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It's an Aerospace World. Looking for the latest headlines in the aerospace industry? This is the place to find it. And, on the outside chance we don't have what you're looking for, email Lawrence Garrett, AIAA web editor, and he'll find somebody to help.

*For member access to the AIAA Daily Launch, please log in to www.aiaa.org/MyAIAA, navigate to "Access Publications & Materials" and select "Daily Launch." The AIAA Daily Launch, distributed to AIAA members each weekday morning, is a digest of the most important aerospace news selected from thousands of sources by the editors of Bulletin Media (formerly Custom Briefings).


27 May 2016
SpaceX Delays Thursday Launch, Landing Attempt Until Today

Thaicom8_SpaceX.pngBusiness Insider reports that SpaceX scrubbed the launch attempt of its fifth rocket mission of the year on Thursday, and announced that it was postponing the liftoff of its Falcon 9 booster “until no earlier than tomorrow” due to technical issues. The rocket is now set to blast off on Friday from the Florida Space Coast, “carrying a communications satellite called Thaicom 8 that weighs nearly 7,000 pounds.” Once deployed into orbit, the Orbital ATK-developed satellite “will provide TV and Internet services to Southeast Asia” on behalf of Thailand’s first satellite company Thaicom. SPACE explains that a few minutes after the Falcon 9 booster lifts off on Friday, “the rocket’s two stages will separate; the second stage will carry Thaicom 8 to orbit, while the first stage will come back down and attempt to land on ‘Of Course I Still Love You,’” one of the company’s “autonomous spaceport drone ships,” which will be situated “several hundred miles off the Florida coast.” (Image: THAICOM 8. Credit: SpaceX
More Info (Business Insider)
More Info (SPACE)
Watch Launch (SpaceX)



27 May 2016
Two Navy Jets Collide Off North Carolina Coast

FA18SuperHornet_Wiki.jpgNews outlets report that two F/A-18 Super Hornets collided mid-air off the coast of North Carolina. ABC World News Tonight reported that that the Coast Guard and commercial fishermen were able to pull out all four of the crew members from the water. ABC News (5/26) adds that the Coast Guard said in a news release, “A good Samaritan fishing vessel crew rescued four survivors following a plane collision 25 miles east of Oregon Inlet, North Carolina.” (Image: A US Navy (USN) F/A-18F Super Hornet. Credit: U.S. Navy)
More Info (ABC News)



26 May 2016
Watch SpaceX Launch Live at 5:40 p.m. EDT

Thaicom8_SpaceX.pngSpaceX’s Falcon 9 is set to launch the Thaicom 8 communications satellite this evening at 5:40 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The booster’s first stage is then set to return to Earth and attempt to land on a robotic ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Watch it all live courtesy of SpaceX. (Image: THAICOM 8. Credit: SpaceX)
Watch Launch (SpaceX)



26 May 2016
Entrepreneurs Interested In UAVs’ Commercial Possibilities

UAV_Monitors_Idaho_Farm1_AP.jpgThe New York Times reports that entrepreneurs are uncovering ways to use UAVs “as the core of their business ideas.” The Times describes how the co-founders of HoneyComb are using UAVs to “scout fields for irrigation and pest problems.” Instead of farmers scouting for problems on foot at the rate of 10 acres an hour, HoneyComb’s AgDrone “can cover 700 acres an hour, producing 2-D and 3-D maps that can be used to assess most aspects of crop health.” According to The Times, starting a new business centered on UAVs is challenging, because of the difficulties of obtaining venture financing and a commercial exemption from the FAA. (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
More Info (New York Times)



26 May 2016
More Fire Departments Using UAVs, Despite Controversies

Ikhana_WildfireImagingFlight_NASA.pngWRC-TV Washington reports that more fire departments across the country are using UAVs, “though there are some controversies and hurdles surrounding their use.” Santa Clara Fire Chief Bill Kelly said that UAVs provide a “vantage point” that “helps us figure out tactical methods, like where to put the hose stream.” According to WRC-TV, CalFire does not own its UAVs, but “the state agency borrows U.S. Forest Service-owned, military-grade drones that can fly above 10,000 feet to document how large fires have spread, find hot spots and survey damage.” CalFire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said the agency is studying “where a non-military-grade drone...would be of practical use” but acknowledges the challenges UAVs present, such as getting “in the way of large firefighting helicopters dousing the fires with buckets of water.” (Image: NASA's Ikhana unmanned aircraft on a Southern California wildfires imaging mission. Credit: Jim Ross/NASA)
More Info (WRC-TV Washington)



25 May 2016
Airbus Receives Patent For What Would Be World’s Fastest Helicopter

Eurocopter_Wiki.jpgThe Daily Mail reports that Airbus has been awarded a US patent for the “Compound Helicopter,” which claims to be “the fastest helicopter in the world.” Illustrations indicate a “unique design with components found in fixed-wing airplanes, two Rolls Royce Turbomeca RTM322 series engines and technology that transforms the copter into an airplane.” The patent describes the aircraft as a “high speed, long range hybrid helicopter that maxes out at speeds of 293 miles per hour.” The fastest helicopter on the market today is the US Army’s CH-47F Chinook, which can reach a speed of 195 miles per hour. There is no guarantee that this aircraft will be manufactured, but “if Airbus...does get one out of production it will beat the army issued vehicle by almost 100 miles per hour.” (Image: Eurocopter X3 at the ILA Berlin 2012. Credit: Bernd.Brincken via Wikimedia Commons)
More Info (Daily Mail)



25 May 2016
Boeing Pushing Advanced Super Hornet Upgrades

FA18SuperHornet_Wiki.jpgThe U.S. Naval Institute reports that Boeing is “still pushing for conformal fuel tanks, an advanced cockpit system and a new engine” as add-ons for the US Navy’s Advanced Super Hornet program, which would upgrade F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. Boeing F/A-18 and EA-18G Vice President and Program Manager Dan Gillian said the company is looking to determine what the units need “based on what the carrier air wing needs in the ‘20s and ‘30s – and that means a complementary way to F-35.” Gillian added that while the proposed Advanced Super Hornets feature fewer upgrades than in 2013, when it had “an enclosed weapons pod” and “internal IRST,” the company has shifted from what the units could be to “what we think Advanced Super Hornet needs to be to fill out the carrier air wing.” (Image: A US Navy (USN) F/A-18F Super Hornet. Credit: U.S. Navy)
More Info (U.S. Naval Institute)



25 May 2016
SpaceX, ULA to Launch Rockets Nine Days Apart from Cape Canaveral

SpaceXFalcon9_OnLaunchpad_NASA.jpgThe Orlando Sentinel reports that United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX are preparing to launch three rockets within a 30-day timeframe from Cape Canaveral. SpaceX previously launched a rocket into space on May 5, and is planning to launch a broadcasting satellite for a company based in Thailand on its Falcon 9 rocket this Thursday, May 26. SpaceX will again attempt to land the rocket on a sea barge after releasing its payload into orbit. Nine days later on June 4, ULA intends to launch a rocket for a mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. Industry experts predict that the rate of launches will continue increasing “as companies experiment with rocket reusability.” Business Insider also covers this story. (Image Credit: NASA)
More Info (Orlando Sentinel)
More Info (Business Insider)



24 May 2016
India Enters Space Race Against Musk, Bezos With Launch Of First Reusable Spacecraft

RLV-TD_ISRO.pngFox News reports that India successfully launched a miniature model of a reusable spacecraft on Monday, “marking the latest milestone for the country’s space program.” According to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the Reusable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) mini-shuttle lifted off atop of a HS9 rocket from the Satish Dhawan spaceport in Sriharikota, ascending to a peak altitude of 41 miles above the Earth before re-entering the atmosphere at around Mach 5, subsequently landing in the Bay of Bengal. In a post on Twitter following the launch, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the successful test, tweeting, “Launch of India’s first indigenous space shuttle RLV-TD is the result of the industrious efforts of our scientists. Congrats to them.” Bloomberg News reports that India’s new space vehicle is “a project that in time could pit the nation against billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in the race to make access to space cheaper and easier.” (Image Credit: ISRO)
More Info (Engadget)
More Info (Bloomberg News)



