NASA Restructuring Aeronautics Research

 - September 26, 2006, 8:12 AM

NASA is restructuring its aeronautics research programs, including fundamental aeronautics, airspace systems, aviation safety and aeronautics testing. Among the goals of the restructuring are protecting and maintaining NASA’s key aeronautics research and test facilities as national assets.

The move follows last year’s congressional action to restore aeronautics funding cuts the Bush Administration made during the past two years. Over the past 12 years, the agency’s aeronautics budget decreased from $1.54 billion in Fiscal Year 1994 to $906.2 million in FY2005. For FY2006, Congress has appropriated $912.3 million for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

“NASA is returning to long-term investment in cutting-edge fundamental research in traditional aeronautics disciplines,” said Lisa Porter, NASA’s associate administrator of the directorate.

Porter said there are four key objectives to the new focus. They are to re-establish NASA’s commitment to mastering the science of subsonic (rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft), supersonic and hypersonic flight; protect and maintain the agency’s key aeronautics research and test facilities; focus research in areas that are appropriate to its unique capabilities; and directly address the needs of the next-generation air-transportation system in partnership with the Joint Planning and Development Office.

The goal of the fundamental aeronautics program is the development of system-level, multidisciplinary capabilities for both civilian and military applications. This program provides long-term investment in research to support and sustain expert competency in critical core areas of aeronautics technology.

The work in fundamental aeronautics will produce knowledge, data, capabilities and design tools to benefit a variety of air vehicles. Fundamental aeronautics concentrates research in four areas: subsonic fixed wing, subsonic rotary wing, supersonics and hypersonics.

Transforming National Airspace

The airspace systems program is responding to the nation’s urgent need to transform its air transportation system. The transformation includes the operational management of the National Airspace System and the types of aircraft that fly within it. The primary research role for the program is the operational aspects of the airspace system. The program will be responsible for developing concepts, capabilities and technologies for high-capacity, efficient and safe airspace and airport systems.

The research focus of the aviation safety program is on the way aircraft are designed, built, operated and maintained. Scientists and engineers in this program will develop principles, guidelines, concepts, tools, methods and technologies to address aircraft aging and durability, integrated intelligent flight-deck technologies, integrated vehicle-health management and integrated resilient-aircraft control.

The aeronautics test program will ensure that NASA wind tunnels and air-breathing propulsion test facilities are available to meet its research requirements and those of other national partners. The program will make decisions regarding the strategic use, operations, maintenance and investment for facilities at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.; Glenn Research Center, Cleveland; and Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.