flight research vehicles to demonstrate innovative aerospace technology in flight. A new innovative air vehicle should be launched each year. To make meaningful progress in these programs the scope of activity for each vehicle research program would be on the order of $30 million to $50 million total per vehicle over a 3-year period—that is, $10 million to $15 million per vehicle per year. The priority focused programs should be drawn from the research areas identified by the 2006 NRC decadal survey of civil aeronautics, in order to achieve progress for fundamental aeronautics as well as other relevant related military requirements. To implement this recommendation without additional funding for ARMD, NASA should phase out the majority of its lower-priority aeronautics activities.
The committee concluded that without additional funding for aeronautics, NASA could begin to implement this recommendation—for instance, implementing two to three new vehicles—provided that it phases out the majority of its lower-priority aeronautics activities. If aeronautics receives additional funding, NASA could implement three to five new vehicles. Naturally, there is a tradeoff between the size of the projects and the number the agency could pursue—that is, more, smaller projects versus fewer, larger projects. As stated, the committee estimated that to make significant progress in each of the selected areas, $30 million to $50 million (total) would be the appropriate scope for such activities. An ambitious unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) project could be built at the lower end of the range, while a more ambitious piloted vehicle could be built at the higher end. For example, Sikorsky’s piloted X-2 helicopter, which recently won the Collier Trophy, cost approximately $50 million.
The number of projects that NASA is able to implement at any given time (i.e., two to five) will be based on the size of the projects, their cost, and NASA’s ability to focus its research efforts. The innovative air vehicles that NASA should implement are relatively small projects (total cost of no more than $50 million over 3 years), but should be intended to accomplish goals established in the 2006 decadal survey. Accomplishing this will require careful leadership, tough decisions, and for NASA to cull its lower-priority aeronautics activities to free up funds for conducting more flight research.
NASA currently has no “flagship” class aeronautics projects, which the committee defines as larger-scale, technically ambitious aircraft projects that will make substantial advancements in fields such as environmentally responsible aviation, supersonics, aviation safety, uninhabited aerial systems in the National Air Space, rotorcraft, or hypersonics. NASA currently operates only one aircraft with an X-plane designation and has no high-visibility aircraft flight research projects under way. The committee believes that the new innovative air vehicles that NASA should be developing can be a mix of piloted and unpiloted aircraft and “flagships” as well as less expensive and complex vehicles. But the committee notes that NASA has made the greatest contributions in the past when it has set high goals and believes that one of the highest goals that the agency’s aeronautics program can aspire to is winning the Collier Trophy in aeronautics, a goal that is well within the agency’s reach. (See Chapter 3 for further information on the Collier Trophy.)
The committee was also charged with looking at “all ARMD research.” However, although the committee looked at all ARMD research, time, and resource constraints, the committee could select only three areas from across ARMD’s full program for detailed study. In making that selection the committee decided to carry out a case study from the Integrated Systems Research Program—which is a relatively recent addition to NASA aeronautics—as well as two case studies from the more traditional Fundamental Aeronautics Program. (NASA’s aeronautics programs are discussed in greater detail in Appendix B.) Although these case studies are not intended to be exclusive, their selection focused on whether they are examples of programs where NASA already possesses the core research to make significant progress, provided that the agency better focuses its people and resources and pushes some of this research into the flight research phase. In carrying out the three case studies, the committee identified several actions NASA could take to make further progress in these three areas, if the agency determines that they are a priority. However these findings are presented here without prejudice to any future prioritization choices NASA may make for progressing to flight research activities. Although the committee did not prioritize these findings, they could prove helpful to the agency in the long run.
In the case of the ERA (Environmentally Responsible Aviation) and supersonics projects, the committee believes that NASA could develop new experimental aircraft to conduct flight research and advance the agency’s