ARMD responsibilities include the continued stewardship of NASA’s many aeronautics test facilities, including wind tunnels and propulsion test cells that are considered to be national assets in its ATP.
As the operation of the national airspace system transitions to the Next-Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) to attain higher capacity, new ways of achieving and ensuring safety will be needed to reduce accidents and maintain a low rate of aviation fatalities. Through the Aviation Safety Program (AvSP), formerly the Aviation Safety Security Program, NASA will pursue capabilities and technologies for improving safety consistent with the revolutionary changes in vehicle capabilities and changes embodied in the NGATS. The focus will be vehicle-centric, with areas of investigation that include advanced automation, advanced sensing and sensor and information fusion, and proactive approaches to achieving safety and ensuring continued safe operations. This program is made up of four projects: integrated vehicle health management (IVHM), integrated intelligent flight deck (IIFD), integrated resilient aircraft control (IRAC), and aging aircraft and durability.
NASA realigned its Airspace Systems Program (ASP) to address NGATS capacity and mobility requirements. NASA’s primary research role will be to develop and demonstrate future concepts, capabilities, and technologies that will enable dramatic increases in air traffic management effectiveness, flexibility, and efficiency while maintaining safety. This program is made up of two projects: NGATS Airportal and NGATS Airspace.
Fundamental aeronautics research in each program emphasizes research through collaboration and partnerships, shared ideas and knowledge, and solutions that benefit the public. In planning the future research programs, NASA receives input from the National Research Council (NRC) in its decadal surveys and other reports. These reports represent the broad consensus of the nation’s scientific communities in their respective areas. Roadmaps in each of the aeronautics programs are then developed to define the pathways for implementing the NRC-defined priorities.
The research in these programs is executed by the four aeronautics research centers within NASA: LaRC, ARC, GRC, and DFRC. Each of these programs—FAP, ATP, AvSP, and ASP—has program and project managers, principal investigators (PIs), and researchers assigned from across the four research centers.
The research conducted in these programs is primarily at TRL 1-3, fundamental research. In FY 2010, a new program, the Integrated Systems Research Program, was started to conduct research at an integrated system level on promising concepts and technologies. It is intended to explore and demonstrate in a relevant environment the four programs by transitioning their results to higher TRLs. The TRL 1-3 research in aeronautics supports the fundamental needs of the projects and includes research in materials and structures, aerodynamics, propulsion, acoustics, fuels, avionics, airspace traffic management, crash/impact, and instrumentation and controls.
Facilities, laboratories, and research equipment are needed to conduct the research outlined in the ARMD programs. In many cases, the facilities that house the research laboratories or the large wind tunnels and propulsion cells are 40 to 50 years old. Some have been upgraded and some are in need of repair; some have even been demolished. Some of the equipment in the laboratories is fairly modern, however, ranging from new to 10 years old. As described in Chapter 3, new aeronautics facilities are funded within NASA by CoF funds, and upgrades to facilities, laboratories, and equipment are either funded by the research program or out of a center’s CM&O budget. Sometimes, external customers (industry or other government agencies) that use NASA facilities and equipment fund upgrades or new equipment if they are needed to complete their research.
The main focus of GRC in aeronautics is in the propulsion area. Over the course of 2 days, the committee visited 20 laboratories or facilities (see Appendix D for a list), all of which included some