WASHINGTON - The National Aerospace Initiative, (NAI), a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA designed to sustain the nation's aerospace leadership, is effective in pursuing technologies necessary for future space-launch needs and military operations, says a new report by the National Academies' National Research Council.

The NAI program should enable NASA and DOD to continue leading efforts in three critical aerospace areas - high-speed hypersonic flight, access to space, and space technology - but the program has many technical and financial hurdles, said the committee that wrote the report.

NAI's high-speed hypersonic flight research aims to develop jet-like vehicles that can fly at Mach 12 - 12 times the speed of sound - by around 2014. These high-speed vehicles may be technically feasible in that time frame, but a more comprehensive plan to undertake all required activities, from fundamental research to critical technology development to flight demonstration, needs to be pursued, the committee said.

NAI's effort to develop new rocket propulsion systems should dramatically increase access to space while decreasing costs, the report says.

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