Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology


Research and technology play a vital role in ensuring the safety, environmental compatibility, and productivity of the air transportation system and in enhancing the economic health and national security of the Nation. However, numerous factors, including growth in air traffic, increasingly demanding international environmental standards, an aging aircraft fleet, aggressive foreign competition, and launch costs that impede affordable access and utilization of space, represent formidable challenges to the Nation.

The mission of this Enterprise is to pioneer the identification, development, verification, transfer, application, and commercialization of high-payoff aeronautics and space transportation technologies. Through its research and technology accomplishments, it promotes economic growth and national security through a safe, efficient national aviation system and affordable, reliable space transportation. The plans and goals of this Enterprise directly support national policy in both aeronautics and space, documented in "Goals for a National Partnership in Aeronautics Research and Technology" and "National Space Transportation Policy." This Enterprise works in alliance with its aeronautics and space transportation customers, including U.S. industry, the university community, the Department of Defense (DoD), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the other NASA Enterprises, to ensure that national investments in aeronautics and space transportation technology are effectively defined and coordinated and that NASA's technology products and services add value, are timely, and have been developed to the level at which the customer can confidently make decisions regarding the application of those technologies.

The Enterprise also has Agency responsibility for technology transfer and commercialization. This function is provided as an Agency-wide service to ensure wide, rapid transfer of NASA-developed technologies to U.S. industry for the social and economic benefit of all U.S. citizens.

Questions to Address

The Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology Enterprise is responsible for answering the question: How do we enable revolutionary technological advances that provide air and space travel for anyone, anytime, anywhere more safely, more affordably, and with less impact on the environment and improve business opportunities and global security?


The Enterprise has three major technology goals supported by ten enabling technology objectives (detailed in the Enterprise Roadmap) and a service goal.

Technology Goals

Global Civil Aviation—Enable U.S. leadership in global civil aviation through safer, cleaner, quieter and more affordable air travel.

Revolutionary Technology Leaps—Revolutionize air travel and the way in which aircraft are designed, built, and operated.

Access to Space—Enable the full commercial potential of space and expansion of space research and exploration.

Service Goal

Research and Development (R&D) Services—Enable, and as appropriate provide, on a national basis, world-class aerospace R&D services, including facilities and expertise, and proactively transfer cutting-edge technologies in support of industry and U.S. Government R&D.

Strategies and Outcomes

To help achieve these goals, the Enterprise has restructured its research program and management processes. We include our customers and stakeholders from the beginning of our strategic planning process through program definition, implementation, and evaluation. Enterprise leadership manages a clearly defined portfolio of technology investments to ensure alignment with national needs and support of the Enterprise and Agency strategy. The Enterprise has clearly designated Lead Centers for the implementation of the technology programs.

The three major pillars—Global Civil Aviation, Revolutionary Technology
The three major pillars—Global Civil Aviation, Revolutionary Technology Leaps,
and Access to Space.

The technology objectives of the Enterprise are outcome focused and "stretch" beyond our current knowledge base. Although we do not know in advance how to achieve the goals and objectives, the development of investment strategies is issue driven. Investments are focused on the critical issues associated with the goals and objectives where technology can be a determining factor. This requires the analysis of current as well as future issues. In other words, to achieve 10- or 20-year goals, the Enterprise must not only address current issues associated with a goal, but also seek to anticipate and address issues associated with future aviation and space systems. For example, to achieve a reduction in the aircraft accident rate, the Enterprise must address not only issues that are currently causing accidents, but issues that might cause accidents in the future, such as digital information integrity. The result of this process is the development of an investment strategy and goal metrics to guide program development.

The outcome-focused nature of the goals and objectives project the end-state within the air and space transportation systems. However, the Enterprise does not control the air and space transportation systems. Manufacturers, airlines, general aviation operators, space transportation operators, the FAA, and DoD are some of the primary organizations that ultimately implement the technologies and systems that will achieve the goals. Therefore, the goals provide a constant driver for the Enterprise to work in partnership with our customers to ensure the technologies that are developed are the right technologies, at the right time, and the right level of maturity in order to maximize the probability of implementation. A principal strategy of the Enterprise is to create alliances and work in partnership in every aspect of planning, implementation, and evaluation.

Both the Enterprise's Base R&T and Systems Technology programs are focused on achieving the goals and objectives by working to the same goal/objective investment strategy and metrics. The character of the Base R&T program will be to maintain a broader set of technology investments and to specifically target fundamental and barrier issues. Base R&T elements will: (1) support the maturation of technology to a level that it can be confidently integrated into a Systems Technology program; (2) directly transfer technology to the external customer community as appropriate; and (3) provide the basis for new Systems Technology programs. The character of the Systems Technology programs will be to specifically target an integrated set of technologies that advance the goal/objective metrics and can be confidently developed and advanced to a level of maturity sufficient for transfer and adoption by the external customer community.

Arrow pointing right with the word Roadmap

Roles and Responsibilities

The NASA Centers' primary missions to support the Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology Enterprise are listed in the table below.

Center Mission
Ames Research Center Aviation Operation Systems
Dryden Flight Research Center Flight Research
Langley Research Center Airframe Systems
Lewis Research Center Aeropropulsion
Marshall Space Flight Center Space Transportation Systems
Stennis Space Center Rocket Propulsion Testing

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