Addressing the Industry’s Most Critical Topics Through AIAA’s Domain Approach

AIAA has been pursuing the Domain approach for the last two years as part of its commitment to solving generational-scale challenges facing aerospace professionals and their organizations. The Institute tapped seasoned industry veterans to serve as Domain Leads for a two-year tenure: Ming Chang for Aeronautics (who sadly passed away in October), Scott Fouse for Aerospace R&D, and Julie Van Kleeck for Space. Each shared their perspective on progress building technology roadmaps, establishing Domain task forces, and collaborating with volunteers from across the AIAA membership and broader community.

AIAA Executive Director Dan Dumbacher reflected on the work of the Domain Leads. “As the inaugural group of AIAA Domain Leads, Ming, Scott, and Julie have been instrumental in bringing this approach from concept to reality. We sincerely thank them and acknowledge their hard work and many contributions to AIAA. We are especially grateful for their visionary leadership as they shape the future of aerospace.”

Looking back to when we set out in 2021, we collectively believed that AIAA has a vital mission to serve as the nexus of aerospace technology innovations. The Institute historically has served as the critical collector and disseminator of cutting-edge research and information, addressing challenges for the aerospace industry. The Domain approach was launched to identify the priority issues confronting the aerospace community today and in the future and provide multiyear roadmaps to address them.

Identifying the priority issues across the three Domains was the first order of business. The key topics were informed by inputs collected from members of the AIAA Board of Trustees, Council of Directors, and the Corporate Member Strategic Advisory Committee. The initial topics and priorities were then endorsed by the Domain Leadership Coalition and the Board of Trustees.

We then turned our attention to drafting the roadmaps for each. Roadmaps capture our current understanding of the user, mission, and market needs; capture the unknowns associated with the needs and the technology that enables solutions; and provide insights into current and planned activities that will advance solutions and further developments such as demonstration and experiments.

Purpose of the Domain Task Forces

Once armed with endorsed roadmaps, we soon realized that the three of us were not going to be able to effect much change without the collective expertise and contributions of the broader community. We believed the task force model that had been used early on for autonomous vehicle systems and space traffic management was very useful and we applied this model to the key topics.

The primary purpose of the Domain task forces, in our minds, was to increase the AIAA focus on important community needs and to ensure that we balance the technology perspective with user, mission, and market perspectives. That is not to say some of these things were not being done already, but in some cases, there was a need to increase the priority of those perspectives. We also needed to consider the policy perspectives, recognizing that creating policy takes time. The Domain task forces bring together experts with deep footing in the needs of users, missions, and markets to enhance and refine the roadmaps to help accelerate the development and eventual fielding of new capabilities.

Creating the first few Domain task forces was actually a lengthy and a bit bumpy endeavor requiring collaboration across multiple organizations and interested parties. We now believe the Institute has a solid framework for future Domain Leads to use, as the concept continues to evolve over time as more and more AIAA members and our community are engaged. We hope to see an even greater cross-Domain focus in the next generation of Domain task forces.

We appreciated Ming’s consistent directive to his Domain task forces, which was deceptively simple: jointly develop an industry landscape assessment and recommendations for AIAA to develop products and engage AIAA members around the key topics. His straightforward message will continue to be part of the Institute’s foundation for Domain task forces.

We later realized the opportunity to weave in existing initiatives within the Technical Activities Division (TAD) and the Integration and Outreach Division (IOD) to help advance the work of task forces. In some cases, we have adapted to align and leverage the ongoing work. In other cases, we began engaging directly with TAD and IOD Group Directors and the chairs of Technical Committees (TC) and Integration and Outreach Committees (IOC) in determining what approach is best. This collaboration has further helped crystallize the thinking that Domain task forces should ultimately serve at least one of four fundamental purposes: 1) discovering new insights or knowledge to address a challenge; 2) creating new programs, initiatives, etc., to help solve a challenge; 3) coordinating existing or nascent activities or initiatives of various stakeholders to address a challenge; and 4) enhancing or accelerating existing efforts or initiatives to achieve results sooner.

Updates from the Domain Task Forces

Aeronautics Domain
The Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Task Force, which launched at 2022 AIAA AVIATION Forum and completed its initial work at 2023 AIAA SciTech Forum, provided an opportunity for AIAA to contribute to larger discussions about AAM at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology AAM Summit. The task force ultimately identified 11 critical gaps and potential solutions. There are currently three follow-on initiatives plus complementary activities with the Certification Task Force.

