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HIGHLIGHTS ARCHIVE
11.25.09
Division Highlights

Contents
Lunar Lander Handling Qualities Experiment: A November 2009 experiment on the Ames Vertical Motion Simulator studied the handling qualities of a Lunar Lander as a function of control system design (how the vehicle responds to pilot inputs) and display design (what information is displayed to the pilot). 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 it employed a vehicle model based on the latest (DAC-3) information available from the Altair Project. The evaluation pilots included two Apollo Lunar Module pilots, six current or former Shuttle Commanders and three NASA test pilots. Two previous Lunar Lander experiments carried out under this project since May 2007 established that explicit guidance cues are required to perform a precision landing and that Altair's low control power results in unsatisfactory handling qualities for this task. The current experiment evaluated seven control system types and three display combinations, one of which was functionally identical to configurations evaluated in past years. These combinations were either adapted from advanced rotorcraft or designed from scratch by NASA researchers. Preliminary results indicate that the new 'Velocity Command' control system improved handling qualities relative to the 'Altitude Rate Command' control system, which was employed on the Apollo Lunar Module and evaluated in past experiments. The improvement was sufficient to meet NASA requirements for manual control of piloted spacecraft ('Level 1' handling qualities on the Cooper-Harper rating scale), whereas the control system used in Apollo did not meet this handling qualities requirement for Altair's precision landing task. It was also found that explicit guidance cues were not required to achieve good handling qualities with the 'Velocity Command' control system, a feature that would make such a system simpler and more robust than a control system requiring guidance. This experiment is part of a broader effort to develop design guidelines for improved handling qualities in piloted Constellation spacecraft.

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New Version of ACES is Released: A new version of NASA's air transportation system simulation, Airspace Concept Evaluation System (ACES) 6.5, is available. This release addresses about thirty different issues. The most significant changes are related to the Rapid Update Cycle wind data. The first one updates ACES so that it can read the March 2007 data format change. The second one separates storage of data and source code, which can now be downloaded separately. This saves disk space and time.

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NASA Joins the US Embassy Science Fellows Program in Czech Republic: Mr. Harry Swenson started a three month detail with the US Embassy in Prague as an Embassy Science Fellow to explore technical collaborations with the Czech Technical University. The US Department of Defense and the FAA has sponsored research with the Czech Technical University for several years to develop an air traffic control simulation tool called AGENTFLY. AGENTFLY is used to explore multiple conflict detection, resolution and collision avoidance algorithms for Un-crewed Aerial Vehicles using cooperative and non-cooperative distributed control agent based algorithms. It has recently been enhanced for complex multi-vehicle military rendezvous and reconnaissance missions and can simulate up to 50,000 aircraft in the National Airspace System. Mr. Swenson will work with researchers at the Czech Technical University to adapt AGENTFLY for operations in a super dense terminal airspace such as the Southern California TRACON. A research question for the Super Density Operations research focus area is how to ensure safety at high volumes of traffic within the metroplex area. One method is to build redundant and independent decision support tool architectures. The AGENTFLY technology represents a candidate independent and redundant architecture that has been developed to a high level of functionality for Umanned Aircraft System (UAS) operations and has direct applicability to the Super Density Research. The Acting US Ambassador to the Czech Republic indicated that this is an important activity in the US Government's commitment to work with the Czech Republic on Scientific and Technical collaborations.

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