Press Release

LMI to Perform Study on Future of NASA’s Upper Class E Airspace Operations

October 6, 2021

Tysons, Va. LMI will advise the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under the Air Traffic Management–eXploration (ATM-X) project by conducting a future-focused research study to assess the market and traffic management requirements for Upper Class E airspace. The study will address the current and future opportunities associated with enabling vehicle access for operations at altitudes over 60,000 feet above sea level in the National Airspace System (NAS).

LMI, partnering with Crown Consulting, Georgia Tech, and GRA, will interview experts in stakeholder industries (such as telecommunications), regulatory agency stakeholders, and manufacturers of platforms involved in near-space exploration. These findings will lead to insights about the operating environment for Upper Class E airspace markets.

To date, operations in Upper Class E airspace have been limited, but advances in propulsion technology and aircraft structures are increasing the economic viability of vehicles operating at high altitudes and lower atmospheric densities.

To address emerging technologies entering the market, and as the demand for vehicles operating at unconventional altitudes grows, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Control System are developing the Upper Class E Traffic Management (ETM). The system is envisioned to scale beyond current NAS capabilities to meet high-altitude market requirements. LMI will assess the challenges and opportunities associated with enacting ETM, accounting for risks and barriers.

“Commercial industry is rapidly developing new capabilities in this airspace,” says Jeff Wehner, director of LMI’s civilian market. “LMI is honored to support NASA with this important research to ensure that the regulations stay ahead of technology advancements.”

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