Moffett Field, CA. (Jan. 10, 2022) – To walk the grounds of NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, is to step back into a different era.
One could almost see the groups of pilots – aspiring astronauts – walking along the sidewalks. But make no mistake, the technology inside its buildings is of the cutting-edge future.
Moffett Field is one of three homes for the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center’s Design, Simulation & Experimentation group, a unique partnership between NASA and the Army with separate missions but the same drive to achieve the unthinkable.
DSE – under the DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center’s Technology Development Directorate, with elements co-located at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia – leads the Army mission to understand, develop and mature rotorcraft technologies for the Warfighter. By collaborating with other services, Army organizations, agencies and industry, they produce design criteria and tools supporting Army aviation.
“Fixed wing aircraft are relatively mature but if you look at where we are with rotorcraft, you'll find that from a maturation perspective we're well behind. Compared to fixed wing aircraft, rotorcraft spend considerable time flying in highly complex flow fields,” said Dr. Oliver Wong, associate director for Design, Simulation & Experimentation. “As a result, there are many aeromechanical phenomenon on helicopters that are highly coupled and fundamentally interdisciplinary in terms of their solution. So you can't just have one specialty looking at it. It takes a team of people with different sets of the right expertise to solve these problems.”
DSE scientists and engineers are the lead aviation science and technology experts for the Army in Computational and Experimental Aeromechanics, Rotors, Vehicle Management and Flight Control, and Concept Design and Analysis. They contribute science and technology support for Army aviation in Future Vertical Lift, Joint Multi-Role, Future Long Range Assault Aircraft, Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, Advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Teaming and Autonomy, and Degraded Visual Environment.
Two Army Senior Research Scientists call DSE home, Dr. Mahendra Bhagwat, ST for Aviation Advanced Design, and Dr. Jeffery Lusardi, ST for Rotorcraft Flight Dynamics Control. Sixty-two civilians form its ranks with an impressive 52% holding doctoral degrees.
All three locations hold individual strengths for the mission, with Ames and Langley home to multiple wind tunnels, including the largest wind tunnel in the world, the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex at NASA Ames, and Joint Base Langley-Eustis serving as the headquarters for AvMC’s experimental test pilots.
The partnership between NASA and Army has been highly beneficial for NASA too, said Steven Beard, branch chief for the Aerospace Simulation Research and Development Branch.
“If NASA is our number one customer, then the Army is the second biggest. The Vertical Motion Simulator facility (located at Ames) was built for research into vertical takeoff and landing, so it is perfect for that kind of work -- and the Army is the leading organization for that type of research.”
The collaboration that is a hallmark of the work at DSE also extends outside of the gates.
“We are in the heart of Silicon Valley, which enables us to have a lot of interaction with high tech companies and universities which are literally on the other side of the fence,” Wong said.
With its focus on the next generation of Army rotorcraft, DSE and its team of subject matter experts will continue to develop new and innovative aircraft design practices for the Army aviation enterprise, as it continues to pursue “the art of the possible, science of the probable and design of the affordable.”
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.