24 May 2016
NASA Relying On “Mixed Reality Experiments” To Facilitate Spacecraft Design

OnSight_Technology_NASA-JPL.pngIn an article for Engadget, Mona Lawlani reports on her experience at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory with the mixed reality experiments, ProtoSpace and OnSight. According to the article, ProtoSpace allows engineers and designers at JPL “to not only visualize their designs as virtual 3D objects, but also pinpoint potential problems that could affect space missions along the way.” Meanwhile, JPL researchers have been using OnSight “to recreate a hologram of Mars based on the Curiosity rover’s current exploration.” JPL Mission Operations Lead Jeff Norris remarked, “Mixed reality brings data from our missions and the environment they’re exploring to us in ways that feel familiar and natural,” adding that engineers need to be able to observe spacecraft designs “at full human scale so they can use their natural abilities for the feeling of how large a part is or how tight the clearance might be.” (Image: OnSight uses real rover data to create a 3-D simulation of the Martian environment. Credit: NASA/JPL)
More Info (Engadget)



24 May 2016
Netherlands Receives First Two F-35s

F-35_Keith_Simmons_USN_wikimedia_.pngPopular Science reports that the Netherlands received its first two F-35 fighters on Monday. A video embedded in the article shows the planes as they land. Defense News reports that the Dutch aircraft, with call signs AN-1 and AN-2, will be tested for noise and will participate in the Netherlands’ Open Days airshow. Netherlands Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert greeted pilots Colonel Bert “Vidal” de Smit and Major Pascal “Smiley” Smaal upon arrival. The Netherlands will eventually possess a total of 27 F-35s, based out of Leeuwarden starting in 2019 and Volkel Air Base starting in 2021.(Image: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class D. Keith Simmons, via Wikimedia Commons)
More Info (Popular Science)
More Info (Defense News)



23 May 2016
Egypt: “All Scenarios” Being Considered In EgyptAir Crash

EgyptAir-flies-over-Cairo_AP_Purchased.pngThe Washington Post reports that on Sunday, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said that “all scenarios” are being considered in the investigation of the crash of EgyptAir flight 804 into the Mediterranean Sea last week, but “warned the media against speculation it was brought down by a terrorist attack.” In his first public comments on the crash, Sisi also said, “The investigation will take time.” The Wall Street Journal reports that no group has yet claimed responsibility for downing the jet. The AP reports that Sisi also said that a submarine was headed to the site of the crash to join the search for the cockpit voice and flight data recorders. The New York Times adds that search crews “have yet to locate the main body of the plane.” (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
More Info (Washington Post)
More Info (Wall Street Journal)
More Info (Associated Press) EgyptAir-flies-over-Cairo1_AP_Purchased



23 May 2016
FAA Issues “Unprecedented” Warning To Air Carriers In Alaska

AlaskaAirlines_Wiki.pngAlaska Dispatch News reported that the FAA issued “an unprecedented warning to Alaska’s charter and commuter air operators following a yearlong spike in plane crash injuries and deaths.” In a letter from the FAA’s Alaska office, carriers in Alaska are requested to “help in solving a significant safety issue that impacts the aviation community and the traveling public in Alaska.” The article mentioned that the crashes all occurred when the planes flew into “rising or flat ground, often in low cloud ceilings, reduced visibility or flat light that makes it difficult to pick out topography below.” No new regulations or enforcement actions are included. The article noted that the NTSB is not mentioned in the letter. The article added that according to the NTSB, five crashes in the last 12 months led to 24 deaths in the state. (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
More Info (Alaska Dispatch News)



23 May 2016
High-Flying UAV Takes Off for Inaugural Flight

ElbitSystemsHermes450UAV_Wiki.pngThe AP reported that on Friday, the high-flying Elbit Systems Hermes 450 UAV took off for its inaugural flight from the Hillsboro airport in North Dakota “to start a summer-long project that will take pictures of farmland in the fertile Red River Valley.” According to the article, the purpose of the project is “to show whether the larger drone is more efficient to capture imagery of agricultural land than satellites or smaller unmanned aircraft.” (Image: A Hermes 450 taking off. Credit: Gerald L. Nino via Wikimedia Commons)
More Info (Associated Press)



20 May 2016
High-Tech NASA Balloon Traveling Across Globe

NASA_HighTech_Balloon_NASA.pngIn continuing coverage, Fox News reports that on Tuesday, NASA launched a so-called “super-pressure balloon” from an airport in New Zealand, and it was traveling at “a good clip at an altitude of over 108,000 feet in the neighborhood of Australia.” According to the article, the 18 million cubic feet balloon “carries a gamma ray telescope and a device with microphones that NASA said is ‘designed to record acoustic wave field activity in the stratosphere.’” The article explains that the larger purpose of the mission is “to test this kind of balloon technology as the craft spends a long period of time in the air – maybe over 100 days, NASA said.” (Image Credit: NASA)
More Info (Fox News)



20 May 2016
NASA, Australia Successfully Test Hypersonic Rocket

HIFiRE_NASA.pngPopular Science reports that NASA, in partnership with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and the Australian Department of Defense, is working on the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation Program (HIFiRE) to determine whether aircraft are capable of flying several times faster than the speed of sound. This week, the partners successful sent a rocket to an altitude of 172 miles, “with a maximum speed 7.5 times the speed of sound.” In a statement from the Australian Department of Defense, Dr. Alex Zelinsky remarked, “The success of this test launch takes us one step closer to the realisation of hypersonic flight,” explaining that the technology could revolutionize air travel, “providing cost-effective access to space.” (Image Credit: NASA)
More Info (Popular Science)



19 May 2016
Saab Reveals Gripen E Fighter

Saab_Grippon_E_Jet_18May2016_AP_Purchased.pngSaab revealed its new Gripen E fighter jet on Wednesday at its facility in Linkoping, Sweden, after a 10 year development period. The AP reports that the event was attended by Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist and Brazilian Air Force Commander Nivaldo Luiz Rossato. The fighter is larger than earlier designs and offers improved engine and radar capabilities. The fighter’s first flight is expected by the end of the year. Reuters reports that the company is optimistic about fighter exports, particularly to India, which may purchase up to 100 aircraft following the completion of its order for 36 Rafales. Saab Aeronautics Head Ulf Nilsson said the company’s offer would align well with the Make in India policy and would not preclude a major technology transfer agreement. The aircraft will sell for around $85 million, cheaper than the Rafale or Typhoon and much cheaper than the F-35. However, critics have said the aircraft lacks flexibility compared to rival twin-engined platforms, and does not have as much worldwide support as US, French, or pan-European aircraft. Popular Mechanics also reports on the story. (Image: DJI Phantom 2. Credit: Associated Press–©)
More Info (Associated Press)
More Info (Reuters)
More Info (Popular Mechanics)



19 May 2016
California Has Most Drones In US

DJI_Phantom4_AP.pngMarketWatch reports that according to the FAA, California has the highest number of registered drones in the US, with the cities of Menlo Park, Los Angeles, and Burbank topping the list. Also at the top of the list is Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. In terms of commercial drone registrations, Menlo Park, California, is number one, while Houston comes in first place for recreational drone registrations. (Image: DJI Phantom 4. Credit: Associated Press–©)
More Info (MarketWatch)



19 May 2016
NRO Discloses March 2017 SpaceX Mission

SpaceXFalcon9_OnLaunchpad_NASA.jpgSpace News reports that SpaceX “is scheduled to launch a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in March 2017 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a spokeswoman for the intelligence agency said May 18 in response to questions from SpaceNews.” While SpaceX has not announced the launch, the NRO “is thought to have previously discussed the contract – even broadly – in a public setting just once, during a House subcommittee hearing three years ago.” (Image Credit: NASA)
More Info (Space News)



