CSSI Inc. of Washington was picked by the United States and the United Nations to carve out more airspace in the crowded sky.

The engineering company won a five-year, $9 million contract to help the Federal Aviation Administration and the International Civil Aviation Organization put in place new separation standards for air traffic.

CSSI will support the United States, Canada and Mexico as they reduce the required vertical distance to 1,000 feet from 2,000 feet between aircraft flying at altitudes of 29,000 to 41,000 feet. This reduced "vertical separation minimum" is to provide six new flight levels, increasing airspace capacity while reducing flight delays and saving fuel. The requirement is to take effect in January.

The contract covers activities "from the development of standards in the international community to the implementation of standards in a specific airspace," said Bob Miller, the company's director of airspace analysis and modeling. The company will provide experts, such as mathematicians and pilots, to the aviation agencies.

"We develop the standards that the [aircraft] equipment needs to perform and the flight crews need to ensure that mathematically there is an acceptable risk of collision," he said.

Under the contract, CSSI also will help the FAA implement a 30-nautical-mile lateral and longitudinal separation standard in FAA-delegated Pacific airspace. And the company will help ICAO, the aviation industry's international governing body, introduce a 50-nautical-mile lateral separation standard in the Caribbean. Civil aviation authorities use nautical miles, equivalent to about 1.2 miles, as the industry's standard distance measurement.

CSSI helps determine which new separation standard may be permitted by new technologies, such as automatic dependent surveillance and global-positioning systems, Miller said. Both of these technologies enable separation standards to be reduced to 30 nautical miles from 50 nautical miles, he said.

As part of the contract, CSSI also will advise the FAA's representatives on ICAO's Separation and Airspace Safety Panel.

Under a previous award from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency announced in September, CSSI provides technical assistance to several South American and Caribbean countries that are implementing new vertical separation rules.

CSSI is a privately owned engineering and technical services firm that specializes in systems analysis and engineering, airspace initiatives, and information and program management. It has provided support services for regional and domestic vertical separation projects in the United States, Canada, the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific region, the South China Sea and Australia.

The company's clients include the domestic and international aviation industries, the Defense Department and NASA. CSSI employs more than 200 workers and had about $20 million in revenue in 2003, Miller said.

Roseanne Gerin is a staff writer with Washington Technology. For more details on this and other technology contracts, go to www.washingtontechnology.com.