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Flight Test and Measurement Technologies

Description:

Scope Title:

FlightTest and Measurement Technologies

ScopeDescription:

NASA continues to use flightresearch as a critical element in the maturation of technology. Thisincludes developing test techniques that improve the control ofin-flight test conditions, expand measurement and analysismethodologies, and improve test data acquisition and management withsensors and systems that have fast response, low volume, minimalintrusion, and high accuracy and reliability. By using state-of-the-artflight-test techniques, along with novel measurement and dataacquisition technologies, NASA and the aerospace industry willbe able to conduct flight research more effectively and meet thechallenges presented by NASA’s and industry’scutting-edge research and development programs.

NASA's Flight Demonstrations and Capabilities (FDC)Project supports a variety of flight regimes and vehicle types, rangingfrom low-speed, subsonic applications and electric propulsion throughtransonic and high-speed flight regimes. Therefore, this subtopic coversa wide range of flight conditions and vehicles.

NASA also requires improved measurement and analysis techniquesfor acquisition of real-time, in-flight data used to determineaerodynamic, structural, flight control, and propulsion systemperformance characteristics. These data will be used to provideinformation necessary to safely expand the flight and test envelopes ofaerospace vehicles and components. This requirement includes thedevelopment of sensors for both in situ and remote sensing to enhancethe monitoring of test aircraft safety and atmospheric conditions duringflight testing.

Flight test and measurement technology proposals may significantlyenhance the capabilities of major government and industry flight testfacilities. Proposals may address innovative methods and technologies toreduce costs and extend the health, maintainability, communication, andtest techniques of flight research support facilities to directlyenhance flight test and measurement.

For this year’s solicitation, areasof interest emphasizing flight test and measurement technologies will befocusing on flight measurement sensors, wired or wireless,high-acquisition-rate data interrogators, as well as ruggedized sensorsand health monitoring systems for flightapplications.

  • Measurement technologies for in-flightsteady and unsteady aerodynamics, juncture flow measurements, propulsionairframe integration, structural dynamics, stability, and controlrelated to turbulence, and propulsion system performance in order tovalidate and improve flight modeling for next-generation conventional,short, and vertical takeoff and landing (CTOL, STOL, and VTOL)vehicles.
  • Prognostic and intelligent vehicle healthmonitoring for hybrid and/or all-electric propulsionsystems.

The emphasis here is for technology, preferably both flighthardware prototype(s) and software package(s), to be developed forflight test and flight-test facility needs.

The technologies developed for this subtopic directly address thetechnical challenges in the Aeronautics Research MissionDirectorate (ARMD), Integrated Aviation Systems Program (IASP),and FDC (Flight Demonstration and Capabilities) Project. The FDC Projectconducts complex flight research demonstrations to support multiple ARMDprograms. FDC is seeking to enhance flight research and testcapabilities necessary to address and achieve the ARMD strategic plan.Technologies for this subtopic could also support Advanced Air VehicleProgram (AAVP) projects, including Commercial Supersonic Technology(CST), Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology (RVLT), andHypersonic Technology Project (HTP), as well as theAerosciences Evaluation and Test Capabilities (AETC) PortfolioOffice.

For technologies focused on ground testing or operations, pleaseconsider submitting to subtopic A1.08 (Aeronautics Ground Test andMeasurement Technologies), as ground-testing technologies will beconsidered out of scope for the A2.01 subtopic.

For technologies with space-only applications, please considersubmitting to a related subtopic in the Space Technology MissionDirectorate (STMD), as space-only technologies will be considered out ofscope for the A2.01 subtopic.

Proposals that focus solely on flight vehicle development ratherthan focusing on technologies applicable to flight test and measurementwill be considered out of scope for the A2.01 subtopic.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of theProject: 3 to 6

Primary TechnologyTaxonomy:

  • Level 1 15 FlightVehicle Systems
  • Level 2 15.2 FlightMechanics

DesiredDeliverables of Phase I and PhaseII:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Prototype
  • Hardware
  • Software

DesiredDeliverables Description:

For a Phase I effort, the small business is expected to generate amid-term report showing progress of the work. A summary reportis expected at the end of Phase I that describes the researcheffort's successes, failures, and the proposed pathahead.

For a Phase II effort, the smallbusiness should show a maturation of the technology that allows for apresentation of a thorough demonstration. Most ideally, the smallbusiness would deliver a prototype that includes beta-style orbetter hardware and/or software that is suitable to work in groundtesting and can be proven, via relevant environment testing, to work ina flight environment. This relevant environment testing would satisfyNASA’s technical readiness level (TRL) expectations at the endof Phase II.

