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Summary The United States is a leader in global aeronautics, and the National Aeronautics and Space Admin- istration (NASA) has a critical role to play in preserving that position of leadership. NASA research facilities and expertise support research by other parts of the federal government and industry, and the results of research conducted and/or sponsored by NASA are embodied in key elements of the U.S. air transportation system, military aviation, and the space program. Maintaining a position of leadership in any field requires staying ahead of the competition by being the first to recognize and bridge each new gap into the future. This is generally a challenging task; were it not so, others would have overtaken the leader to set a faster pace. NASA aeronautics research can maintain a leadership position and carry on this tradition as long as its research is properly prioritized and research tasks are executed with enough depth and vigor to produce meaningful results in a timely fashion. The National Research Councilâs (NRCâs) Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics: Foundation for the Future (NRC, 2006) presents a set of six strategic objectives that the next decade of research and technology (R&T) should strive to achieve. It also describes the 51 highest-priority R&T chal- lengesâcharacterized by five common themesâand an analysis of key barriers that must be overcome to reach the strategic objectives. Following the release of the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) released the National Aeronautics Research and Development Policy (NSTC, 2006). It then released the National Plan for Aeronautics Research and Development and Related Infrastructure a year later (NSTC, 2007). Although the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics predated the National Policy and the National Plan, the strategic objectives defined in the Decadal Survey are closely aligned with the seven principles embodied in the NSTC documents (see Table S-1), and the ranking of the 51 highest-priority R&T challenges from the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics remains valid. NASAâs aeronautics research is managed by the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD). The findings and recommendations in this report are based on a careful examination of NASAâs research plans, the content of the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics, the National Aeronautics Research and Development Policy, the National Plan for Aeronautics Research and Development and Related Infrastruc- ture, and additional information regarding aeronautics research that NASA is or should be conducting to
NASA AERONAUTICS RESEARCHâAN ASSESSMENT TABLE S-1â Comparison of the Strategic Objectives from the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics with the Principles from the National Aeronautics Research and Development Policy and the National Plan for Aeronautics Research and Development and Related Infrastructure Strategic Objectives: Decadal Surveya Principles: National Policyb and National Planc â¢ Increase capacity. â¢ Mobility through the air is vital to economic stability, growth, and security as a nation. â¢. Improve safety and reliability. â¢ Aviation safety is paramount. â¢ Increase efficiency and performance. â¢ Assuring energy availability and efficiency is central to the growth of the aeronautics enterprise. â¢ Reduce energy consumption and â¢ The environment must be protected while sustaining growth in air environmental impact. transportation. â¢ Take advantage of synergies with â¢ Aviation is vital to national security and homeland defense. national and homeland security. â¢ Security of and within the aeronautics enterprise must be maintained. â¢ Support the space program. â¢ The United States should continue to possess, rely on, and develop its world-class aeronautics workforce. aNRC (2006), p. 1. bNSTC (2006), pp. 7-8. cNSTC (2007), pp. 1-2. support NASA space programs and other outside organizations, such the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense. RESOURCES VERSUS SCOPE OF RESEARCH NASA supports a great deal of worthwhile research. However, NASA must determine how to respond to a vast array of worthwhile research possibilities within the constraints of budget, facilities, workforce composition, and federal policies. The Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics (NRC, 2006) recommended that NASA use the 51 highest-priority R&T challenges in the Decadal Survey as the foundation for the future of NASAâs civil aeronautics research program during the next decade. However, the Decadal Survey was designed to identify highest-priority R&T challenges without considering the cost or affordability of meeting the challenges. As a result, even though the NASA aeronautics pro- gram has the technical ability to address each of the highest-priority R&T challenges from the Decadal Survey individually (through in-house research and/or partnerships with external research organizations), ARMD would require a substantial budget increase to address all of the challenges in a thorough and comprehensive manner. In addition to resource limitations, NASAâs aeronautics research program faces many other con- straints (in terms of the existing set of NASA centers, limitations on the ability to transfer staff positions Other decadal surveys that the NRC routinely produces for NASA in the space sciences consider budgetary factors in for- mulating their findings and recommendations, and it may be worthwhile to follow that model in future decadal surveys for aeronautics research.
