aerospace researchers after a flight research program is completed. To this day, NACA reports, generated more than 50 years ago, are rich resources of information for the aerospace community and are relatively accessible. However, more recent NASA aeronautics flight research programs have generated useful data that are relatively inaccessible to aerospace engineers and scientists.

Recommendation: NASA aeronautics should become the nation’s repository of flight research data and flight test results and should make these archival data readily accessible to key stakeholders—the engineers and scientists in industry, academia, and other government agencies. NASA should also require principal investigators in flight research projects to publish their results and provide funding for them to do so.

NASA’s flight research inventory is a mix of vehicles that are currently distributed across NASA centers, including Dryden Flight Research Center, Glenn Research Center, Ames Research Center, and Langley Research Center. NASA may be able to achieve greater efficiencies by designating a single center as the primary flight research center for the agency.

Recommendation: NASA aeronautics’ leadership should study designating Dryden Flight Research Center as the primary flight research organization of NASA, with responsibility for the efficient use of NASA flight research aircraft, facilities, and other support resources. Dryden should adopt a customer-focused approach to flight research sponsored by NASA and external partners.


Chapter 1 of this report discusses the motivation for NASA to pursue flight research, addressing aspects of the committee’s task such as identifying the challenges where research program success can be achieved most effectively through flight research. Chapter 2 contains three case studies chosen by the committee to illustrate the state of NASA ARMD. These include the ERA project and the Fundamental Aeronautics Program’s Hypersonics and Supersonics projects. Chapter 2 also addresses the subject of UAVs (also referred to as uninhabited aerial systems, or UASs). Chapter 3 describes issues with the ARMD organization and management and offers solutions. In addition, the chapter discusses current impediments to progress, including the need to demonstrate relevance to stakeholders, the need for leadership, and the lack of focus relative to available resources.

Table S.1 identifies the charges in the committee’s statement of task and where they are specifically addressed in the report.


TABLE S.1 Tasks Addressed in This Report

Taska Chapters
Within the set of goals and challenges being addressed by NASA’s research program, identify those challenges … 1, 2
Identify any goals and challenges in the NASA aeronautics program … 1, 2, 3
Review the current portfolio of ARMD flight research activities and the flight research needs … 1, 2, 3
Review the capabilities and limitations of the current fleet … 2, 3
Consider how the research opportunities might be pursued … 2, 3
Recommend how NASA might maintain a robust flight research program … 1, 2, 3
Consider the role of X-planes and/or demonstrator vehicles … 2, 3
Consider the potential benefit of using unclassified flight research testbeds … 2, 3

aTaken from the committee’s statement of task; see the preface of this report.

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