The Certification Task Force, launched at 2023 AIAA SciTech Forum, will conclude its work at the upcoming 2024 AIAA SciTech Forum. The task force created a focused environment within AIAA for certification experts and enthusiasts to engage with one another in discussion about wide-ranging technical and policy challenges. The principal focus is on addressing challenges related to autonomous AAM hardware and operations and the potential tenfold increase of aircraft in the national airspace.

The Carbon Emissions and Sustainability Task Force, which launched in summer 2022 and issued its final report at 2023 AIAA AVIATION Forum, provided a bridge for current member experts in sustainable design to connect with new stakeholders focused on renewable energy and its impacts on airlines and airports. While the initial scope of the task force was on helping commercial aviation meet net zero emissions by 2050, the group soon realized AIAA has the potential and an imperative to consider and address broader climate impacts and ultimately encompass all three domains.

The High-Speed Flight Task Force, which will formally launch at the 2024 AIAA SciTech Forum, will draw upon the community’s expertise, particularly from members of the Supersonic Integration and Outreach Committee and HyTASP Technical Committee to develop an internationally oriented policy perspective that will promote sustainable, safe, and economical growth of high-speed flights capability.

Aerospace R&D Domain
The Transformative Systems Engineering Task Force (TSETF) is working very closely with the Digital Engineering IOC and the Systems Engineering TC to map and promote their current work into specific capabilities that could have significant impact on government acquisition costs and timelines. This includes working together with the DoD to support their efforts in Digital Materiel Management. Because of the potentially broad spectrum of challenges transformative systems engineering might address, the TSETF has elected to focus on autonomous systems of systems.

The TSETF’s focus on autonomous systems of systems complements the Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning/Autonomy Task Force that is just getting started. Their focus is to define a challenge problem in aerospace AI and autonomy that the community can solve. There are many AI challenges in the broader technical community, but they do not address problems confronting aerospace. The task force is looking for a challenge that addresses needs both of scale and verification and validation.

We are currently forming a task force focused on Advanced Materials and Advanced Manufacturing. We are assembling a small team to identify a high value direction for this task force in collaboration with the Aerospace Design and Structures Group (ADSG) and the group’s Technical Committee leaders.

Space Domain
The Cislunar Ecosystem Task Force (CETF) is fulfilling a critical role in the space ecosystem. Space is changing at a very rapid pace. Taking that next step to develop a successful thriving in-space economy comprising the necessary infrastructure and institutions for permanent, sustainable human presence off-world, between low Earth orbit and the lunar surface, is a monumental challenge. We are pleased that the CETF is well positioned as a leading voice. Most recently, the CETF hosted a workshop during 2023 ASCEND to further advance and prioritize its work, and anticipates a strong focus on the economic and adjacent industry aspects of cislunar ecosystem development in the coming year.

The Space Traffic Coordination Task Force (STCTF; formerly the Space Traffic Management Task Force) is entering its second phase with a new leader and updated focus. This multidisciplinary group, with representatives from government and commercial space, policymakers, academia, and even the insurance industry, had early success on the public policy front where it provided input on Congressional authorization and budget appropriation for the Office of Space Commerce. Of direct and practical relevance to satellite operators, the STCTF published a widely downloaded white paper, “Orbital Safety Best Practices,” in collaboration with industry stakeholders. The task force also supported development of the OSC Traffic Coordination System for Space (TraCSS) by facilitating industry feedback workshops. The STCTF looks ahead to incorporating orbital debris mitigation and remediation into its area of focus, expanding industry acceptance of the best practices paper, and ensuring international perspectives are collected and cooperation ensured.

Forums and Other Forms of Outreach

In addition to establishing and guiding the work of the Domain task forces, each of us took on the leadership of the three largest AIAA events as executive producer—Scott for AIAA SciTech Forum, Ming for AIAA AVIATION Forum, and Julie for ASCEND. If the Domains were going to influence the AIAA members and the larger community, there was no better way than to use these very public platforms as a key communication channel. Scott noted, “It has been a real honor to serve as the executive producer of 2023 AIAA SciTech Forum and 2024 AIAA SciTech Forum. It is also something I never took lightly, as the AIAA forums reach such a significant audience.”