State of the Art and CriticalGaps:

Currentatmospheric flight systems cover a large range of uses, frompoint-to-point drones to high-performance small aircraft to largetransports to general aviation. In all areas, advancements can bepossible if insights can be gained, studied, and used to create newtechnologies. New insights will require an evolution of current testingand measurement techniques, as well as novel forms andimplementations.

Known gaps include advanced telemetrytechniques; intelligent internal state monitoring for air and spacevehicles; techniques for studying sonic booms, including novelphotography techniques; advanced techniques for capturing all dimensionsof system operation and vehicle health (spatial/spectral/temporal); andextreme environment, high-speed, large-area distributive sensingtechniques. Along with these comes the need for secure telemetry of datato ensure informed operation of the flight system.

For single longitudinal modecontinuously tunable laser systems, the current state of theart can either utilize an external cavity setup that involves amechanically swept-tuned laser that is susceptible tovibration or an electronically tunable laser that will mode-hopat low bandwidth range (for a couple of nanometers of tuning range). Adesirable laser is an electrically tuned laser that can sustain10 nm of tuning range while maintaining single modethroughout the sweeping range. 

For high-gain signal conditioningsystems, the current state of theart for these systems has the bandwidth and data storage capability butis somewhat limited in anti-alias filtering capabilities. For example,some of the off-the-shelf options for high-bandwidth systems may belimited in gain up to only 1,000x or have no options to adjust gains.Freestream measurements in quiescent flow may require up to 32,000xgain. 

Relevance / ScienceTraceability:

The technologies developed for this subtopicdirectly address the technical and capability challenges inARMD's FDC Project. FDC conducts complex flight researchdemonstrations to support various ARMD programs. FDC is seeking toenhance flight research and test capabilities necessary to address andachieve ARMD’s strategic plan. Also, the technologies couldsupport IASP and EPFD projects, as well as CST and RVLT projects and theAETC Portfolio Office.Potentialhardware from this solicitation will provide improved measurementcapabilities that can be implemented in flight experiments.

References:

  • NASA’s Quesst mission toreduce the loudness of a sonic boom and gather data on human responsesto supersonic flight overhead: https://www.nasa.gov/X59 
  • NASA Armstrong Fact Sheet: FiberOptic Sensing System:https://www.nasa.gov/centers-and-facilities/armstrong/fiber-optic-sensing-technology-providing-data-every-quarter-inch-of-the-way/
  • Schlieren Images Reveal SupersonicShockWaves: https://www.nasa.gov/image-article/schlieren-images-reveal-supersonic-shock-waves-4/
  • NASA’s CommercialSupersonic Technology (CST) Project: https://www.nasa.gov/aeroresearch/programs/aavp/cst 
  • NASA’s RevolutionaryVertical Lift Technology (RVLT) Project: https://www.nasa.gov/aeroresearch/programs/aavp/rvlt 
  • NASA’s AerosciencesEvaluation and Test Capabilities (AETC) Portfolio Office: https://www.nasa.gov/aetc 

Scope Title:

Time,Space, and Position Information and RadarTechnologies

ScopeDescription:

Background

The DrydenAeronautical Test Range (DATR) employs two RIR-716 instrumentation radarsystems to provide high-accuracy position information by utilizingC-Band beacon and skin tracking. This “Time, Spaceand Position Information” or TSPI is used invarious ways for flight test projects. Notably, thehigh-accuracy tracking provides space-based vehicle navigationinformation to navigators at Johnson Space Center during orbitalsupport. For aeronautical missions, C-band beacon trackingprovides real-time and recorded data for post-analysis by Armstrongengineers. Skin tracking allows for a completely independentsource of TSPI data, which can satisfy a Range Safety requirement whenunpiloted vehicles operate in our controlled airspace, provided theradar cross-section is adequate for skin tracking.

The RIR-716 radarsystems can be described in two parts: the control console anddata processing portion, and the RF or transmit and receiveportion. The RF components and the physical pedestals andreflectors are in excellent condition. Periodic overhaul hasbeen accomplished per the manufacturer'srecommendation.  