18 May 2016
France Implementing Anti-UAV Measures at Euro 2016

DJIS800_AlexanderGlinz_via_WikimediaCommons.jpgThe AP reports that on Tuesday, organizers of Euro 2016 said that new technology will be deployed at the month-long soccer tournament beginning June 10 in France to protect against unauthorized UAV operations. Speaking to the AP, Euro 2016 Security Chief Ziad Khoury explained that during most matches, “anti-drone measures – which are quite innovative – will be deployed, working with the state, which will interfere with drones and take control of them if they are spotted.” France’s General Secretariat for Defence and National Security “confirmed to the AP that anti-drone measures will be in place for Euro 2016 but said the exact type of technologies to be deployed will be decided in coming days.” (Image Credit: Alexander Glinz via Wikimedia Commons)
More Info (Associated Press)



17 May 2016
International Space Station Completes Milestone 100,000th Orbit of Earth

InternationalSpaceStation_NASA.pngThe AP reports that following 17 ½ years in orbit, the International Space Station (ISS) circled the Earth for a milestone-setting 100,000th time on Monday morning. According to the article, NASA “said these 100,000 orbits are akin to traveling more than 2.6 billion miles.” The article notes that each orbit around the Earth takes the ISS 90 minutes, adding that it completes 16 orbits per day. In a celebratory video from space, NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams, said, “One-hundred-thousand orbits, the journey continues.”  NPR adds that Williams also said that the milestone mark was a “tribute to international partnership made up of the European Space Agency, Russia, Canada, Japan and the United States.” (Image Credit: NASA)
More Info (Associated Press)
More Info (NPR)



17 May 2016
Lockheed Martin UAV Illustrates Future Of Flying Robots

LMC_ARES_DARPA.pngBBC News reports that UAVs may soon be able to play an “indispensable” role in human society, “building skyscrapers using 3D printing technology; transporting cargo across town; crop spraying; or helping find people trapped in buildings.” The article highlights Lockheed Martin’s remote-controlled Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (Ares) aircraft, which features “rotating engines that allow it to take off and land vertically like a helicopter, but also fly fast like a conventional aeroplane.” Lockheed Martin’s Business Development Manager Andy Horler explained that Ares “can carry lots of different types of pods under it,” which allows “the system to be used for a wide range of tasks, such as transporting personnel or carrying cargo or medical supplies.” (Image Credit: DARPA)
More Info (BBC News)



17 May 2016
DARPA Pursuing Reusable Spaceplane

XS-1_DARPA.pngSpace News reports that during his speech at the 2016 GEOINT conference on Sunday, Brad Tousley, who heads the tactical technology office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, called SpaceX’s and Blue Origin’s landings of first stage boosters “very, very impressive accomplishments,” while adding, “we want to go beyond that.” In his remarks Tousley “said the agency’s experimental spaceplane, known as XS-1, also has ambitious plans,” explaining, “We want to launch again in 24 hours.” The article explains that under an ideal scenario the XS-1 spaceplane “would launch 10 times in 10 days and carry payloads weighing as much as 1,360 kilograms into low earth orbit for $5 million,” as well as be able to deter threats against national security satellites that have emerged in recent years. (Image Credit: DARPA)
More Info (Space News)



16 May 2016
TSA Asks Travelers to be Patient With Waiting, Won’t Compromise On Safety

AirportSecurity_Dulles_AP-Purchased.pngOn Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson addressed travelers’ frustration with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) during a press conference at the Reagan National Airport. The AP (5/13) reported that amid a backlash from travelers who have been forced to wait in security checkpoint lines that sometimes take as long as 90 minutes to clear, the TSA has urged travelers “to be patient” while the government seeks to shorten security checkpoint wait times. Johnson said, however, “Our job is to keep the American people safe. ... We’re not going to compromise aviation security in the face of this.” Further, he indicated that summer travelers should expect to wait. The AP points out the TSA “has fewer screeners and has tightened security procedures.” (Image: A security sign is posted at Air Canada at Dulles International Airport on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010 in Chantilly, Va. Credit: Associated Press–©)
More Info (Associated Press)



13 May 2016
Denmark Announces Intent to Buy F-35s

F-35_Keith_Simmons_USN_wikimedia_.pngAs expected by earlier reports, the Wall Street Journal writes that the Danish Defense Ministry announced on Thursday that it would recommend the purchase of 27 F-35s to fulfill the country’s modernization efforts under a $3 billion contract. While the government will still need to approve the plan, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen expressed his support for the purchase, saying the fighter jets would let Denmark “monitor our airspace and repel violations at home” as well as “work to stop wars and conflicts abroad spreading and affecting us.” Denmark expects to receive the planes between 2021 and 2026, with basic operations starting in 2025 and full operational capacity in 2027. Rasmussen added that the country’s jets are “central to our participation in international missions in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, in Libya and recently in Iraq in the fight against ISIL (Islamic State),” according to Reuters.(Image: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class D. Keith Simmons, via Wikimedia Commons)
More Info (Wall Street Journal)
More Info (Reuters)



13 May 2016
Interview: NASA Veteran Discusses Supersonic Jet Project

Concorde_Wiki.pngTIME reports that NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project Manager Peter Coen believes that his team could solve the “sonic boom” issues that limited the viability of the retired Concorde jet, “potentially opening the door for a new era of faster-than-sound commercial travel.” The article notes that in February, NASA issued a $20 million contract to Lockheed Martin “for preliminary work on a new supersonic aircraft that could travel quickly and quietly, the holy grail of supersonic aeronautics.” The article features an interview about the project with Coen, a 33-year NASA veteran, who says, “We’re working on breaking down some of the barriers to successful commercial supersonic flight,” and also “to make sure the airspace system is compatible with having fast airplanes trying to use their speed to the maximum extent they can.” (Image credit: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons)
More Info (TIME)



13 May 2016
Boeing Delays First Launch Of CST-100 Starliner

Boeing_CST-100.jpgIn continuing coverage, CNN Money reports that on Tuesday, Boeing disclosed that it has delayed the first launch of its astronaut-ferrying CST-100 Starliner spacecraft from 2017 to 2018, thereby falling behind fellow NASA Commercial Crew contractor SpaceX, which “says it intends to have a manned mission in 2017 using its Dragon space capsule.” The article explains that unlike Boeing’s Starliner, SpaceX’s Dragon is already developed and in use, “delivering supplies to the International Space Station with unmanned missions,” although “it will need to go through further testing before it can carry humans.”  Space News explains that Boeing spokeswoman Rebecca Regan “said that several factors contributed to the new schedule,” including reducing the Starliner’s mass, dealing with aerodynamic issues during the spacecraft’s launch and ascent, and completing additional software changes required by NASA. (Image Credit: NASA)
More Info (CNN Money)
More Info (Space News)



12 May 2016
Malaysia Says South Africa, Mauritius Aircraft Debris Belongs to Missing MH370

MA370_LaurentErrera_Wiki.pngThe Wall Street Journal reports that on Thursday, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said that two pieces of debris found in South Africa and Mauritius earlier this year “almost certainly” came from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. According to the Journal, an Australia-led investigation team examined the debris and concluded that both pieces were consistent with the panels of the Malaysia Airlines-operated Boeing 777 aircraft that mysteriously vanished more than two years ago. Flightglobal reports that in a statement the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said that while “there were no identifiers on the panel segment that were unique to [the missing MH370]...the pattern, colour and texture of the laminate was only specified by [Malaysia Airlines] for use on Boeing 747 and 777 aircraft.” The ATSB added that “there is no record of the laminate being used by any other Boeing 777 customer.” (Image Credit: Laurent Errera via Wikimedia Commons)
More Info (Wall Street Journal)
More Info (Flightglobal)



12 May 2016
SpaceX Capsule Returns to Earth With 3,700 Pounds of ISS Cargo

DragonSplashesDown_12May2016_NASA.pngUSA Today reports that SpaceX’s Dragon capsule plunged into the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday after a month-long trip to the International Space Station (ISS), “returning to Earth with more than 3,700 pounds of equipment and science research.” The article notes that among the 1,300 pounds of experiments aboard the spacecraft were 1,000 tubes of biological samples collected from former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly during his year-long stint at the ISS, which the space agency intends to study “to learn more about the long-term effects of microgravity on the human body.” In a post on Twitter, Kelly wrote, “Thanks SpaceX for getting our science safely back to Earth! Very important research.” CBS News adds that the Dragon capsule also returned 53 pounds of computer equipment, 377 pounds of crew supplies, 602 pounds of spacewalk gear, and 1,137 pounds of vehicle hardware. (Image Credit: )
More Info (USA Today)
More Info (CBS News)



