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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Aeronautics projects > ONERA celebrates 50 years of wind tunnel research
Graphic element ONERA celebrates 50 years of wind tunnel research
    20-02-2003
 

On 20 March 2003, ONERA will host the world aerospace community as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first wind tunnel tests carried out at its S1MA facility, which boasts the largest sonic wind tunnel in the world. The event will take place in the beautiful setting of Modane in the heart of the French Alps.

ONERA (Office National d'Etudes et de Recherches Aérospatiales) is the French national aerospace research establishment, headquartered in Chatillon, near Paris. With a staff of 1 750, it is one of the key players in the global aerospace research community, operating a large range of specialised research facilities and participating in many EU-supported projects under various Framework Programmes.

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World renown
 

Prominent among ONERA facilities are the large industrial wind tunnels located at the Modane-Avrieux Centre (CMA) in the French Alps, and at the Le Fauga-Mauzac Centre (CFM) near Toulouse. Originally used primarily by the French aerospace community, since the early 1990s the wind tunnels have attracted an increasing number of foreign users. Today, ONERA boasts a host of industrial clients from all over the world, including Europe, North and South America, the Far East, Southeast Asia and South Africa. Every aircraft in the Airbus family has 'flown' in one or more of the ONERA wind tunnels, and a significant amount of wind tunnel testing is also performed for EU-supported projects in which ONERA is a partner or a subcontractor.

The S1MA wind tunnel, located at CMA, was powered up for the first time more than 50 years ago. An atmospheric tunnel with speeds of up to Mach 1, it is unique in several respects. First, it is the largest of its class in the world. The tunnel's closed circuit forms a rectangle 155m long and 40m wide, with a maximum diameter of 24m and a test section diameter of 8m. Aircraft Models are assessed in the test section area of the circuit. The 2-stage fan driving the airflow is 15m in diameter and the maximum available power is 118 000 HP (88 Megawatt). The three model carts, i.e. the removable and interchangeable parts of the tunnel circuit, weigh between 350 and 600 tons each.

 
Surprising power source
 

S1MA also has a unique power source. Its fan is driven directly by a channelled waterfall 850m in height. In fact, this is precisely why the test centre was built in Modane, in order to benefit from the hydraulic power provided by the large quantities of water stored in artificial lakes in this mountainous region.

Finally, S1MA is of great historical interest. At the end of the Second World War, a large wind tunnel construction site was discovered in Austria, in the Ötzal valley. The French authorities, which had been considering the construction of a large wind tunnel requiring a large power source, decided to transfer the tunnel to Modane and to complete its construction there.

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What is a wind tunnel?

When an aircraft moves through calm air, its aerodynamic behaviour is the same as if it were immobile and the air was rushing past it. A wind tunnel is a test facility used to generate a flow of air past a scaled model of an aircraft. It provides various measurements to determine aerodynamic behaviour and performance. In that respect a wind tunnel can be seen as an 'aerodynamic flight simulator'.

Although actual flight testing is more realistic, the advantages of the wind tunnel are obvious. Wind tunnel testing can be performed at an early stage in an aircraft development programme without having to wait for the first prototype. The costs are clearly lower and the risks, both technical and safety-related, are far less severe than those associated with a real flight test.

A wind tunnel can provide intermittent or continuous airflow, running from as little as a fraction of a second to several hours, and at high or low speeds to simulate take off and landing conditions or cruise conditions. It can be of the open circuit type where the airflow leaving the tunnel does not re-enter the circuit or of the closed circuit type where the same air is re-circulated. Finally, it can be pressurised, or can operate under normal atmospheric pressure. The ONERA S1MA wind tunnel is a continuous, high speed, closed circuit, atmospheric test facility.

 
A model of European co-operation
 

ONERA has played a part in more than one hundred EU-funded co-operative projects, including: the AWIATOR project, investigating advanced aircraft design technologies; SILENCE(R), reducing aircraft noise; and the ELFIN I and ELFIN II projects, focussing on the application of drag-reducing laminar flow technologies. Participation in other EU projects such as GEMINI and APIAN has helped ONERA establish an excellent reputation for the design and manufacture of critical wind tunnel test elements.

For more information on the 50th anniversary celebration, contact:

Margot Clemens-Jones
ONERA Communication Directorate
Tel +33 1 46 73 40 63

 
World renown
Surprising power source
A model of European co-operation
   
     

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