ProblemState

The control consoleand data processing portions systems were last upgraded in the1990s. They are now aging, obsolete, and failing. Thesystem utilizes a very old Virtual Machine Environment (VME)architecture, wire-wrapped circuit boards, and many otheranalog components that are no longer available to purchase orto find in surplus. There are several single-point-of-failurecomponents that, if failed, would render the entire radar systemunusable. 

The manufacturer(BAE) has a standing upgrade program to address the aging parts of oursystems. That upgrade is expensive (>$3M per radar).This upgrade program has not gained a lot of traction among usersbecause of the perception that it is a minimally acceptableupgrade. 

Other companies haveRIR-716 upgrade programs, some in C-Band, others inX-Band. 

At the core of theDATR's radar dilemma is the lack of solid programmaticrequirements to justify an investment of any largeamount. Utilization has steadily decreased over the last decadeand fewer customers are reaching out for availability. The useof various GPS-based products has supplanted the use of a high-accuracytracker. 

The DATR is lookingfor new sources of TSPI data that can support aeronautical projects andpotentially astronautical projects as well. The equipment that providesthis data should be cost-effective, robust, and based on current orfuture technologies that are not hindered by supply chain issues (e.g.,using parts that are no longer in production).

The highest prioritywill be given to systems/proposals that address the following:

  • Independent source of TSPI fromthe tracked object in real time (>/= 10 samples/sec) andarchived for post-processing. TSPI systems for conducting range safetyof Class 3 UAS and greater sized air vehicles in any attitude, heading,altitude and speed within the DATR are sought.
  • Performance equal to or greaterthan current RIR-716 systems and Range Commanders Council (RCC) Standard167-95, also low maintenance and upgradeable.

Any innovativeapproach should be able to track and provide TSPI data for current andfuture air vehicles for the independent source range safetyfunction.

Additionally, thesenew sources of TSPI data should consider additional challenges, such asease of deployment, low maintenance, and an open software architectureto easily allow for future capabilities. Other considerations wouldinclude maintenance cycles. Is this a system that isupgradeable; does this system depend on mechanical parts thatwill wear over time?

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of theProject: 4 to 7

Primary TechnologyTaxonomy:

  • Level 1 05Communications, Navigation, and Orbital Debris Tracking andCharacterization Systems
  • Level 205.X Other Communications, Navigation, and Orbital Debris Tracking andCharacterizationSystems

DesiredDeliverables of Phase I and PhaseII:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Prototype
  • Hardware
  • Software

DesiredDeliverables Description:
For the Phase I effort, thesmall business is expected to provide a mid-term report outlining theanalysis and technology investigation thus far.  A summaryreport is expected at the end of Phase I describing the results of theanalysis and feasibility of applying innovative solutions.

For the Phase IIeffort, the small business is expected to present a demonstrabletechnology or technologies that meets or exceeds the specificationsoutlined, as baseline standards. In addition, an implementationplan for hardware and software that can be tested by NASA isdesired.

State of the Art and CriticalGaps:

Current TSPI solutions across flight test ranges generally comefrom two types of sources: GPS-based and radar tracking. Whencritical range safety concerns arise, sources independent of theflight-test vehicle are required. Tracking radars have been thestandard for independent, high-accuracy TSPI data for decades. GPS-basedsystems have been implemented in various ways, but almost always rely onthe test vehicle’s data system to provide the needed TSPIdata. Non-independent sources of data pose additional risk torange safety. 

Fidelity of the dataused for post-processing and engineering analysis creates another set ofchallenges when developing alternative sources of TSPI data. RADAR data provides high-fidelity, and dGPS sources do aswell. 

There are criticalgaps between the two general groups of data, and a single, lower-costsolution, independent of flight test vehicle could fill thosegaps.  While GPS-based solutions exist in abundance, trulyindependent sources are less available.  Commercialoff-the-shelf (COTS) solutions that provide performance for vehiclestraveling beyond Mach 1.0 are also less available.

Relevance / ScienceTraceability:

The technologies produced for this subtopic directlyaddress the current and ongoing need for high-accuracy TSPI data sourcesfor the Armstrong and greater NASA Aeronautics flight testprograms. Innovation in this area would greatly simplifyoperations, and drastically reduce operational and maintenance costs forranges currently dependent on radar tracking systems.

References:

  • NASA’s Quesst mission to reduce the loudness of a sonicboom and gather data on human responses to supersonic flight overhead:https://www.nasa.gov/X59
  • Dryden Aeronautical Test Range Overview: https://www.nasa.gov/aeroresearch/programs/iasp/fdc/datr

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