National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Virtual Airspace Modeling and Simulation (VAMS) Project

Virtual Airspace Modeling and Simulation (VAMS) Project work at NASA Glenn Research Center

I. Summary

An integral element of the NASA Airspace Systems Program was the Virtual Airspace Modeling and Simulation (VAMS) Project, a research and development effort committed to building the foundations required to define and assess the next generation air transportation system.

An objective of the VAMS Project was to explore advanced operational air traffic management (ATM) concepts and associated technology roadmaps that would result in a significant enhancement in airspace system capacity, while maintaining safety and affordability. To conduct this exploration, the VAMS Project developed a national airspace modeling and simulation capability to enable comprehensive evaluation and assessment of the system-wide effects of new air transportation concepts.

The Virtual Airspace Simulation Technologies (VAST) sub-project of VAMS worked to develop both a non-real-time modeling environment for system-wide assessments and a real-time modeling environment for specific human-in-the-loop assessments.

The VAST-CNS sub-project contributed to the program goal of revolutionizing aviation through increases in capacity and mobility characteristics of the National Airspace System (NAS) by achieving two primary objectives:

  1. Develop the requirements for CNS modeling regarding the evaluation of advanced airspace concepts.
  2. Develop models of CNS systems in use today, for those under consideration for implementation by the FAA’s Operational Evolution Plan, and for those technologies considered for the future to meet the needs of advanced airspace concepts.

The challenges in meeting these objectives lies in the development of the appropriate and comprehensive models themselves, and then to integrate these models into a High Level Architecture (HLA) simulation environment known as the Airspace Concept Evaluation System (ACES) in order to run National Airspace System (NAS) level simulations.

II. Accomplishments

These challenges were addressed by identifying and categorizing existing CNS modeling and simulation needs. An approach to meet the overall objectives was then defined. Specifically in FY03, an internet web-based tool was developed and known as Future Aviation Subnetwork Traffic Emulator (FASTE) for CNS. This tool supports collaborative research by providing a means to define and assess communications traffic loading associated with aeronautical applications. FASTE-CNS completed development and acceptance testing early in FY03. Also, beta testing with several industry, NASA and other government entities, and academia in the 4th quarter of FY03 had provided favorable and useful feedback.

The NASA Glenn Research Center Airspace Concept Evaluation System (ACES) is the non-real-time simulation environment composed of interoperable models representing the gate-to-gate actions and highly coupled interactions between key participants within the NAS.

The NASA GRC Airspace Concept Evaluation System (ACES) with Communication, Navigation, and Surveillance (CNS) effort achieved two FY06 work package milestones according to plan by March 30, 2006. Contributing to project milestone 15.b, CNS Modeling for Concept Analysis, build 1 set of models were integrated into ACES version 4.0.2 and delivered to ARC Project Office. Other deliverables were updates of GUI design, User Document, Standard Test Plan and Results, and the Build 2 model set Design Documents. In addition, an enhanced Build 1 set integrated with most current ACES version is under going test & evaluation at GRC. The next steps are to complete the Build 2 model set development and integration.

Two papers and presentations at 6th annual Integrated Communication, Navigation, and Surveillance (ICNS) Conference May 1-3, 2006 – one on the approach and model development, the other on ACES with CNS utilization and simulation results performed to date. The overall importance of this project is to provide realistic gate-to-gate simulation capability of the National Airspace System. The Joint Planning & Development Office (JPDO) for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) and other concept developers will utilize this capability for concept evaluation as well as particular CNS technology evaluation.

III. Final Reports and References


  • Communications, Navigation and Surveillance Models in ACES, ICNS Conference 2006
    • Papers
      • Airspace Concept Evaluation System (ACES), Concept Simulations using Communication, Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) System Models, Greg Kubat (Analex Corp.), Don Van Drei (NASA GRC)
      • Communication, Navigation and Surveillance Models in ACES for Concept Developers, Greg Kubat (Analex Corp.), Donald Van Drei (NASA GRC), Goutam Satapathy (Intelligent Automation, Inc.), Anil Kumar (CNS, Inc.), Manu Khanna (Comptel, Inc.)
    • Presentations
      • Test Results and Sample Concept Simulation Results
      • Design Implementation and Capabilities
  • ACES with Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance (AwCNS) FY06 Deliverables, Presentation, September 21, 2006
  • ACES with Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance (AwCNS) Modeling and Simulation Capability, Donald Van Drei, Denise Varga, Mike Zernic (NASA GRC), Greg Kubat (Analex Corp.), Norbert Seidel (RS Information Systems, Inc.)
  • ACES with CNS (AwCNS) Build 2.0 User Guide, Version 2.0, October 10, 2006


  • System Specification to NASA GRC for the Future Aeronautical Subnetwork Traffic Emulator – Communications, Navigation, Surveillance (FASTE-CNS) Models, Version 3.0, May 2004.
  • General Aviation Aircraft Data Communications Analysis Using A Web-Based Tool, Tom Mulkerin, Mulkerin Associates Inc., Springfield, Virginia, Mike Zernic, NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio, Digital Avionics Systems Conference 2003.
  • Benchmark Test Report to NASA GRC for the Future Aeronautical Subnetwork Traffic Emulator – Communications, Navigation, Surveillance FASTE-CNS) Models, December 3, 2004.

IV. Other Resources