The Production Support Flight Control Computers (PSFCCs) are flight-control computers that are being developed by NASA in conjunction with the United States Navy. These computers are designed to provide any of the F/A-18 airplanes at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center with capabilities for research in flight-control laws and integrated propulsion/flight-control concepts.

A PSFCC Is Integrated into a baseline F/A-18 flight-control system. A PSFCC can be installed in any F/A-18 airplane that happens to be available for a flight test.

The PSFCCs were conceived to satisfy a need to be able to conduct safe, fast, and efficient flight tests of advanced control laws and handling qualities, on a time-available basis. In the past, design, implementation, and testing of control laws have been extremely expensive and connected directly with specific flight programs under tight schedules. The use of the PSFCCs is intended to reduce the time and cost associated with implementation of new control laws and to enable control-law researchers to spend more time for investigation and discovery in the flight environment.

A PSFCC includes a research control-law processor embedded in the flight-control-computer avionics box of an F/A-18 airplane (see figure). The PSFCC enables the pilot to select among research control laws and provides control access to flight-control surfaces and engines. The PSFCC maintains the F/A-18 redundancy-management features and enables immediate return to standard F/A-18 control laws.

The PSFCCs will enable flight testing of new control-law designs with a minimum of system software testing, thereby reducing the time and effort necessary for flight test of new control laws. Because a PSFCC can be installed on any F/A-18 airplane, no dedicated research aircraft is needed; this reduces the schedule and programmatic pressures on control-law researchers.

At present, the PSFCCs have gone through initial flight test and are being prepared for initial experiments involving alternate control sticks, flexible-wing parameter identification, and aircraft formation flight.

This work was done by John Carter of Dryden Flight Research Center. DRC-98-78

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 1998 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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