SUMMARY among centers, and limitations on the ability to compete with the private sector in terms of financial compensation in some critical fields), and attempting to address too many research objectives will severely limit the ability to develop new core competencies and unique capabilities that may be vital to the future of U.S. aeronautics. Recommendation. The NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate should ensure that its research program substantively advances the state of the art and makes a significant difference in a time frame of interest to users of the research results by (1) making a concerted effort to identify the potential users of ongoing research and how that research relates to those needs and (2) prioritizing potential research opportunities according to an accepted set of metrics. In addition, absent a substantial increase in funding and/or a substantial reduction in other constraints that NASA faces in conducting aeronautics research (such as facilities, workforce composition, and federal policies), NASA, in consultation with the aeronautics research community and others as appropriate, should redefine the scope and priorities within the aeronautics research program to be consistent with available resources and the priorities identified in (2) above (even if all 51 highest-priority R&T challenges from the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics are not addressed simultaneously). This would improve the value of the research that the a Â eronautics program is able to perform, and it would make resources available to facilitate the develop- ment of new core competencies and unique capabilities that may be essential to the nation and to the NASA aeronautics program of the future. USER CONNECTIONS NASA civil aeronautics research will provide value to its stakeholders if and only if the results are ultimately transferred to industry, to the Federal Aviation Administration, and to the other organizations that manufacture, own, and operate key elements of the air transportation system. A closer connection between the managers of NASA aeronautics research projects and some potential users of NASA research would ensure that the need to transfer research results to users is properly considered in project planning and execution, and it would facilitate the formation of a coordinated set of research goals and milestones that are timed to meet the future needs of the nation. In addition, for technology intended to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. industry, U.S. leadership would be enhanced by a technology-transfer process that does not necessarily include the immediate, public dissemination of results to potential foreign competitors, so that the U.S. industrial base has a head start in absorbing the fruits of this research. Recommendation. The NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate should bridge the gap between research and applicationâand thereby increase the likelihood that this research will be of value to the intended usersâas follows: â¢ Foster closer connections between NASA principal investigators and the potential external and internal users of their research, which include U.S. industry, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Defense, academia, and the NASA space program. â¢ Improve research planning to ensure that the results are likely to be available in time to meet the future needs of the nation. â¢ Consistently articulate during the course of project planning and execution how research results are tied to capability improvements and how results will be transferred to users. â¢ For technology intended to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. industry, establish a more direct link between NASA and U.S. industry to provide for technology transfer in a way that
NASA AERONAUTICS RESEARCHâAN ASSESSMENT does not necessarily include the immediate, public dissemination of results to potential foreign competitors. As part of the effort to implement this recommendation, NASA should ensure that the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS/NextGen) Air Traffic Management (ATM)-Airportal Project and the NGATS ATM-Airspace Project meet the research and development (R&D) needs defined by the NextGen Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) for NASA. RESEARCH PLANNING AND ORGANIZATION NASAâs aeronautics research portfolio includes 10 projects, which are organized into three programs: â¢ Fundamental Aeronautics Program â Subsonic Fixed Wing (SFW) Project â Subsonic Rotary Wing (SRW) Project â Supersonics Project â Hypersonics Project â¢ Airspace Systems Program â NGATS ATM-Airportal Project â NGATS ATM-Airspace Project â¢ Aviation Safety Program â Integrated Vehicle Health Management (IVHM) Project â Integrated Intelligent Flight Deck (IIFD) Project â Integrated Resilient Aircraft Control (IRAC) Project â Aircraft Aging and Durability Project In addition, ARMD manages the Aeronautics Test Program, which is intended to preserve key aeronautics testing capabilities. NASA has developed a reference document for each of its 10 aeronautics research projects to define the Ârationale, scope, and detailed content of a comprehensive research effort to address each project area. NASA, however, does not consider these reference documents to be completed research plans, and in some cases they are difficult to correlate to the manner in which the projects are being implemented. Recommendation. As reference documents and project plans are revised and updated, NASA should continue to improve the correlation between (1) the reference documents that describe project rationale and scope and (2) the project plans and actual implementation of each project. MEETING THE CHALLENGES The basic planning documents for most of NASAâs research projects were prepared before the Decadal Survey was published in 2006, and the NASA research portfolio, as a whole, does not seem to have changed course in response to the Decadal Survey. Thus, the content of the Decadal Survey of The Next Generation Air Transportation System is now most commonly abbreviated as NextGen, but the titles of NASAâs related research projects still feature the old acronym, NGATS.
