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Committee to Assess NASA's Aeronautics Flight Research Capabilities

Report Released 3/16/2012 Recapturing NASA's Aeronautics Flight Research Capabilities

Statement of Task:

An ad hoc committee will perform a study to assess and make recommendations about how best to integrate flight research into the current Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate?s (ARMD) fundamental research activities and integrated systems research activities. In conducting the study and preparing its report the committee will undertake the following tasks:

  • Within the set of goals and challenges being addressed by NASA?s Aeronautics Research program, identify those challenges where research program success can be achieved most effectively through flight research (in addition to, or as opposed to, other analytical or experimental approaches)
  • Identify any goals and challenges in the NASA Aeronautics program that may be limited due to an anticipated lack of available flight research capability
  • Review the current portfolio of ARMD flight research activities and the flight research needs of ARMD?s aeronautics program, and identify programmatic and research requirements gaps
  • Review the capabilities and limitations of the current fleet of NASA aeronautics research aircraft in terms of their ability to meet the above requirements and gaps
  • Consider how the research opportunities might be pursued in an economical, affordable, and technically rigorous way (for example, by partnering with the NASA Science Mission Directorate, other U.S. government agencies and departments, industry, the National Research Council of Canada (NRCC), and other international partners); 
  • Recommend how NASA might maintain a robust flight research program within defined budget scenarios.

The scope of this assessment includes all ARMD research, including where/how future flight testing can add value to aeronautics research, vehicle and vehicle subsystem/component technologies, next generation air traffic management (NextGen) technologies and technologies related to the safety of flight. The study should consider (1) the role of X-planes and/or demonstrator vehicles in aeronautics research and their potential to reduce the risks associated with technology maturation, performance, and deployment or insertion into flight vehicles and (2) the potential benefit of using unclassified flight research testbeds owned by other government agencies, industry, academia, and elsewhere. The budget scenarios for the committee?s recommendations should include options such as a baseline scenario that is bounded by the current ARMD budget outlook, an augmented scenario that represents a frugal approach to flight experimentation that meets programmatic goals but one that is not necessarily constrained by the present budget outlook, and a scenario that is unconstrained by the present budget outlook. It should also include a recommendation on the core components of a well-balanced (see Task 1), effective NASA Aeronautics program.


Meeting Information

April 20, 2011 - April 22, 2011
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

June 13, 2011 - June 15, 2011
Keck Center
Washington D.C. 20001

August 30, 2011 - September 1, 2011
Keck Center
Washington D.C. 20001

Committee Membership

Dr. Wesley L. Harris (Chair)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
 Dr. Timothy Lieuwen
Georgia Institute of Technology
Mr. Mark Anderson
Boeing Research and Technology
 Dr. Ronald F. Probstein
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Mr. Neil A. Armstrong
EDO Corporation
 Dr. Eli Reshotko
Case Western Reserve University
Mr. Edward J. Burnett
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company
 Mr. Rogers E. Smith
Independent Consultant
Dr. Inderjit Chopra
University of Maryland, College Park
 Mr. John Tylko
Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation
Mr. Richard S. Christiansen
Sierra Lobo, Inc.
 Mr. Randy Voland
ACENT Laboratories, LLC
Mr. Robert A. Cowart
Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation
 Dr. Deborah DeMania Whitis
GE Aircraft Engines


Dr. Dwayne A. Day
Staff Officer

Terri Baker
Project Assistant