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Division Highlights

NASA Administrator Bolden tours Division labs
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden visited Ames Research Center on September 8, 2010, and in addition to giving the keynote address at NASA's Green Aviation Summit, Mr. Bolden toured two of the division's laboratories, escorted by Aeronautics Associate Administrator, Dr. Jaiwon Shin. Mr. Bolden flew the Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS) configured for the Large Civil Tilt-Rotor (LCTR) experiment. The LCTR study investigated hover and low-speed handling qualities and control requirements for a large tilt rotor (similar in size to a Boeing 737). Mr. Bolden flew a precision hover task with the two control system configurations, an attitude command system and a translational rate command system, which were evaluated during LCTR experiment. In his opening address to the Green Aviation Summit, Mr. Bolden stated, “It was thrilling to get over to the VMS and have an opportunity to fly a tilt rotor… Tilt rotor aviation is going to revolutionize a lot of the things we do.”

This is a photo of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden inside of the Vertical Motion Simulator.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden pilots the Vertical Motion Simulator.

This is a photo of Dr. Jaiwon Shin inside of the Vertical Motion Simulator.
NASA Aeronautics Associate Administrator, Dr. Jaiwon Shin, goes for a ride in the Vertical Motion Simulator.

Mr. Bolden and Dr. Shin were also given a demonstration and briefing of the NextGen research in trajectory-based operations and terminal area precision scheduling by division researchers Dave McNally, Eric Mueller, and Harry Swenson. Human-in-the-loop simulations of the trajectory-based automation system in en-route and transition (TBAS-ET) will start in September and will investigate a trajectory-based operations concept using datalink and assuming other near-term capabilities. Terminal area precision scheduling system (TAPSS) simulations have been underway this summer and continue through September, and are investigating technologies to improve terminal area airspace operations.

This image shows the TAPSS team members as they demonstrate TAPSS technologies for NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in the Ames Air Traffic Control Lab.
Team members demonstrate TAPSS technologies for NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in the Ames Air Traffic Control Lab.

This is a group photo of the TAPSS team members and Charlie Bolden.
In these photos: Jane Thipphavong, Paul Lin, Anthony Seo, Everett Palmer, Tom Prevot, Chris Sullivan, John Robinson, Charles Bolden, and Harry Swenson.

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Large Civil Tilt-Rotor (LCTR) Handling Qualities Evaluation on the Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS)
A four-week long, joint NASA/Army simulation study was conducted in the Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS) to investigate hover and low-speed handling qualities and control requirements for a Large Civil Tilt-Rotor (LCTR, similar in size to a Boeing 737). The primary objective of this effort was to investigate the use of Translational Rate Command (TRC) for control in the hover and low-speed flight regime for this type of aircraft. This study was motivated by two previous LCTR simulations conducted at the VMS which examined fundamental handling qualities as well as the effect of pilot offset from the center of gravity on handling qualities. For the latest experiment, an enhanced stability derivative math model was developed to simulate the LCTR with fully moveable nacelles and a valid flight envelope up to 60 knots. Attitude Command/Attitude Hold (ACAH), TRC, and mixed ACAH/TRC control response modes were tested together with different TRC inception approaches (via the center stick, via a proportional thumb controller located on the Thrust Control Lever (TCL) and combinations of the two). Ten experimental test pilots from NASA, the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, Bell Helicopter, Boeing and Sikorsky evaluated the handling qualities of the LCTR with the different control modes and TRC inception methods for well-defined hover and low-speed maneuvers over a simulated Moffett Field visual database. The pilots also participated in some in-depth supplementary explorations of different nacelle rate limits and a control system improvement to minimize rotor flapping in response to nacelle motions. Preliminary results showed that the TRC generally improved the handling qualities, but a wide range of piloting techniques revealed handling qualities deficiencies that warranted improvement. The research team quickly responded to these findings and implemented modifications to the flight control system that improved handling qualities. The results also showed that TRC reduced pilot workload and increased precision with Level 1 handling qualities being attained in the hover and low-speed maneuvers tested. The pilots were impressed with the realism of the simulation and the researchers commented that it resulted in a “fascinating discovery… of Tilt-Rotor control issues.”