11 May 2016
NASA Confirms Record-Breaking Discovery of 1,200 New Exoplanets

KeplerPlanetDiscovery_May2016_NASA.pngThe Wall Street Journal reports that at a press briefing on Tuesday, researchers using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope confirmed the record-breaking discovery of more than 1,284 new exoplanets, doubling the number of extraterrestrial worlds found by the space agency’s planet-hunting spacecraft. According to the scientists, who published their findings on Tuesday in the Astrophysical Journal, nine of the newly verified planets are potentially habitable, located in star systems warm enough for water to exist in liquid form, while another 550 are rocky planets similar to Earth, and more than 100 are the same size as Earth or smaller. The AP reports that with Tuesday’s announcement, “more than 3,200 exoplanets have now been confirmed, out of nearly 5,000 candidates discovered to date from all sources, including ground observatories.” (Image Credit: NASA/W. Stenzel)
More Info (Wall Street Journal)
More Info (Associated Press)



11 May 2016
Air Force Issues RFP for Design of Next Air Force One

AirForceOne_WikimediaCommons.pngFlightglobal reports that ahead of the presidential election in November, the US Air Force has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to Boeing for the initial design of the next model of Air Force One. The article explains that the RFP issued on Tuesday concerns “preliminary design activities required to begin development of two Presidential mission-ready aircraft, based on two government furnished Boeing 747-8 aircraft procured under a separate contract action on this contract.” According to the article, the Air Force “expects to award a sole-source contract to Boeing later this year for delivery of two 747-8s,” with development set to begin in mid-2018. (Image Credit: John Murphy via Wikimedia Commons)
More Info (Flightglobal)



10 May 2016
Global UAV Market To Approach $127 Billion By 2020, PwC Says

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgBloomberg News reports that according to a new study published on Monday by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the global market for commercial UAV applications, currently estimated at around $2 billion, will skyrocket to as much as $127 billion by 2020. Speaking to reporters, Piotr Romanowski, PwC partner and Business Advisory Leader for central and eastern Europe, said that “the cost of drone technology is falling so quickly that a number of everyday applications are becoming cost-efficient.” According to PwC, new UAV technologies may prove useful for infrastructure projects, insurance claim verification, and various security applications, and may also revolutionize both the movie and transportation industries, given appropriate legislation. (Image: DJI Phantom 2. Credit: Associated Press–©)
More Info (Bloomberg News)



9 May 2016
UPS Supporting Drone Startup’s Blood, Vaccine Deliveries In Rwanda

AmazonPrimeAir_Drone.jpgReuters reports that the UPS Foundation is providing Zipline International Inc. and Gavi an $800,000 grant along with logistics support to help the startup with its primary mission of using UAVs to transport blood and vaccines in Rwanda. Reuters notes that by backing drone projects in other countries, UPS can avoid the regulatory hurdles faced by other U.S. companies experimenting with UAV deliveries. Reuters mentions that other prominent companies such as Amazon, Google, and Walmart have also invested in UAV projects. MarketWatch reports that UPS Foundation President Ed Martinez said UPS is “traditionally a company of trucks and warehouses and people,” and the company will assist Zipline with shipments and handling equipment. Martinez said that if the program is successful, it can be expanded to other areas, though he conceded, “This is going to be a learning process for us.” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced in 2013 on “60 Minutes” that the online retailer would offer drone deliveries within four to five years, and although the FAA granted Amazon permission in March 2015 to begin testing drones in the U.S., MarketWatch said the company’s “goal...is looking increasingly impossible in the U.S.” (Image Credit: YouTube/X: The Moonshot Factory)
More Info (Reuters)
More Info (MarketWatch)



9 May 2016
SpaceX Dragon Capsule Set to Return from ISS

Dragon_at_ISS_NASA_May2016.jpgUSA Today reports that SpaceX is set to accomplish yet another milestone this week, as its unmanned Dragon spacecraft “is scheduled to depart the International Space Station (ISS) and return to Earth on Wednesday morning,” after arriving at the ISS on April 10. According to the article, due to a failed launch attempt last summer, the Dragon capsule “will be the first to return science experiments and hardware from the ISS in a year,” as no spacecraft operating today “can bring large quantities of cargo back down to the ground.” (Image Credit: NASA)
More Info (USA Today)



6 May 2016
NASA’s Asteroid-Sample Spacecraft OSIRIS-REx Taps Into Design History

OSIRIS-REx-spacecraft.jpgDid you know that NASA is building a miniature robot bulldozer that will scoop up gravel from an asteroid? Workers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Colorado have been hard at work testing the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft that will be launched toward the asteroid Bennu in September. Attendees at an April NASA social-media tour were able to glimpse the spacecraft in the Lockheed Martin clean room where the completed spacecraft is on display, and learn from the engineers and scientists involved in the mission to collect a sample from an asteroid for study on Earth. (Image: The completed OSIRIS-REx spacecraft in the cleanroom at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado. PHOTO CREDIT: Hannah Thoreson)
Full Story (Aerospace America)



6 May 2016
SpaceX Launches Communications Satellite, Sticks Sea Landing for Second Time

SpaceXLaunch6May2016_SpaceX.jpgCBS News reports that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster blasted off from Cape Canaveral early Friday morning, “lighting up the night sky with a streak of fiery exhaust as it boosted a powerful Japanese communications satellite into space.” In a dual success, the JCSAT-14 relay satellite “was delivered to the intended preliminary orbit,” while the Falcon 9’s first-stage booster landed smoothly on a droneship at sea following the launch, “the second such successful landing in a row.” A few moments after the landing, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, tweeted, “Woohoo!!” He also tweeted, “This was a three engine landing burn, so triple deceleration of last flight,” adding, “That’s important to minimize gravity losses.” Bloomberg News reports that prior to the mission, SpaceX “said because the Falcon 9 rocket returned at high speed, a successful landing was unlikely.” The AP (5/6) adds that before the launch Musk “put the chances of a successful touchdown at ‘maybe even’ because the rocket was coming in faster and hotter than last time.” (Image Credit: SpaceX)
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5 May 2016
Boeing 737 Max Leap 1-B Jet Engine Completes Certifications

Boeing737Max.jpgThe Puget Sound Business Journal reports in its “Techflash” blog that the Boeing 737 Max’s Leap 1-B jet engine has completed certification from authorities in the U.S. and Europe. CFM International executive vice president Francois Bastin said, “We couldn’t be happier with the way this engine is performing,” adding that Boeing “is racking up an impressive number of flight hours with the test aircraft, and initial indications are that engine performance is meeting expectations.” The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the certificates will allow the engine to enter into commercial service in the third quarter of 2017. Boeing must still receive certification for the Boeing 737 Max itself before deliveries to Southwest Airlines can begin. (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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5 May 2016
Implications of Trump, Clinton Presidency On U.S. Space Program Highlighted

Clinton-Trump.jpgIn continuing coverage, Mic reports on how the U.S. space exploration program would fare “under a Trump presidency or a Clinton presidency.” The article highlights that in response to a recent questionnaire from AIAA’s publication Aerospace America, Donald Trump said, “What we spend in NASA should be appropriate for what we are asking them to do,” adding, “Our first priority is to restore a strong economic base to this country. Then, we can have a discussion about spending.” Meanwhile, the article highlights that during a town hall meeting last year, Hillary Clinton said, “I really, really do support the space program,” adding that the government ought to continue to invest in space exploration.
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5 May 2016
Amazon Looking Toward Integration of UAV Services

Mini_UAV_Credit_YouTube_Amazon.jpgFlightglobal reports that while speaking at the AUVSI Xponential show on Monday, Amazon Prime Air Vice President Gur Kimchi “stressed that movement needs to be made on airspace integration methods now, so that services are ready to be carried out when the necessary authorisations are granted.” The article notes that Amazon is proposing that “a no-fly zone be established at 400-500ft, to allow for UAVs to travel to delivery destinations,” and that real-time no-fly zones “can also be imposed on UAV operations to allow for manned operations as necessary, and the systems can simply wait until it is safe to enter the zone again.” Kimchi maintained, “The only way this will work is if everybody speaks the same language.” (Image Credit: YouTube/X: The Moonshot Factory)
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4 May 2016
SpaceX to Launch Japanese Satellite Into Orbit, Attempt Another Rocket Landing at Sea

