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News from the National Academies
Date: April 26, 2004
Contacts: Patrice Pages, Media Relations Officer
Megan Petty, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

National Aerospace Initiative Worth Pursuing;
Additional Funds Needed to Meet Long-Term Objectives

WASHINGTON -- The National Aerospace Initiative, a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA designed to sustain the nation's aerospace leadership, is effective in pursuing technologies necessary for future space-launch needs and military operations, says a new report by the National Academies' National Research Council. The NAI program should enable NASA and DOD to continue leading efforts in three critical aerospace areas -- high-speed hypersonic flight, access to space, and space technology -- but the program has many technical and financial hurdles, said the committee that wrote the report.

"This initiative is certainly worthwhile, but some of the challenges it faces are formidable," said committee chair Edsel Dunford, past president and chief operating officer of TRW Inc. "In particular, sharply higher budgets will be required to achieve long-term objectives, which could significantly impact other programs of DOD and NASA."

The committee noted that it could not determine current or planned levels of funding for NAI with any degree of certainty. Presentations made to the committee by DOD and NASA representatives provided only limited financial information on two long-term research areas -- high-speed hypersonic flight and space access. Therefore, the committee drew on its expertise to create a plan for technical aspects of the initiative and to estimate costs.

NAI's high-speed hypersonic flight research aims to develop jet-like vehicles that can fly at Mach 12 -- 12 times the speed of sound -- by around 2014. These high-speed vehicles may be technically feasible in that time frame, but a more comprehensive plan to undertake all required activities, from fundamental research to critical technology development to flight demonstration, needs to be pursued, the committee said.

NAI's effort to develop new rocket propulsion systems should dramatically increase access to space while decreasing costs, the report says. Also, NAI's phased funding approach to this research is expected to result in significant payoffs -- such as more frequent flights, high numbers of test flights, and low marginal cost per flight -- between 2008 and 2015. However, the payoffs will probably not be available by 2008, as suggested by NAI, the committee said.

To ensure an adequate work force, NAI should establish a stable and predictable source of funding to help mitigate the aerospace industry's cyclic hirings and layoffs, and to foster the creation of stable and career-oriented jobs, the report says. DOD and NASA should strive to level the increases and decreases in the amount of funding available, and boost their funding to allow students, faculty, government researchers, and industry leaders to perform long-term research on reusable launch vehicles and aerospace propulsion and power, the committee said.

DOD and NASA should develop a top-down comprehensive road map that clearly defines the objectives, challenges, technologies, research, and funding required to implement the report's recommendations and achieve NAI goals, the committee said. The plan should be communicated clearly to decision-makers and stakeholders, including the public, the committee added. Independent groups of experts should review the plan on a regular basis.

"The technical and financial feasibility of NAI are intertwined," Dunford said. "The objectives of NAI cannot be achieved without the financial resources required for research and development. DOD and NASA cannot substantially achieve NAI objectives unless they are willing to fund it along with other ongoing research and technology efforts."
    The study was sponsored by the U.S. Air Force. The National Research
    Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science advice under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.


    Copies of Evaluation of the National Aerospace Initiative will be available later this year from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or order on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

    NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

    Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
    Air Force Science and Technology Board

    Committee on the National Aerospace Initiative

    Edsel D. Dunford, M.E.* (chair)
    President and Chief Operating Officer
    TRW Inc. (retired)
    Cleveland

    Donald J. Kutyna, M.S. (vice chair)
    General
    U.S. Air Force (retired), and
    Vice President of Space Technology
    Loral Space and Communications
    New York City

    Kevin G. Bowcutt, Ph.D.
    Boeing Senior Technical Fellow and Chief Scientist of Hypersonic Design and Applications
    Boeing
    Long Beach, Calif.

    Kenneth E. Eickmann, M.S.
    Director
    Construction Industry Institute, and
    Lieutenant General
    U.S. Air Force (retired)
    Austin, Texas

    Wesley L. Harris, Ph.D.*
    Charles Stark Draper Professor and Head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Cambridge

    Hans G. Hornung, Ph.D.*
    Clarence L. Johnson Professor of Aeronautics
    California Institute of Technology
    Pasadena

    Kathleen C. Howell, Ph.D.
    Professor
    School of Aeronautics and Astronautics
    Purdue University
    West Lafayette, Ind.

    Eric J. Jumper, Ph.D.
    Professor
    Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department
    University of Notre Dame
    South Bend, Ind.

    Ira F. Kuhn Jr., M.S.I.A.
    Founder, CEO, and President
    Directed Technologies Inc.
    Arlington, Va.

    Andrew J. Meade, Ph.D.
    Professor of Mechanical Engineering
    Rice University
    Houston

    Carl J. Meade, M.S.
    Colonel
    U.S. Air Force (retired), and
    Portfolio Manager
    Advanced Development Programs Organization
    Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
    Fort Worth, Texas

    Neil E. Paton, Ph.D.*
    Chief Technology Officer and Chairman
    Technology Advisory Board
    Liquidmetal Technologies
    Lake Forest, Calif.

    Ronald F. Paulson, M.S.M.E., Ph.D.
    Corporate Vice President of Engineering
    Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
    Fort Worth, Texas

    Fred E. Saalfeld, Ph.D.
    Distinguished Research Professor
    Center for Technology and National Security Policy
    National Defense University
    Washington, D.C.

    Donna L. Shirley, M.S.
    Director
    Science Fiction Museum
    Seattle

    Peter Staudhammer, Ph.D.*
    Independent Consultant, and
    Vice President of Science and Technology
    TRW, Inc. (retired)
    Cleveland


    RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF

    James C. Garcia
    Study Director


    * Member, National Academy of Engineering