Draper Laboratory will enter the Space Technology Hall of Fame® on April 15 as part of the team that developed a system that makes space and air vehicles easier and safer to operate.
Draper developed Digital Fly-By-Wire as an extension of its work on the Apollo Guidance Computer. The concept uses a highly reliable computer and electronic flight control system, rather than mechanical or hydraulic-based systems, to stabilize and maneuver a vehicle. The computer is able to execute far more frequent adjustments than a human pilot, thus helping maintain stability while offering increased maneuverability. The digital system also requires less space and weight, less maintenance, and fewer failure modes than mechanical controls.
Digital Fly-By-Wire is one of many success stories where technology developed under the U.S. space program has proven beneficial in other areas. Based in part on a recommendation from Neil Armstrong, who was directly familiar with the Apollo Guidance Computer through his historic lunar landing, NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center chose to work with Draper to adapt the concept for aircraft, beginning with experimentation on a U.S. Navy F-8 Crusader in 1972.
Digital Fly-By-Wire today is featured aboard the Space Shuttle, as well as aboard civilian and military aircraft. Draper will be honored alongside NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center as well as Boeing Co. and Airbus, which developed the first commercial aircraft featuring Digital Fly-By-Wire technology.
The Space Foundation, in cooperation with NASA, created the Space Technology Hall of Fame® in 1988 to highlight the benefits resulting from space exploration and to stimulate innovation. To date, the Space Foundation has inducted 61 technologies as well as honoring the organizations and individuals who transformed space technology into commercial products that improve the quality of life for all humanity.
Based in Colorado Springs, Colo., the Space Foundation is an international, nonprofit organization and advocate for all sectors of the space industry - civil, commercial, military, and intelligence. A leader in space awareness activities, educational programs that bring space into the classroom, and major industry events, the Space Foundation hosts the annual National Space Symposium, which concludes with the Space Technology Hall of Fame® Dinner and inductions.