SpaceXBoosterLanding_April2016_SpaceX.pngThe Orlando Sentinel reports that SpaceX is set to launch a replacement satellite early Thursday morning for Japanese telecommunications company SKY Perfect JSAT that will help the satellite operator “restock its satellite constellation, improving reception for the company’s nearly 3.5 million subscribers.” According to the article, the satellite will be hoisted into orbit atop of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, “and take its place in space above Japan and Australia, providing improved coverage for Perfect’s broadcasts in parts of Asia, Russia and even as far east as Hawaii.” Additionally, the commercial spaceflight company will also attempt “to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 on a drone ship off Florida’s coast,” although company officials have “said they don’t expect to succeed,” stating that “the first stage will be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating, making a successful landing unlikely.”(Image Credit: SpaceX via YouTube)
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4 May 2016
FAA: UAS Developing Too Fast for Airspace Restructuring

DJIS800_AlexanderGlinz_via_WikimediaCommons.jpgAviation International News reports that the FAA “has no current plan” to “reclassify low-altitude airspace” to accommodate small UAS. Speaking at the Xponential 2016 conference in New Orleans, FAA Air Traffic Organization Manager Randy Willis said that the establishment of a new airspace structure is inhibited by the fast pace of change in UAS technology. At the conference, Harris Corporation unveiled an “ADS-B Xtend” service to help UAS tracking below 500 feet. However, an FAA rulemaking process would still be required for airspace restructuring. (Image Credit: Alexander Glinz via Wikimedia Commons)
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3 May 2016
Scientists Detect Three Earth-Like Planets

Earth-sizeplanetKepler-452b_NASA.jpgThe Washington Post reports that researchers using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope have discovered a trio of potentially habitable, Earth-like planets that may represent “our best-ever shot at finding signs of alien life.” The article explains the three exoplanets located 40 light years away in the constellation Aquarius were detected using data from the star they orbit. In addition, the scientists, who published their findings on Monday in the journal Nature, believe the worlds are tidally locked, indicating that “they have one hot side that faces their star and one cold side plunged in eternal darkness,” and that they orbit their star in a matter of days. Bloomberg News reports exoplanets “receive about two to four times our solar radiation, and virtually none of it is in the visible spectrum.” According to the article, the star “is probably too close for the planets to be entirely habitable, but the authors suggest there might spots where humans could survive.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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2 May 2016
New Report Highlights Growth of Commercial UAV Market

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgBusiness Insider highlights a few of the key takeaways from a recently released BI Intelligence report, which “provides forecasts for the business opportunity in commercial drone technology, looks at advances and persistent barriers,” and “digs into the current state of US regulation of commercial drones.” According to the article, the commercial UAV market “will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19% between 2015 and 2020, compared with 5% growth on the military side.”(Image: DJI Phantom 2. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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2 May 2016
ISS Now Equipped With 3D Printer Supplied By Made In Space And Lowe’s Innovation Labs

3DPrinted_ISS_NASA.jpgUnder the headline “The First 3D Printing Facility In Space Is Open For Business!,” Motley Fool reports on the International Space Station’s (ISS) permanent 3D printer, which was “supplied by privately held Made In Space and partner Lowe’s Innovation Labs, the innovative hub of the home retailer.”
(Image Credit: NASA)
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29 April 2016
Bombardier Secures Major Aircraft Order With Delta

Bombardier_CSeries_Wikipedia.jpgIn continuing coverage, the Seattle Times reports that on Thursday, Delta Air Lines finalized a firm order for 75 of Bombardier’s CSeries narrowbody aircraft, “providing the market validation from a high-profile U.S. airline the Canadian jet maker has long sought.” The article notes that the new jet “features new, fuel-efficient Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engines and carbon-composite plastic wings,” adding that Bombardier “claims the CSeries will be 15 percent cheaper to operate than the current Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 models, and 10 percent cheaper than the new MAX and neo models.” Reuters adds that on Thursday, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said that the carrier considered both price and the overall economics of the C Series before deciding to purchase 75 of the narrowbody aircraft. (Image Credit: Yan Gouger via Wikimedia Commons)
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28 April 2016
SpaceX Plans to Send “Red Dragon” Capsule to Mars In 2018

SpaceXRedDragon_Wiki.pngThe Washington Post reports that on Wednesday, SpaceX announced on Twitter that it plans to land an unmanned “Red Dragon” spacecraft on Mars as early as 2018 in collaboration with NASA, “laying out an ambitious timeline for an incredibly difficult mission that only governments have dared try.” In a statement, NASA said it would provide “technical support,” but no financial support, for the Mars mission, and in return, SpaceX would provide “valuable entry, descent and landing data to NASA for our journey to Mars, while providing support to American industry.” The Los Angeles Times explains that according to SpaceX, the mission aims to demonstrate a method of landing large-scale payloads on the Martian surface without parachutes or other aerodynamic decelerators.  (Image Credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons)
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27 April 2016
F-35 Airborne Software Problem Resolved

F-35_Keith_Simmons_USN_wikimedia_.pngDefense News reports that on Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, head of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35 joint program office, said that software problems on the F-35’s Block 3i release have generally been cleared and will not pose a challenge to meeting the aircraft’s operational deadline. Bogdan added that the new software has been tested on 44 flights over 96 hours and has seen a marked improvement in stability. He is “leaning towards” using the updated 3i software as the software in the aircraft during IOC, and said the improvements were implemented thanks to “really smart guys at Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, who own the sensors and stuff, getting down into the nitty gritty and doing good root cause analysis.” While airborne software stability has improved, the main computer still has some problems starting while the aircraft is “on the ground.” Bogdan anticipates a solution to the problem within a month or two. (Image: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class D. Keith Simmons, via Wikimedia Commons)
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27 April 2016
Google Awarded New Delivery Drone Patent

Google_ProjectWing_Testing.jpgQuartz examines a patent awarded to Google on April 25 that would allow a delivery drone to hover over a delivery target and lower the package using a tether. When the package has been placed on its destination, the drone would detach and retract the tether cable. Quartz highlights the patent’s mention of how the drone would interact with humans, potentially warning them, “Caution: Stay back,” or chiming in with “Delivery complete.” (Image Credit: YouTube/X: The Moonshot Factory)
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26 April 2016
Airbus Delivers First U.S.-Made Aircraft From Alabama Plant

AirbusA320Neo_AP_Purchased.pngThe AP reports that on Monday, France-based Airbus delivered its first aircraft manufactured in the U.S. to JetBlue Airways. In the handover ceremony at Airbus’ manufacturing plant in Mobile, Alabama, CEO John Leahy “said in a statement that delivering the first aircraft after breaking ground on the facility three years ago is an amazing accomplishment and a testament to teamwork throughout Airbus and in Mobile.” Meanwhile, Airbus officials “say there are nine other A320 family aircraft in production and Airbus plans to deliver four per month from Mobile by the end of 2017.” Reuters notes that the Mobile plant is of symbolic and strategic importance to Airbus, as it ends Boeing’s reign as the only U.S.-based manufacturer of large commercial jets, and expands the French aerospace company’s global industrial base amid increasingly fierce competition between two the largest planemakers in the world. (Image: Airbus A320neo on the runway of Toulouse-Blagnac airport, southwestern France, after successfully completing its first flight, Sept. 25, 2014. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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26 April 2016
Experts: E-Enabled Aircraft to Increase Aviation Cybersecurity Concerns