Likewise for Julie, “Leading the ASCEND Guiding Coalition over the last two years was a memorable accomplishment.” ASCEND is a highly curated event designed to reflect and engage stakeholders in critical space ecosystem priorities and challenges with its program organized around the Space Domain’s key topics. The 2023 ASCEND event in October was 50% larger than our 2022 event, reflected the changing demographics of our industry, continued to advance our reach into adjacent business areas, and most importantly was outcome focused with multiple tangible products developed and evolved during the event. Julie learned new skills as executive producer, but mostly saw the power of teamwork and collaboration once again.

Like Scott and Julie, Ming served as executive producer of 2023 AIAA AVIATION Forum and provided early guidance for next year’s event. The forum saw robust growth in attendance over the prior year and pre-pandemic levels. The event incorporated the key topics of the Aeronautics Domain into the program, particularly in the areas of AAM and sustainable aviation.

Beyond forums, all three Domain Leads embraced the role of ambassador and evangelist for AIAA. Scott noted that his early participation in the November 2021 AIAA Aerospace Autonomy Summit was instrumental in showing the importance of partnering with other societies. “I really felt that there are key issues that are time critical, and we absolutely cannot afford to waste time and energy competing with other societies. I am very happy with our Transformational Systems Engineering Task Force, which has a very strong connection to INCOSE. I think that with the efforts of the Digital Engineering IOC and the System Engineering TC, we will be able to expand the partnerships to other groups such as IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Society and NDIA.” Ming championed collaboration with other societies such as Vertical Flight Society and AUVSI, participated in events organized by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and established ties with International Sustainable Aviation and Energy Research Society (SARES). The Space Domain’s two task forces have a number of active collaborations underway. The CETF is demonstrating community leadership through its collaboration with CONFERS, Beyond Earth Institute, and Space ISAC, each of which brings expertise and access to key segments of the rising cislunar ecosystem. CETF is also reaching beyond the family of counterpart aerospace organizations, and is working closely with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, reflecting emphasis on space economic development that is integrated with the existing Earth economy. The STCTF also has formed partnerships with counterpart organizations such as Secure World Foundation, Satellite Industry Association, Air and Space Forces Association, and Association of Space Explorers, a coalition that was critical to the task force’s early policy impacts.

Our Final Thoughts

Early on, we recognized that a big part of the job was to be leaders of change and we could not be effective if we were not on the same page, which meant that we could not treat these as three entirely separate domains. We feel very fortunate that we were able to work with each other. While we had not previously worked together, we immediately clicked and while we didn’t always agree on everything, we were able to have very effective collaborations and found common values and similar expectations for the work. Our respect for one another and the commitment to the mission meant that we always came to consensus positions that moved the ball forward. It was tragic for us to lose Ming, even as our roles as the inaugural Domain Leads were winding down. We are thankful for having come to know him and learn from him. We still see opportunities to influence AIAA’s activities and look forward to continued collaboration and contribution to AIAA and our aerospace community.

One of the great rewards of taking on this role is to get a chance to work with amazing engineers and technologists, as well as the outstanding staff at AIAA. Scott would like to thank Tobey Jackson as the AIAA SciTech Forum Executive who has been amazing. “I am constantly impressed with the number of tasks for which she has fantastic follow through” and Alex Mercer, “who has become, in a very short time, an invaluable partner, really amplifying my efforts with the R&D domain task forces.”

Julie would like to thank Steve Lee for his support in guiding the STCTF and formation and early work on the CETF, as well as CETF Task Force Lead Dennis Paul for his unwavering partnership in getting the CETF off the ground. She also sends a special shoutout to Craig Day, the ASCEND Forum Executive, along with the members of the ASCEND Guiding Coalition, and the ASCEND Collaborative and Technical planning committees, without whom 2023 ASCEND could not have happened.

On behalf of Ming, Scott and Julie express gratitude for the support of the Aeronautics Task Force chairs, as well as AIAA staff members Jim Sherman as AIAA AVIATION Forum Executive and Ashira Beutler-Greene for her support and collaboration with the four Aeronautics Domain Task Forces.

Three individuals pose for professional headshots: a smiling elderly man with grey hair, a woman with shoulder-length curly hair, and an elderly man with a suit and tie, all smiling.
Scott Fouse, Julie Van Kleeck, and Ming Chang. Credit: AIAA
Graphic listing key topics in aeronautics, aerospace research and development, and space. Topics include sustainability, AI/machine learning, advanced materials, space exploration, and traffic management.
Key Topics. Credit: AIAA

Addressing the Industry’s Most Critical Topics Through AIAA’s Domain Approach