SUMMARY TABLE S-2â Summary of How Well NASAâs Aeronautics Research Supports the 51 Highest-Priority Research and Technology (R&T) Challenges from the Decadal Survey of CivilÂ Aeronautics l tro k t. on ec gm C D Green = no significant shortcomings y M ft ilit ht ra lth lig ab rc Yellow = minor shortcomings ea ce tF g l ur Ai ta g in H pa D in or en nt W e W d irp irs Black = major shortcomings i lie lli g cl an y ar d -A -A hi es te xe Ve ft ot M M In en s s R ra w White = not relevant ck Fi R ic ic AT AT lo rc ed ed ed re n on la ic ic el ARMD --> so Ai S S lG n n at at at lB rs lY so so AT AT er gr gr gr g e ta ta Projects in ta b b p yp te te te G G Su Su Su Ag To To To In In In H N N ARMD --> Fundamental Airspace Aviation Grade Summary Titles of R&T Challenges Programs Aeronautics Program Sys. Prog. Safety Program by Challenge (Some are abbreviated; see Table 1-1 for full titles.) R&T Challenges in the Aerodynamics and Aeroacoustics Area A1 GG Y B 1 1 1 A1. Novel propulsion-airframe integration A2 GG B GG Y 2 1 1 A2. Transition, boundary layer, and separation control A3 GG B B 1 2 A3. High performance and/or flexible multi-mission aircraft A4a GG GG GG 3 A4a. Reduce aircraft and rotor noise A4b GG Y GG Y 2 2 A4b. Prediction of performance of complex 3D configurations a A6 GG Y 1 1 A6. Aerodynamics robust to atmospheric disturbances A7a B 1 A7a. Leverage advantages of formation flying A7b B Y GG B 1 1 2 A7b. Wake vortex prediction, detection, and mitigation A9 Y B 1 1 A9. V/STOL and ESTOL, including adequate control power A10 Y 1 A10. Reducing/mitigating sonic boom (novel aircraft shaping) A11 GG Y Y Y 1 3 A11. Robust and efficient multidisciplinary design tools R&T Challenges in the Propulsion and Power Area B1a GG Y GG 2 1 B1a. Quiet propulsion systems B1b Y Y 2 B2. Ultraclean gas turbine combustors B3 B Y B Y 2 2 B3. Intelligent engines and mechanical power systems B4 Y Y B 2 1 B4. Improved propulsion system fuel economy B5 B Y 1 1 B5. Propulsion systems for short takeoff and vertical lift B6a Y Y 2 B6a. Variable-cycle engines to expand the operating envelope B6b B B B B 4 B6b. Integrated power and thermal management systems B8 B 1 B8. Propulsion systems for supersonic flight B9 B B B B 4 B9. Advanced aircraft electric power systems B10 GG 1 B10. Combined-cycle hypersonic propulsion systems R&T Challenges in the Materials and Structures Area C1 B GG Y 1 1 1 C1. Integrated vehicle health management C2 Y B B 1 2 C2. Adaptive materials and morphing structures C3 GG Y GG Y B 2 2 1 C3. Multidisciplinary analysis, design, and optimization C4 Y B GG Y 1 2 1 C4. Next-generation polymers and composites C5 Y GG B 1 1 1 C5. Noise prediction and suppression C6a B GG Y B Y 1 2 2 C6a. Innovative high-temperature metals and environmental coatings C6b GG GG Y B 2 1 1 C6b. Innovative load suppression, and vibration and stability control C8 Y 1 C8. Structural innovations for high-speed rotorcraft C9 Y Y Y Y Y 5 C9. High-temperature ceramics and coatings C10 Y B B B Y 2 3 C10. Multifunctional materials R&T Challenges in the Dynamics, Navigation, and Control, and Avionics Area D1 Y B B Y D1. Advanced guidance systems 2 2 D2 B GG Y GG D2. Distributed decision making and flight path planning 2 1 1 D3 B YB D3. Aerodynamics and vehicle dynamics via closed-loop flow control 1 2 D4 Y GG 1 D4. Intelligent and adaptive flight control techniques 1 D5 B GG Y GG 2 1 D5. Fault tolerant and integrated vehicle health management systems 1 D6 B B Y 2 D6. Improved onboard weather systems and tools 1 D7 B B B B 4 D7. Advanced communication, navigation, and surveillance technology D8 B GG GG GG 3 1 D8. Human-machine integration D9 GG 1 D9. Synthetic and enhanced vision systems D10 B B B 3 D10. Safe operation of unmanned air vehicles in the national airspace R&T Challenges in the Intelligent and Autonomous Systems, Operations and Decision Making, Human Integrated Systems, Networking and Communications Area E1 GG Y Y Y 1 3 E1. Design and evaluate complex interactive systems E2 Y Y 2 E2. Separating, spacing, and sequencing aircraft E3 Y Y 2 E3. Roles of humans and automated systems for separation assurance E4 B B 2 E4. Sensors, etc. to predict and measure wake turbulence E5 GG Y 1 1 E5. Information sharing among human and machine agents E6 B Y 1 1 E6. Vulnerability analysis in the design of the air transportation system E7 Y Y 2 E7. Adaptive ATM techniques to minimize the impact of weather E8a GG GG 2 E8a. Transparent and collaborative decision support systems E8b GG Y 1 1 E8b. Operational and maintenance data to assess safety E8c GG B 1 1 E8c. Human operators in effective task and attention management Totals for All 51 R&T Challenges from the Decadal Survey Green 10 4 6 1 7 2 3 3 2 0 38 a Yellow 9 13 9 5 3 7 3 3 1 5 58 Work on R&T Challenge A6 related to subsonic fixed wing Black 8 14 9 5 6 7 2 0 1 1 53 aircraft is being done by the NASA Office of Safety.
