With the resurgence of Aeronautics as a separate NASA enterprise, Associate Administrator for Aeronautics J. Victor Lebacqz explained in a recent Dryden visit that the future is looking up. NASA Photo / Tom Tschida
NASA reasserts Aeronautics
By Jay Levine
NASA Associate Administrator for Aeronautics J. Victor Lebacqz explained in a recent appearance at Dryden how the reorganization at NASA Headquarters - which includes Code R's restructuring and resurgence as an Aeronautics enterprise - offers a bright future for the enterprise that constitutes the first 'A' in 'NASA.'
At the Feb. 19 session, Lebacqz also spoke about the long-range forecast for Aeronautics in remarks to Dryden employees and a who's who of Agency aeronautics leaders and center directors. Those leaders, comprising the Enterprise Executive Board, met at Dryden for a few days to define the focus of the new enterprise and some of the challenges facing it.
Long-range plans have yet to be formalized, but Lebacqz focused his remarks on what he characterized as an active and important future for the enterprise within the Agency. Among bright spots he cited are the prospects for stability in Aeronautics employment and resources in fiscal year 2005.
"(Administrator Sean O'Keefe) has been firm throughout that Aeronautics is a fundamental part of the NASA charter," Lebacqz said. "He held firm in all of the budget changes that were made to enable this new exploration vision, (saying that) this aeronautics theme would not be touched - and it was not touched. There were no budget cuts to Aeronautics as a result of the exploration vision.
"This is very important for Aeronautics. Aeronautics has an administrator," he said, referring to O'Keefe, "who has fought for it and a deputy administrator, Fred Gregory, who was a test pilot and an astronaut, like my friend Ken (Bowersox, acting Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics). Fred also is a fervent believer in Aeronautics and, in fact, is driving me hard to rebuild Aeronautics."
Lebacqz has a 25-year history with NASA, primarily at Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and prior to his current post was Deputy Associate Administrator for Code R (see related story).
"My job is to enable you to do the best job you are capable of doing," he said. "I will notice good and bad. Curiosity is fundamental to NASA employees and so is commitment to excellence. Dedication is intrinsic to NASA employees."
As head of a "new" code, Lebacqz said he will partner with other organizations within the Headquarters structure, such as Earth Sciences (Code Y) and Exploration Systems, the newly established Code T. Code T incorporates previous Code R projects like the space launch and aerospace vehicle initiatives.
Dryden's role will remain consistent, Lebacqz said, giving the Center the opportunity to "work on nationally important questions, add to (Dryden's) rich tradition and enjoy the freedom to take ideas from concept to flight, and have a significant opportunity to influence projects through co-workers who have capability and dedication."
In an effort to keep awareness of developing fiscal and political storms on the radar, Lebacqz said he has instituted a monthly meeting with the Office of Management and Budget to discuss Aeronautics programs.
The meetings are intended to keep the federal government's primary business office informed about aeronautics projects as a means of ensuring that funding for them will be allocated in annual budgets.
In addition, Lebacqz said he is seeking new partnerships with industry leaders and academia as a means of pursuing traditional aeronautics research projects in systems technology. Within the enterprise, a new Innovative Industry Technology Leadership Team has been established to rebuild relationships with industry, while a new Dean's Council seeks to engage academia and "start getting young folks energized about building airplanes and space vehicles again."
The new enterprise also will work with other federal agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security on issues ranging from air traffic management and aviation safety/security to intelligent flight control systems and development of new kinds of vehicles for new kinds of missions, Lebacqz said.
"A handful of reports point to the need for increased national focus on aeronautics research and development," he said. " We will be working hard to get through those reports and sort out what the guiding posts should be."
To those ends, Lebacqz said he values teamwork and wants to see emphasis on One NASA principles of working together and sharing resources for the good of the Agency. He cited these areas as fundamental to the success of the new enterprise:
- Air traffic management work must continue through established agreements with other governmental agencies.
- Uninhabited Air Vehicles (UAV) research should be enhanced or accelerated.
- As the X-43 testbed is prepared for flight, officials must evaluate the long-term need for hypersonic research. Next-generation launch vehicles probably will not use air-breathing first stages, Lebacqz said, and Aeronautics officials will need to consider if research in this area should be a priority for the enterprise.
- The F-5 shaped sonic boom shows that there is work to be done in supersonic research. Lebacqz said he supports additional testing to change the concept of what's possible in that flight regime.
- The Aeronautics enterprise should seek a role in exploration systems - in risk reduction for design and construction of airplanes that can fly on other planets, and establishing enabling technologies for planetary vehicles, including intelligent flight control systems.
While seeking to achieve these goals, Lebacqz asked employees to consider the importance of the work the Agency does, and the associated risks, as NASA refocuses its space resources on the new vision for future Moon and Mars missions.
"The 'S' part of NASA has a new vision, which is exploration. And as I mentioned, the president came to NASA Headquarters Jan. 14 and gave that to us personally. That's a vision for the space work that NASA does. It is a critical new direction. The folks who are concentrating on human and robotic exploration of space have a new vision and that vision is critical to the exploration of space," he said.
"But all of us have important jobs to do to support the overall NASA Vision 'to improve life here, to extend life to there and to search for life everywhere,' he said. "In particular, Mr. O'Keefe said the following day, on Jan. 15, when he announced the reorganization to implement the president's vision, (he) talked about re-emphasizing the first 'A' in NASA, which stands for Aeronautics, by renaming an enterprise Aeronautics and focusing it on aeronautics, and that's what Code R is being asked to do.
"So we're back to the future, since we've had an aeronautics enterprise off and on through the years. We're back in that regard."