NASA Crash Test Plane in Hampton

NASA staff prepare for crash test

NASA is often in the news because of their fantastic outer space projects. You’ve probably seen the breathtaking images of Pluto from the New Horizons mission, which reached the dwarf planet in Summer 2015 after a nine-year journey.

pluto in true color

You may be following along with the Curiosity rover as it explores the surface of Mars.

mars curiosity rover

But did you know that NASA also works on many projects a lot closer to home? One of these projects will be taking place this week in our backyard (relatively speaking, of course).

On Wednesday, August 26, NASA will crash a small plane in Hampton, VA to test emergency locator transmitters (ELTs). The test will take place at NASA’s Langley Research Center and will be conducted by their Search and Rescue Mission Office according to a press release.

A Cessna 172 will be dropped from a height of 100 feet in order to “simulate a severe but survivable plane accident.” The plane will be equipped with five ELTs, two crash test dummies, and various cameras and data collecting sensors.

The purpose of an emergency locator transmitter is to send a signal following a crash that can be used by rescue workers to quickly find the site of the accident. The ELT transmits its location via satellite to the nearest ground search and rescue location.

Wednesday’s test is the third in a series of three tests simulating different crash conditions. ELTs must be able to function in extreme conditions accompanying a plane crash, including fire, extreme vibration, and impact damage. These tests help NASA to improve the ELTs so that they can be even more effective.

ELTs are used in commercial and private planes and are a vital piece of safety equipment. It can be difficult or impossible to pinpoint the location of a crash based on last known location. These transmitters can mean the difference between life and death in the event of a crash.

NASA staff prepare for crash test

NASA will stream the test live between 1:00 and 2:00 PM EDT on Wednesday.

If you would like to know more about NASA’s work in aviation safety, you can visit the Search and Rescue Mission Office website.

To find out more about all of NASA’s projects, both here on earth and out in our solar system (and beyond!) visit


Photos courtesy of NASA

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