NASA AERONAUTICS RESEARCHâAN ASSESSMENT Civil Aeronautics seems not to have been a significant factor in the selection of the research portfolio being pursued by many of ARMDâs research projects. In any case, as illustrated in Table S-2, NASA is doing a mixed job in responding to the 51 highest-Âpriority R&T challenges in the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics. A summary follows. There are no significant shortcomings in NASAâs efforts to address four R&T challenges: â¢ A4a. Aerodynamic designs and flow-control schemes to reduce aircraft and rotor noise â¢ B10. Combined-cycle hypersonic propulsion systems with mode transition â¢ D9. Synthetic and enhanced vision systems â¢ E8a. Transparent and collaborative decision support systems Eight R&T challenges were uniformly evaluated as demonstrating minor shortcomings that could be corrected within the context of existing project plans: â¢ A10. Reducing/mitigating sonic boom (novel aircraft shaping) â¢ B2. Ultraclean gas turbine combustors â¢ B6a. Variable-cycle engines to expand the operating envelope â¢ C8. Structural innovations for high-speed rotorcraft â¢ C9. High-temperature ceramics and coatings â¢ E2. Separating, spacing, and sequencing aircraft â¢ E3. Roles of humans and automated systems for separation assurance â¢ E7. Adaptive ATM techniques to minimize the impact of weather The committee verified NASAâs own assessment that NASA is not supporting four R&T challenges: â¢ A7a. Aerodynamic configurations to leverage advantages of formation flying â¢ B9. High-reliability, high-performance, and high-power-density aircraft electric power systems â¢ D7. Advanced communication, navigation, and surveillance technology â¢ D10. Safe operation of unmanned air vehicles in the national airspace The committee also determined that NASA is not substantively addressing three additional R&T challenges: â¢ B6b. Integrated power and thermal management systems â¢ B8. Propulsion systems for supersonic flight â¢ E4. Affordable new sensors, system technologies, and procedures to improve the prediction and measurement of wake turbulence For the 32 other R&T challenges, NASA is effectively addressing some areas, but not others, and the overall assessment of these challenges is best described as âmixed.â As shown in Table S-2, the committee assigned the following color-coded grades: a total of 149 green, yellow, or black gradesâ25 percent green, 39 percent yellow, and 36 percent black. Green means that a given project substantially The numbering of the challenges here and in Table S-2 is in accordance with the numbering scheme in the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics (NRC, 2006).
