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Environmental Modeling to be Integrated with ATC Surface Modeling System: Researchers from the Safe and Efficient Surface Operations research focus area of the Airportal project team held a meeting with Metron Aviation to discuss integrating Metron's environmental model with the NASA developed Surface Management System (SMS). The SMS is an ATM decision support tool to help tower traffic coordinators and Ground/Local controllers to manage and control airport surface traffic to increase capacity, efficiency, and flexibility. Metron Aviation is leading the Environmental NRA for the Airportal Project. The purpose of this NRA is to develop concept of operations and a prototype of the environmental planner that will work with the surface traffic optimizer in real-time, making environmental considerations an integral part of the surface traffic planning process. An integrated capability will allow NASA to advance the study of environmental impact on surface traffic optimization. An outcome of this meeting is to start integration activities. Metron Aviation has agreed to modify their environmental model into a SMS module, thus allowing for the testing and integration between the two projects. NASA will supply Metron Aviation with ATC simulation environments so they can begin the integration task.

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Lunar Lander Handling Qualities Experiment: A December, 2008 experiment on the Vertical Motion Simulator studied the handling qualities of a Lunar Lander as a function of control system and inceptor characteristics. The experiment simulated the final approach and precision landing that would be required in missions to a lunar outpost with a prepared landing pad, and employed a vehicle model based on the latest (DAC-2) information available from the Altair Project. Four different values of Reaction Control System (RCS) thrust were tested with four different Rotational Hand Controller sensitivities, and two magnitudes of propellant slosh disturbance moment were evaluated for a total of 18 experimental configurations. These configurations were carefully chosen to span the dynamics and handling characteristics of the Apollo Lunar Module (LM) and the Altair vehicle so that handling qualities data from the Apollo Program can be understood in the context of this new spacecraft. Pilots followed attitude and translational velocity guidance, the need for which was established in an earlier Lunar Lander simulation in May 2007, on displays adapted from the Space Shuttle and the LM to land within 5 m of the touchdown target. The evaluation pilots for this experiment included two Apollo LM pilots, five current or former Shuttle pilot astronauts and one NASA test pilot. One additional Apollo pilot and three Shuttle pilots will provide data in a final week of simulation at the end of January, 2009. Preliminary results have shown that improved handling qualities, as measured on the Cooper-Harper scale, accompany larger RCS thrust levels and lower inceptor sensitivities, and that the propellant slosh disturbance moments expected on Altair should not significantly degrade handling qualities. Lower propellant consumption also accompanies the lower values of thrust and sensitivity, suggesting a particular operational benefit to low values of rotational inceptor sensitivity. This experiment is part of a broader effort to develop design guidelines for improved handling qualities in piloted Constellation spacecraft generally, and to provide a handling qualities evaluation capability to the Orion Project specifically.

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Comparison of Algorithms that Create Airspace Sector Boundary Maps: The first nation-wide comparison of several algorithms that generate airspace sector boundary maps was completed. Three algorithms were chosen that approach the sector redesign problem in different ways. They produce, due to the disparity in their methods, radically different looking maps. Simulations of both current and 1.5 times current air traffic volume transiting through a current day map and each of these algorithmically-generated maps was completed. The resulting demand, capacity, complexity, and delay metrics were compared identifying strengths and weaknesses of each map. All three algorithm- generated maps showed significant improvements over the current day map. Areas identified for algorithm improvement include optimization of the number of sectors and sector altitude stratification.

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Generic Sectors Phase-1 Simulation: In December, 2008, the Generic Airspace Team conducted the first in a series of planned simulations to explore the concept of "generic" airspace sectors. A Phase-1 simulation focused on providing an auxiliary controller display, known as a Controller Information Tool (CIT). The CIT provides the controller with a visual depiction of airspace, traffic routes, frequencies, and conflict points in both two- and three-dimensional views. The purpose of the simulation was to determine if the use of the CIT would adequately provide the controller with the required information to be reassigned to similar sectors without the need for extensive memorization and classroom time. Programmers were tasked with creating the JAVA code for the CIT as well as modifying and enhancing Multi Aircraft Control System (MACS) target generator. The programmers successfully created 2D and 3D presentations of sector airspace, color-coded routes (destination specific), special use airspace, adjacent airspace and frequencies. The effectiveness of the tool was greatly enhanced by the ability to rotate the views of the airspace when in 3D mode, showing relevant altitudes of each traffic flow. The simulation was conducted using six recently retired air traffic controllers from Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center. A follow-on simulation is planned for June, 2009.

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Last Updated: November 7, 2018

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