersonic aircraft
The SR-71 program at Dryden has been part of the NASA overall high-speed aeronautical research program, and projects have involved other NASA research centers, other government agencies, universities, and commercial firms.
One of the first major experiments to be flown in the NASA SR-71 program was a laser air-data collection system. This system used laser light instead of air pressure to produce airspeed and attitude reference data such as angle of attack and angle of sideslip. These data are normally obtained with small tubes and vanes extending into the air stream, or from tubes with flush openings on the aircraft outer skin. The flights provided information on the presence of atmospheric particles at altitudes of
The first of a series of flights using the SR-71 as a science camera platform for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory was flown
The SR-71 has also been used in a project for researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) who are investigating the use of charged chlorine atoms to protect and rebuild the ozone layer.
Operating as a testbed, it has been used to assist in the development of a commercial satellite-based instant wireless personal communications network, called the IRIDIUM system, under a NASA commercialization assistance program.
The last SR-71 flight was made on Saturday October 9, 1999, at the Edwards AFB air show. The aircraft used was NASA 844. The aircraft was also scheduled to make a flight the following day, but a fuel leak grounded the aircraft and prevented it from flying again. The NASA SR-71s were then put in flyable storage, where they remained until 2002. They were then sent to museums.