SUMMARY meets relevant aspects of the intent of a particular R&T challenge and that the project will substantively advance the state of the art, with no significant shortcomings. Yellow means that a project has minor shortcomings in terms of its ability to support a given challenge, and those shortcomings are recoverable within the current overall project concept. Black means that a project has major shortcomings that would be difficult to recover from within the current overall project concept. White (or blank) means that the R&T challenge is not relevant to the project. The overall assessment for each challenge is indicated in the three columns labeled âGrade Summary by Challenge,â which summarize the number of color-coded grades assigned to each challenge. In a few cases, yellow or black grades indicate that NASA research plans are poorly conceived and that the resulting research will likely be ineffective. In most cases, however, yellow or black grades reflect inconsistencies between NASA project plans and the Decadal Survey. These inconsistencies are generally the result of NASA choosing to do little or no work in a particular task area and/or selecting research goals that fall short of advancing the state of the art far enough and with enough urgency either to make a substantial difference in meeting individual R&T challenges or the larger goal of achieving the strategic objectives of the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics. However, as noted above, NASA does not have the resources necessary to address all 51 R&T challenges simultaneously in a thorough and comprehensive manner, and so it is inevitable that the project plans, as a whole, do not fully address all the priorities of the Decadal Survey. NASA should respond to the shortcomings that are summarized in Table S-2 by implementing the recommendations in the preceding sections of this Summary. WORKFORCE There areâamong NASA, the academic community, and the civilian aerospace industryâenough skilled research personnel to adequately support the current aeronautics research programs at NASA and nationwide, at least for the next decade or so. NASA may experience some localized problems at some centers, but the requisite intellectual capacity exists at other centers and/or in organizations outside NASA. Thus, NASA should be able to achieve its research goals, for example, by using NASA Research Announcements or other procurement mechanisms; through the use of higher, locally competitive sala- ries in selected disciplines at some centers; and/or by Âcreating a virtual workforce that integrates staff from multiple centers with the skills necessary to address a particular research task. The content of the NASA aeronautics program, which has a large portfolio of tool development but little or no opportunities for flight tests, may in some cases hamper the ability to recruit new staff as compared with the space exploration program. In addition, there will likely be increased requirements for specialized or new skill sets. Workforce problems and inefficiencies can also arise from fluctuations in national aerospace engineering employment and from uneven funding in particular areas of endeavor. Recommendation. To ensure that the NASA aeronautics program has and will continue to have an adequate supply of trained employees, the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate should develop a vision describing the role of its research staff as well as a comprehensive, centralized strategic plan for workforce integration and implementation specific to ARMD. The plan should be based on an ARMD- wide survey of staffing requirements by skill level, coupled with an availability analysis of NASA civil servants available to support the NASA aeronautics program. The plan should identify specific gaps and the time frame in which they should be addressed. It should also define the role of NASA civil servant researchers vis-Ã -vis external researchers in terms of the following:
NASA AERONAUTICS RESEARCHâAN ASSESSMENT â¢ Defining, achieving, and maintaining an appropriate balance between in-house research and exter- nal research (by academia and industry) in each project and task, recognizing that the appropriate balance will not be the same in all areas. â¢ Maintaining core competencies in areas consistent with (1) the highest-priority R&T challenges from the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics and (2) NASAâs role in the National Aeronautics Research and Development Policy and the National Plan for Aeronautics Research and Develop- ment and Related Infrastructure. â¢ Supporting the continuing education, training, and retention of necessary expertise in the NASA civil Âservant workforce and, as appropriate, determining how to encourage and support the educa- tion of the future aeronautics workforce in general. â¢ Developing, integrating, and applying foundational technology to meet NASAâs internal require- ments for aeronautics research. â¢ Defining and addressing issues related to research involving multidisciplinary capabilities and system design (i.e., research at Levels 3 and 4, respectively, as defined by ARMD). â¢ Ensuring that research projects continue to make progress when NASA works with outside orga- nizations to obtain some of the requisite expertise (when that expertise is not resident in NASAâs civil servant workforce). NASA should use the National Research Council report Building a Better NASA Workforce (NRC, 2007) as a starting point in developing a comprehensive ARMD workforce plan. FACILITIES NASA has a unique set of aeronautics research facilities that provide key support to NASA, other federal departments and agencies, and industry. With very few exceptions, these facilities meet the rel- evant needs of existing aeronautics research. NASA also has a dedicated effort for sustaining large, key facilities and for shutting down low-priority facilities. However, some small facilities (particularly in the supersonic regime) are just as important and may warrant more support than they currently receive. In addition, at the current investment rate, widespread facility degradation will inevitably impact the ability of ARMD projects and other important national aeronautics research and development to achieve their goals. Recommendation. Absent a substantial increase in facility maintenance and investment funds, NASA should reduce the impact of facility shortcomings by continuing to assess facilities and mothball or decommission facilities of lesser importance so that the most important facilities can be properly sustained. REFERENCES NRC (National Research Council). 2006. Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics: Foundation for the Future. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Available online at <http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11664>. NRC. 2007. Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Available online at <www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11916>. NSTC (National Science and Technology Council). 2006. National Aeronautics Research and Development Policy. Washington, D.C.: Office of Science and Technology Policy. Available online at <www.ostp.gov/html/NationalAeroR&DPolicy12-19-06.pdf>. NSTC. 2007. National Plan for Aeronautics Research and Development and Related Infrastructure. Washington, D.C.: Office of Science and Technology Policy. Available online at <www.aeronautics.nasa.gov/releases/12_21_07_release.htm>.