AirbusA380_2_wiki.pngAir Traffic Management reports “expert alumni from US Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University” say that as the aviation industry relies more on Internet- and satellite-based technologies, cybersecurity vulnerabilities will increasingly “threaten the nation’s airspace.” The article notes that the Boeing 787, Airbus 380, and Airbus 350 are “e-Enabled” aircraft that have systems networked to ground stations in real time, receiving and transmitting data “that can influence flight operations including navigation, maintenance performance and airplane health management.” Mike Gordon, Lockheed Martin’s director of cyber intelligence and operations for corporate information security, “says Lockheed Martin acknowledges its aircraft are flying computers, designing them at the onset with cybersecurity in mind,” and that the modernization of legacy aircraft systems is a growing security concern. (Image Credit: P.loos via Wikimedia Commons)
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25 April 2016
FAA Mandates Repairs On Some 787 Dreamliner Engines For Icing Problems

Dreamliner-Boeing-2.jpgMedia outlets reported on the urgent airworthiness directive issued on Friday by the FAA requiring immediate repairs to Boeing 787 Dreamliners with GE-manufactured GEnx-1B PIP2 engines. The AP reported that the agency’s “order comes after a Jan. 29 incident when one of the two engines on a Japan Airlines 787 shut down mid-flight” due to an icing problem “and couldn’t be restarted.” According to the article, GE distributed a service bulletin on the issue in March, “so some of the affected engines have already been reworked.” CNN reported that Rick Kennedy, GE Aviation spokesman, told CNN, “Ice shed from the fan blades ... causing the blades to rub against the fan case, resulting in engine vibration.” This “forced an engine shut down and the aircraft landed safely with its remaining engine.” (Image Credit: Boeing)
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25 April 2016
NASA, FAA Conduct Drone Management Test

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgAviation International News reports in continuing coverage that NASA on April 19 conducted simultaneous tests of multiple drones at six FAA-sponsored ranges throughout the United States. Mathew Nelson, one of the UAS pilots at the Texas site, said, “Using a traffic management framework to separate the aircraft and provide position awareness to air traffic control or to a mission commander helps us provide space between manned aircraft and unmanned aircraft and actually promotes the safety of integrating those two into the airspace.” RT and Engadget also report on the story. (Image: DJI Phantom 2. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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25 April 2016
Solar Plane Travels from Hawaii to California

SolarImpulse2_Lands_in_Hawaii_AP_2.jpgThe AP reports that on Saturday, the solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse 2 touched down in California following a three-day flight from Hawaii “without fuel.” According to the article, the aircraft flies at an average speed of about 28 miles per hour, “though that can double during the day when the sun’s rays are strongest,” and carries “17,000 solar cells” on its wings. The San Jose Mercury News reports that pilot Bertrand Piccard said, “This is one of the most fantastic experiences of life I’ve had.” Pilots Piccard and André Borschberg have taken turns flying different legs of the “globe-circling journey” solo: Borschberg “had flown the leg from Japan to Hawaii,” while Piccard piloted the craft from Hawaii to California. ABC News mentions that Piccard landed at Moffett Airfield “after 62 hours of flying without fuel.” (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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22 April 2016
FAA Clears First Nighttime Drone Flights

DroneFliesAtDusk_AP.pngBloomberg News reports the FAA “granted the first approval for commercial drone flights at night” to Ohio-based Industrial Skyworks USA, which “uses drones for industrial inspections.” Company president Michael Cohen said the FAA is “trending in the right direction.” The article reports the FAA “will require more stringent pilot requirements than it has imposed on other commercial operators to ensure they understand the potential risks of flying at night, according to the agency’s exemption dated April 18.” In addition, drones will be required to be equipped with lights in order for operators and other aircraft to be able to spot them.  Information Week reports “while the FAA approval is specific to Industrial SkyWorks, it sets a precedent that other companies may follow.” The article adds the FAA decision comes following “the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016, Senate Bill 2658, which passed on Tuesday in the US Senate,” under which the agency “would be allowed to grant case-by-case exemptions for commercial and research and development drone flights that occur at night” if the bill is approved. Also covering the story is Consumerist. (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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21 April 2016
DJI Complying With Requests to Share UAV Data With Chinese Government

DJI_Phantom4_AP.pngThe New York Times reports that during a press briefing at DJI’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China on Wednesday, DJI spokesman Zhang Fanxi said that DJI is still looking to reach a deal with China concerning the collection of UAV flight data, but added that the company is currently complying with requests from the Chinese government to share information, and that it may also provide the government with data regarding flights in Hong Kong. Additionally, Zhang remarked, “This data, exactly how we use it, when we use it and which government departments we give it to” is an ongoing discussion. Zhang maintained that DJI will not provide Chinese authorities direct access to UAV data unless requested, and that users would be informed in such cases. (Image: DJI Phantom 4. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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21 April 2016
Aerojet Rocketdyne Lands $67 Million NASA Contract To Develop Fuel-Efficient Rocket Engines

Solar_Electric_Propulsion.pngThe Seattle Times reports that Aerojet Rocketdyne has secured a three-year contract worth $67 million that will help NASA increase fuel efficiency for deep space travel nine-fold by “using an electric-propulsion system, rather than a chemical system.” In a statement, Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, explained, “Development of this technology will advance our future in-space transportation capability for a variety of NASA deep space human and robotic exploration missions, as well as private commercial space missions.”  The Verge explains that the plan is to utilize the “advanced electric propulsion on the robotic portion of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission; that involves sending an uncrewed spacecraft to an asteroid, capturing a boulder off of the space rock, and then transporting the piece into orbit around the Moon.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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21 April 2016
UAV Filmmaking Raising Safety Concerns, Interest In Hollywood

DJIPhantom_Capricorn4049_Wiki.pngThe Seattle Times reports that Aerojet Rocketdyne has secured a three-year contract worth $67 million that will help NASA increase fuel efficiency for deep space travel nine-fold by “using an electric-propulsion system, rather than a chemical system.” In a statement, Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, explained, “Development of this technology will advance our future in-space transportation capability for a variety of NASA deep space human and robotic exploration missions, as well as private commercial space missions.”  The Verge explains that the plan is to utilize the “advanced electric propulsion on the robotic portion of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission; that involves sending an uncrewed spacecraft to an asteroid, capturing a boulder off of the space rock, and then transporting the piece into orbit around the Moon.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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20 April 2016
Senate Passes FAA Reauthorization Bill

AirportSecurity_Dulles_AP-Purchased.pngThere was significant media coverage on Tuesday of the Senate’s approval of legislation authorizing the FAA programs through September 30, 2017. On Tuesday, the Senate voted 95-3 to pass the FAA reauthorization bill, which now heads to the House. News sources report on the various provisions of the legislation, with several focusing on the provisions covering airport security, drones and airline consumer protections. According to the AP, the bill would enhance airport security, provide “new protections to airline passengers and help speed the introduction of package-delivery drones.” The bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. John Thune (R-SD), said the measure “does more to enhance security against the threat of terrorism and help frustrated passengers than any proposal in recent history.” The Washington Post also quotes Thune as saying that the legislation is the “most pro-passenger, pro-security FAA reauthorization in recent history. … Travelers are frustrated, and this bill contains common-sense reforms.” (Image: A security sign is posted at Air Canada at Dulles International Airport on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010 in Chantilly, Va. Credit: Associated Press–©)



20 April 2016
NASA Tests UAV Air Traffic Control System In Six States

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgPopular Science reports that since there are no flight-tracking systems for flights at lower altitudes, and because small UAVs do not broadcast their location while flying, the FAA has partnered with NASA to develop the Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management system, essentially providing air traffic control for UAVs. Following an earlier test at just one site last fall, NASA tested the system once again on Tuesday using 24 UAVs at six different FAA test locations across the country, including in Alaska, Maryland, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, and Texas. (Image: DJI Phantom 2. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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20 April 2016
Former Astronaut: Space Tourism, Mars Landings Soon Likely

Bigelow_Expandable_Habitat_Wikimedia.pngPhilly (PA) reports that “manned missions to Mars may be closer to reality than one might expect, according to former NASA astronaut Don Thomas.” In a recent interview, the 60-year-old veteran of four space missions said, “It’s going to be near the end of my lifetime,” adding space tourism will likely be possible “very soon, in two to three years.” Remarking on the challenges of a human mission to Mars, Thomas said, “It will take a lot of money to test out the rockets, to land supplies ahead of time, before we get there,” adding, “The greatest challenge is political and economic, the budgets and funding.” Meanwhile, in a video on its website, CNN reported that with the arrival of inflatable space room “BEAM” at the International Space Station on April 10, space hotels are no longer restricted to the domain of science fiction. (Image: Full-scale mockup of Bigelow Aerospace’s Space Station Alpha. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls via Wikimedia Commons)
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19 April 2016
Senate Votes to Move FAA Bill Forward to Final Vote