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Space Shuttle Landing and Rollout Training
The second Space Shuttle astronaut training session for 2010 was recently completed on the Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS). This periodic training familiarizes shuttle crews with vehicle handling during approach, landing, and rollout under normal operating conditions as well as off-nominal and failure conditions. Over the one-week training session, 15 pilots and 10 mission specialists completed 172 training runs. Crews for the final five Space Shuttle missions, STS-130, 131, 132, 133, and 134 were included in the training. The commander for STS-130 and STS-132 and the pilot for STS-131 re-lived their landings in the simulator under the same conditions experienced during their flights. The crews were also able to explore different “what if” scenarios, such as landing at the opposite end of the runway with different landing configurations. These post-mission VMS simulations provide important data on the effectiveness of the training and help refine approach and landing procedures. The NASA astronaut office complemented the VMS staff on another successful training session.

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Division Research Presented at NASA Green Aviation Summit
On September 9th, Dr. Banavar Sridhar, Dr. Yoon Jung, and Mr. Richard Coppenbarger presented some of NASA's research in a panel on Environmentally Friendly Airspace Operations at NASA's Green Aviation Summit. Dr. Sridhar presented concepts and challenges for en route operations, including simulation and optimization techniques in the design of traffic flows to reduce the formation of contrails and the evaluation of tradeoffs between different types of aircraft emissions. Dr. Jung reported on his airport surface research to reduce the environmental impact of stop-and-go taxi operations; his team conducted a human-in-the-loop study whose initial results indicated that with improved surface procedures and algorithms, the average number of stops made by each departure aircraft in the departure runway queue was reduced by more than half, which reduced taxi times for departures. Mr. Coppenbarger presented a concept for fuel efficient, continuous descents, describing the simulations and flight testing that have been conducted to date to develop and refine the technology enabling such descents in busy traffic conditions. The Summit, held at NASA Ames, was attended by government, industry, and academic experts and was hosted by the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. Videos of the Division presentations can be seen from our Green Aviation Summit page.

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Dantzig-Wolfe Optimization Software Cleared for Open Source Release
Dantzig-Wolfe Decomposition is an optimization technique that can be used to solve certain problems in parallel. Software developed within the Systems Modeling and Optimization branch for using this approach has been approved for open source release. In the past, this software was used to perform large-scale Traffic Flow Management optimization and is currently being integrated with the Advanced Concepts Evaluation System (ACES). This open source release will represent the only implementation of the algorithm available in any form (commercial or otherwise).

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Conflict Detection and Resolution Study for Airport Surface Operations Underway
On August 25, a kickoff meeting was held between Sensis Corporation and NASA researchers to discuss concepts, requirements, and algorithms for ground-based airport surface conflict detection and resolution (CD&R). This kickoff meeting marked the beginning of a rigorous study to provide a concept of operations for ground-based CD&R, CD&R algorithms and software, and performance metrics to assess CD&R function performance. This work is being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The primary objective of the study is to provide air traffic controllers with robust CD&R strategies to mitigate potentially serious conflicts on airport surfaces by fusing new CD&R software modules to the FAA's existing Surface Management System (SMS). These new modules will one day provide air traffic controllers with efficient strategies for dealing with taxiway, ramp area, and runway conflicts. In addition to efficiency gains, the CD&R function will enhance safety for all airport surface mobiles by incorporating a hierarchical system for prioritizing strategic, tactical, and critical surface conflicts.

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AIAA 2010 Sustained Service Award recognizes Mr. Todd Farley
Mr. Todd Farley, chief of the Flight Trajectory Dynamics and Controls Branch, was honored with the 2010 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Sustained Service award at a ceremony at the AIAA Aviation Technology, Integration and Operations annual conference in Fort Worth, Texas, on September 14. Mr. Farley's citation read, “For over a decade of outstanding dedicated service to AIAA spanning the national level from the Air Transportation Systems Technical Committee to the local San Francisco Section.” Among his many achievements, Mr. Farley served as Air Transportation Systems Technical Committee Chair, which led to the development of the ATIO conference. As an active member of the AIAA San Francisco Section, Mr. Farley served as Public Policy Director, treasurer, vice-chair, and chair. He also received an AIAA Special Service Citation in 2002 for his efforts in leading the recognition of the Oakland (CA) Airport as an Aerospace Historic Site.

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