David Voracek, chief technologist at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, delivered a virtual Tech Talk with team members of Marshall Space Flight Center on March 25. Voracek, a 34-year NASA veteran, has served in his current role for the past 11 years.
Armstrong is most notable for being one of NASA’s aeronautics-focused centers and is located on the Air Force’s Edwards Air Force Base in California. The location allows teams to develop, test and fly advanced aeronautics technologies.
“Armstrong is one of the smallest centers, but we do a lot of big things,” Voracek said.
Past projects include the development and integration of digital fly-by-wire technology that nearly all modern-day aircraft use. Armstrong’s namesake, former astronaut Neil Armstrong, helped make that happen by supporting the technology while he was working at NASA headquarters following his historic Apollo 11 Moon landing. Teams at Armstrong also developed the Ground Collision Avoidance Software, which takes control of an aircraft if a pilot becomes incapacitated, keeping the aircraft from crashing into the ground. To date, the software has saved at least eight lives and seven aircraft.
Current projects include the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology, which is investigating ways to make supersonic travel over land quieter and more tolerable for people on the ground under the flight path. The technology could enable quicker air travel across the country. Teams at Armstrong are also working on how to integrate unmanned aerial systems into national airspace.
The work does not end there. The unique testing capabilities enable Armstrong’s team to collaborate with engineers and technologists across NASA and industry to advance their technologies through Technologies Readiness Levels 3-6 – often called “the valley of death” in technology development. Citing multiple test platforms and programs, Voracek encouraged Marshall team members interested in flying their technology to reach out to him or Marshall’s chief technologist, John Dankanich.
“Don’t hesitate to try to get your technology into flight,” Voracek said.
The Tech Talk series is presented by Marshall’s Chief Technologist’s Office.