CapitolHill_Wiki.pngThe Hill reports that on Monday, the U.S. Senate voted to end debate on the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 (S.2658) and move to a final vote. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee said he “hopes a package of 26 amendments will be attached by voice vote before final passage.” Nelson added, “They are all non-controversial.” The Hill mentions that many of the amendments deal with airport security and drone safety. Morning Consult adds that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) emphasized before the vote that the bill “contains the most comprehensive aviation security reforms in years.” Aviation International News reports that the decision to end debate prevents a filibuster and stops the consideration of any additional amendments. (Image Credit: Elliot P. via Wikimedia Commons)
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18 April 2016
Drone May Have Collided With British Airways Flight

BritishAirwaysTakeOff_Wikipedia.jpgThe Wall Street Journal reports that on Sunday, a British Airways flight bound for London’s Heathrow Airport appears to have collided with an airborne UAV in what may be the first such incident involving a major airline. Patrick Ky, chief of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Europe’s primary safety regulator, said he wants to create an international standard for drone regulations, and hopes to coordinate with U.S. and Asian officials to achieve that goal. None of the 132 passengers and 5 crew members aboard the aircraft were hurt and the British Airways Airbus A320 didn’t sustain any damage, but ABC World News Tonight reported that experts warn that the growing popularity of drones brings with it a “serious potential for disaster.” Col. Stephen Ganyard, former deputy assistant Secretary of State, commented that “Sooner or later, we’re going to lose an airplane due to a drone collision.” Bloomberg News adds that the FAA “requires operators to stay more than five miles from airports unless they get permission from air-traffic controllers.” Hans Weber, head of consulting firm Tecop International Inc., said, “There’s a real tug of war between drone users and regulators.” He added, “If people kept to those requirements there would be no problem.”  (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
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18 April 2016
Inflatable Space Room Attached to ISS

BEAM_Installed_on_ISS_CreditNASA.pngThe Wall Street Journal reports that on Sunday, a British Airways flight bound for London’s Heathrow Airport appears to have collided with an airborne UAV in what may be the first such incident involving a major airline. Patrick Ky, chief of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Europe’s primary safety regulator, said he wants to create an international standard for drone regulations, and hopes to coordinate with U.S. and Asian officials to achieve that goal. None of the 132 passengers and 5 crew members aboard the aircraft were hurt and the British Airways Airbus A320 didn’t sustain any damage, but ABC World News Tonight reported that experts warn that the growing popularity of drones brings with it a “serious potential for disaster.” Col. Stephen Ganyard, former deputy assistant Secretary of State, commented that “Sooner or later, we’re going to lose an airplane due to a drone collision.” Bloomberg News adds that the FAA “requires operators to stay more than five miles from airports unless they get permission from air-traffic controllers.” Hans Weber, head of consulting firm Tecop International Inc., said, “There’s a real tug of war between drone users and regulators.” He added, “If people kept to those requirements there would be no problem.”  (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
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15 April 2016
ESPN to Broadcast Drone Racing

DroneRacer.pngCNBC reported that on Wednesday, the International Drone Racing Association (IDRA) announced that it had reached a multi-year agreement with ESPN to broadcast “the new sport of drone racing to the sports network.” In a statement, Matthew Volk, director of programming and acquisitions for ESPN, remarked that drone racing is “an opportunity to reach and connect with a growing and passionate audience.” Meanwhile, IDRA Chairman Dr. Scot Refsland explained that since “everyone can experience the thrill of racing as if they were sitting in the drone cockpit, the sport is skyrocketing,” adding that going from “a first ever, US national drone race to partnering with ESPN for international distribution in eight months is truly a sign of great things ahead.” Fortune and Ars Technica also reported on the story. (Image Credit: HeliPal via YouTube)
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14 April 2016
Rep. Bridenstine Announces “American Space Renaissance Act”

SLS-Artists-Concept-of-Launch-NASA.jpgSpace News reports that on Tuesday, in a speech at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Rep. James Bridenstine (R-OK) formally announced the “American Space Renaissance Act,” emphasizing that it is “a comprehensive bill, because ensuring that America is the preeminent spacefaring nation requires a holistic approach to [the] entire American space enterprise.” According to the article, the proposed legislation includes “separate sections covering military, civil and commercial policy topics, from changes to responsibilities for space situational awareness to giving the NASA administrator a fixed five-year term.” Noting that there “doesn’t seem to be one national space enterprise,” Bridenstine explained, “What we’re trying to do is to bring a lot of elements together and make sure that in the end, the technologies being advanced are relevant to all the different enterprises that exist.” National Defense Magazine reports that the bill, among its other provisions, would grant “the FAA [the] authority to monitor and manage launches, debris tracking and allow it to ask satellite operators to move spacecraft when necessary to avoid collisions.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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14 April 2016
New Study Details Commercial Uses of UAVs

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgUSA Today reports that according to a new study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the most popular commercial purposes for UAVs include photography, real estate, and various types of inspections. The study, which reviewed more than 3,000 of the nearly 4,700 permits granted by the FAA, found that UAV permits have been issued to businesses in all 50 states, including 360 permits in California, 328 in Florida, and 268 in Texas. In addition, among the FAA exemptions reviewed in the study, which cited 38 different business functions for UAVs, there “were 2,557 for photography, 1,969 for real estate and 1,671 for inspections.” AUVSI CEO Brian Wynne said in a statement that the UAV industry “is poised to be one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. and these numbers demonstrate that a wide variety of industries are eager to take advantage of this technology.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Fortune also report on the story. (Image: DJI Phantom 2. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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13 April 2016
Tech Billionaires, Hawking Join Forces to Laser-Propel Nanocraft Toward the Stars

Lightsail_NASA.pngThe Wall Street Journal reports that on Tuesday, Russian billionaire and tech investor Yuri Milner and famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking unveiled a plan, dubbed Breakthrough Starshot, to send nanocrafts toward Alpha Centauri via so-called light sails. The article explains that high-powered laser beams would apply pressure on the light sails, enabling the tiny spacecraft to accelerate to about 20% of the speed of light. On their journey toward the neighboring star system, the camera-equipped probes would capture photos of various celestial phenomena and beam the footage back to Earth through the same laser system propelling them through the cosmos. The New York Times reports that while the nanocrafts would be more than 600,000 miles from Earth within two minutes of launching, “it would still take 20 years for them to get to Alpha Centauri.” The Times states that much of the plan “is probably half a lifetime away,” as Milner and his colleagues “estimate that it could take 20 years to get the mission off the ground and into the heavens, 20 years to get to Alpha Centauri and another four years for the word from outer space to come home.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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13 April 2016
Jeff Bezos Wants “Millions of People Living and Working In Space”

Bezos_Garver_at_BlueOrigin_NASA.pngThe Denver Post reports that on Tuesday in his first appearance at the annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos told the audience, “I want millions of people living and working in space. I want us to be a space-faring civilization,” adding, “I think we need to explore and utilize space in order to save the Earth.” Comparing his experiences in the e-commerce and commercial space industries, Bezos said in the case of Amazon, “There was a bunch of pieces already existing,” which facilitated the Internet retailer’s rapid growth, adding that in regards to space, “If you want to see a dynamic Golden Age where thousands of entrepreneurs can be doing really amazing things in space, we can’t do that yet. ... The big heavy-lifting pieces aren’t in place.” CNBC adds that Bezos said, “I think it’s just one big piece: We need much lower cost of access to space. It’s just still too expensive.” While recoverable rockets ought to reduce launch costs, Bezos “said the other hurdle to success is the lack of practice,” explaining, “I think it’s just one big piece: We need much lower cost of access to space. It’s just still too expensive.” (Image: NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver meets Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos next to Blue Origin's crew capsule along with other Blue Origin team members. 8 Dec. 2011. Credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA via Wikimedia Commons)
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13 April 2016
Airlines Looking to Satellite-Based Wi-Fi

