NASA struggles to overhaul 20-year-old flight-control computers on Black Hawk research helicopter

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., 29 June 2012. Advanced helicopter avionics researchers at NASA are reaching out to industry to find experts who could diagnose, repair, or rebuild components of a troublesome 20-year-old experimental flight-control computer designed originally to help develop and test military helicopter flight-control concepts.

Officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., issued a request for information (NNA12440683L) last week to find anyone in industry who could fix or remanufacture I/O processor circuit cards for the Research Flight Control Computer Assembly (RFCCA) aboard the NASA Sikorsky JUH-60 Rotorcraft Aircrew Systems Concepts Airborne Laboratory (RASCAL) helicopter (story continues below).

NASA Ames bought the RFCCA research flight-control computer from the Boeing Defense and Space Group's Helicopters Division and Lear Astronics Corp. back in the 1990s. The airborne computer is designed to 1990s-era standards for production military helicopter flight control electronics.

Today the U.S. government and NASA own the RFCCA's design, and have schematics of the major circuit cards, but detailed documentation such as Gerber files and bill of materials for the I/O processor cards have been lost. NASA avionics experts say some reverse engineering may be necessary.

NASA Ames has two functional RFCCA units and one qualification test unit. Although one RFCCA works just fine, the other has intermittent I/O processor card malfunctions. The qualification unit, meanwhile, doesn't work at all.

NASA has had the JUH-60 RASCAL research helicopter since 1989 to handle helicopter stability, control, and guidance system research. The rotorcraft is among the most sophisticated variable stability helicopters ever developed by NASA and the U.S. Army.

The RASCAL helicopter helps develop technologies to improve the agility of military helicopters, while also providing the pilot with care-free maneuvering inside an automatically protected flight envelope.

Part of the RASCAL helicopter is its advanced 32-bit Research Flight Control System (RFCS) developed by Boeing, which houses the RFCCA I/O processor cards. NASA avionics experts say they expect to solve the RFCA's problems in two phases.

First, NASA officials want a contractor to review the RFCCA existing design data, identify and document I/O processor card malfunctions, do reverse engineering as necessary, and come up with a plan to repair or rebuild the cards. Second, the contractor selected would repair or rebuild several I/O processor cards.

Of particular interest to NASA is finding non-invasive and invasive inspection techniques to diagnose the source of I/O processor circuit board malfunctions, and other kinds of test equipment to do this job.

Companies interested taking this avionics-overhaul job on should respond by e-mail no later than 15 July 2012 to NASA's contracting officer, Patricia Williams at Responses should be no longer than 10 pages.

For questions or concerns, phone Williams at 650-604-3896 or Marianne Shelley at 650-604-4179. More information is online at

Follow Military & Aerospace Electronics and Avionics Intelligence news updates on Twitter

Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Wire News provided by   

Press Releases

Model INCX-4001

The INCX-4001 consists of a high quality audio transceiver specifically designed to implement a complete fiber optic intercom.

Model PS-1210

The PS-1210 is a 1A, 12VDC stand-alone or rack mountable non-switcher (no RF noise) power supply.

Model OS-3121

Optical switches are utilized to disconnect, bypass and reroute fiber optic communications. All of these optical switches are purely optical path, there is no optical to e...


New Design Tools That Help You Develop Radar That Sees the Un-seeable and Detects the Undetectable

Xilinx EW/ISR System Architect, Luke Miller, has new tricks and he’s going to tell you all about them in a new Xilinx Webinar—for free. His Webinar will cover new ways to implement Radar functions including ...
Sponsored by:

All Access Sponsors

Mil & Aero Magazine

July 2015
Volume 26, Issue 7

Download Our Apps




Follow Us On...


Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles