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NASA, Air Force, Boeing Collab on New Pilot, Astronaut Flight Training Tech

NASA and Boeing have partnered with the Air Force Research Laboratory to test the Defense Department's first human-rated centrifuge built with interchangeable cockpits to support training for both fighter jet pilots and astronauts. 

The U.S. Air Force said Wednesday the AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing led the test with 10 astronauts from the defense contractor and NASA at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.  

Brig. Gen. Mark Koeniger, 711HPW commander, said the system is designed to be agile and rapidly adaptable for any customer. 

The centrifuge enabled Air Force pilots to experience up to nine Gs, or nine times the normal force of gravity. The cockpit also enabled operators to measure the pilot’s ability to respond and prevent G-induced loss of consciousness.

For NASA, the vehicle exposed astronauts to upward and downward G force, according to Michael Barratt, astronaut and physician at the agency. 

He added the system would help NASA prepare for emerging commercial space vehicles, such as the SpaceX Dragon, the Boeing Starliner and the new Orion spacecraft, which take high G forces in both ascent and entry. 

The new AFRL centrifuge also provides 3D models of the environment through cockpit displays.

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