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What is NextGen?

The National Airspace System (NAS) is the collection of all the components (airspace, facilities, equipment, services, workforce, procedures, etc.) that enable the nation's air transportation system. “NextGen,” short for the “Next Generation Air Transportation System,” is a comprehensive transformation of the NAS, to a system that will be safer, more reliable and more efficient, and which will reduce the impact of aviation on the environment. The transition to NextGen is vital to improving system performance, meeting continued growth in air traffic, and increasing the Nation's mobility to support economic progress.

What is NASA doing to contribute to achieving NextGen?

NASA is collaborating with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other industry partners to develop advanced automation concepts and tools that provide air traffic controllers, pilots, and other airspace users with more accurate real-time information about the nation's traffic flow, weather, and routing. The greater precision of this information is a key enabler of NextGen.

What is the Aviation Systems Division contributing to NextGen?

The Aviation Systems Division is actively researching, developing and testing innovative automation solutions, including concepts, technologies, and procedures, to identify the most promising capabilities to achieve NextGen. The Division performs research in all airspace domains and ATM technical disciplines.

Read more about the Aviation System Division's major contributions in the following ATM research areas:
Image of a NAS demand simulation using ACES Modeling & Simulation
Before deciding on what concepts to recommend for implementation in the national airspace system, it is vital and cost effective to first model and simulate them in software. The division has a host of modeling and simulation tools to accomplish this software testing.
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Image depicting automated airspace Tactical ATM
Capacity at our airports and within en route airspace is limited by the average spacing or distances between aircraft that can be safely accommodated with human-centered control. The average distance between aircraft is influenced by the separation standards and the ability of the Air Navigation Service Provider to precisely control to those standards. Both of these factors are influenced by the technologies and procedures for tactical air traffic management …
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Graph showing aircraft entry count Strategic ATM
Strategic Air Traffic Management (SATM) is a complex area of research involving the disciplines of operations research, guidance and control, human factors, and software engineering. SATM decisions are made by hundreds of human operators and involve tens of thousands of aircraft, en route air traffic control centers, the Federal Aviation Administration's System Command Center, and many airline operation centers.
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Screenshot of the Surface Management System Surface Automation
Surface traffic management research presents some unique challenges not present in other air traffic domains. Surface traffic management and the development of automation capabilities to improve surface operations are very dependent upon existing airports …
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Image of an air traffic controller running CAP Historical Foundations for ATM Research
The Center TRACON Automation System (CTAS) provides automation tools for planning and controlling arrival air traffic. CTAS generates air traffic advisories designed to increase fuel efficiency, reduce delays, and provide automation assistance to air traffic controllers in achieving acceptable aircraft sequencing and separation as well as improved airport capacity. CTAS accomplishes this without decreasing safety or increasing controller workload.
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NextGen Technologies
Here are a few of the NextGen tools in development by the Aviation Systems Division:

Thumbnail image of the ATD2 operational concept environment.
Airspace Technology Demonstration 2 (ATD-2)

This screenshot shows an example of a shadow-mode simulation of a flight for its comparison with a live flight.
Air Traffic Management (ATM) Test Bed

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Last Updated: December 16, 2020

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