Test article (aerospace)
A test article is a version of spacecraft or related vehicle or equipment, built as a platform to perform testing on particular portions of a spaceflight regime. Test articles are built to the specifications necessary to replicate particular conditions and behaviors that are to be validated. Test articles may be built for flight testing or for non-flight testing. For space agencies with extensive flight certification procedures, they may be built without the certification and quality control steps taken with the versions intended for flight. Test articles are more complete than a boilerplate.
Test articles are sometimes upgraded to flight ready status. Of the 136 Space Shuttle external fuel tanks produced, one was retained as a test article. The contractor producing the tanks commented that that tank could be refurbished for flight use if necessary. In 2011, it was planned that the static test article for the Dream Chaser lifting-body spaceplane would "become the atmospheric flight test vehicle in 2012 for drop tests."[needs update]
Test articles are often displayed in museums because of their accuracy. Museums may refurbish test articles to match more modern configurations. This was completed on the Hubble Space Telescope Structural Dynamic Test Vehicle on display at the National Air and Space Museum where this 1976 version of the vehicle was removed from display and upgraded in 1996 by the Smithsonian, Lockheed, and NASA to incorporate changes made on the on-mission version of the Hubble Space Telescope over several servicing missions.
Trivers, Elise (2011-02-05). "NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver touts Colorado's role in space exploration". Boulder Daily Camera. 00:18. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
Behind me is the Dream Chaser. It's the core structure that will become an atmospheric flight test vehicle in 2012 for drop tests. We're going to take it up on the Virgin Galactic White Knight 2, the big airplane, that's going to carry it underneath, drop it, and we'll do approach and landing tests, much like what was done for the Space Shuttle before it flew into space.
- "Michoud Declares End Of External Tank Production". Florida Today. 30 September 2010.
- "Viking Lander proof test article". Smithsonian Institution. 2016-04-28.
- "Hubble Space Telescope Structural Dynamic Test Vehicle". Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.