Gogo_inFlight_SatelliteSystem_MLammersWiki.pngYahoo! News reports that “companies such as Gogo, Panasonic, ViaSat, and Global Eagle Entertainment are working on next-generation satellite-based Wi-Fi solutions that should provide better bandwidth, speeds, and coverage than what’s currently offered now.” Internet access is currently provided through air-to-ground (ATG) technology which relies on land-based towers, causing airlines to experience dead spots when moving between service areas. Therefore, airlines are exploring satellite-based technologies, which are faster and allow global, uninterrupted service. Major developers include Gogo with its Ground to Orbit (GTO) hybrid system, ViaSat with its Exede service and two Ka-band-based high-capacity satellites, ViaSat-2 and ViaSat-3, and Inmarsat with its Global Xpress network and I-5 F2 satellite. (Image Credit: Matthew Lammers via Wikimedia Commons)
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12 April 2016
NASA’s Space Shuttle Launched for First Time 35 Years Ago Today

STS1Launch_Wikimedia.pngUSA Today reports that Tuesday marks the 35th anniversary since the beginning of NASA’s space shuttle era, which first took flight “with Columbia’s blastoff from Kennedy Space Center on one of the space program’s most daring test flights.” After Commander John Young and pilot Bob Crippen took to the skies from pad 39A, NASA’s launch commentator Hugh Harris said, “And we have liftoff, liftoff of America’s first space shuttle.” During the mission, Crippen said, “I think we have got something that is really going to mean something to the country and the world.” The article recounts that despite damage and other issues affecting the test flight, “Young and Crippen landed safely two days and 37 orbits later on a dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base in California.” US News & World Report features a 35-year old article about the space shuttle, which highlighted that a substantial part of the U.S.’ “technical and military fortunes is riding on the new ‘space truck,’ just back from its successful first flight.” (Image: Launch of STS-1. Credit: NASA via Wikimedia Commons)
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12 April 2016
ULA to Launch Expandable Habitats to Space for Tourists, Researchers

Bigelow_Expandable_Habitat_Wikimedia.pngThe Washington Post reports that although Bigelow Aerospace’s expandable habitat was just delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday, the company is already mulling “flying even larger inflatable habitats into space to be used for research and even space hotels.” In a news conference at the annual Space Symposium on Monday, the company revealed that in 2020, United Launch Alliance (ULA) will start ferrying the habitats to space as part of a deal that the two companies say constitutes the “first-ever commercial partnership between a launch provider and a habitat provider.” According to the article, Bigelow Aerospace founder Robert Bigelow “hopes that eventually his space habitats could provide another destination in low Earth orbit besides the space station.” The Denver Post adds that ULA CEO Tory Bruno said, “This is going to greatly expand the opportunities for research, for manufacturing and, yes, for space tourism.” The article explains that Bigelow Aerospace’s expandable pod, coined B330, “could act as a time-share on the ISS, allowing short-term stays for business and ‘amateur astronauts,’ alike.” Alternatively, the habitat “could serve as its own station for a corporation; play heavily into future missions to the moon and Mars; and provide a habitat for yet-to-be determined space jobs such as mining, exploration and research, Bigelow said.” (Image: Full-scale mockup of Bigelow Aerospace’s Space Station Alpha. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls via Wikimedia Commons)
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12 April 2016
NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft Revived Following Cosmic Emergency

Kepler_NASA.pngCBS News reports that in a tweet on Monday, NASA announced that it had successfully revived the planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft after it unexpectedly moved into emergency mode last week 75 million miles from Earth. Elaborating on the recovery in a statement posted online, Kepler Mission Manager Charlie Sobeck said, “Mission operations engineers have successfully recovered the Kepler spacecraft from Emergency Mode (EM),” adding that on Sunday, “the spacecraft reached a stable state with the communication antenna pointed toward Earth, enabling telemetry and historical event data to be downloaded to the ground.” According to the article, NASA officials are “hopeful that the mission will continue as planned as soon as Kepler’s systems are checked out.” USA Today adds that Sobeck also “warned that recovery efforts could be slow going,” saying, “The team will thoroughly assess all on-board systems to ensure the spacecraft is healthy enough to return to science mode.” Meanwhile, the AP notes that NASA engineers are still unclear about “what went wrong and will study incoming data for clues.”  (Image: Artist’s conception of the Kepler space telescope observing planets. Credit: NASA Ames/ W Stenzel via Wikimedia Commons)
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11 April 2016
SpaceX Cargo Capsule Docks at ISS

DragonApproachesISS_April2016_NASA.pngThe AP reports that SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft docked at the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday, “two days after launching from Cape Canaveral.” The article notes that the capsule holds 7,000 pounds of freight, including the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, an inflatable space room, which “could change the way astronauts live in space.” The article explains that NASA “envisions inflatable habitats in a couple of decades at Mars, while Bigelow Aerospace aims to launch a pair of inflatable space stations in just four years for commercial lease.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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11 April 2016
Drones Considered for First Response

Drone_Over_Neighborhood_AP_Purchased.pngIn continuing coverage, The Hill reports that one of the world’s largest drone manufacturers, DJI, is partnering with the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) with the aim of developing “a blueprint for using unmanned aircraft for emergency response efforts.” Stateside, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) is pushing for a similar agenda. The article reports that Warner “filed an amendment to the Senate’s long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration that would authorize public entities to use drones in response to disasters, catastrophes and other emergencies.” He said, “I firmly believe that unmanned systems have the potential to revolutionize how we go about our business and our lives.”
(Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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11 April 2016
Kepler Spacecraft Switches Into Emergency Mode

Kepler_NASA.pngUSA Today reports that NASA’s planet-searching Kepler spacecraft, currently situated 75 million miles away from the Earth, has entered an emergency mode, “which means the spacecraft is operating minimally while fuel intensive.” The article explains that NASA mission engineers were looking to direct Kepler toward the Milky Way’s center on April 7 “when it was determined that Kepler had moved into an emergency mode.” According to the article, the spacecraft last made contact with Earth-based ground control on April 4, “with Kepler’s operating systems reporting that it was functioning properly.” Mission Manager Charlie Sobeck remarked on the communication issues, stating, “The spacecraft is nearly 75 million miles from Earth, making the communication slow. Even at the speed of light, it takes 13 minutes for a signal to travel to the spacecraft and back.” (Image: Artist’s conception of the Kepler space telescope observing planets. Credit: NASA Ames/ W Stenzel via Wikimedia Commons)
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9 April 2016
SpaceX Completes Historic Booster Landing at Sea

SpaceXBoosterLanding_April2016_SpaceX.pngThe Washington Post reported that following four previously unsuccessful attempts to land a spent rocket booster on a drone ship at sea, SpaceX “finally pulled off the dramatic feat Friday afternoon in its first launch to resupply the International Space Station since its rocket exploded last year.” According to the Post, the sea landing, the “first-ever” for a first-stage booster, “was heralded as a breakthrough for the burgeoning commercial spaceflight industry, and its leader, SpaceX.” In a press conference following the successful landing, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk remarked, “It’s another step toward the stars. In order for us to really open up access to space we have to have full and rapid reusability.” The Los Angeles Times explained that Friday’s “milestone” landing “was akin to the televised coverage of Apollo missions,” as SpaceX employees, NASA officials and a “massive” online audience “watched a live video feed that showed the rocket arcing down to the ship, landing upright, and then just standing still.” Following the landing, the crowd at SpaceX’s headquarters “erupted in applause,” followed by chants of “USA.” (Image Credit: SpaceX via YouTube)
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8 April 2016
Boeing Lands Four New 747 Jetliner Orders In Surprise Deal

Boeing_747_wiki.pngBloomberg News reports that on Thursday, Boeing revealed on its website that it has secured four new orders from an undisclosed buyer for its 747 jumbo jets, each valued at $379 million, “giving life to a program starved for sales amid waning demand for four-engine aircraft.” The article notes that Boeing landed only two deals for the jetliner last year and “had 23 unfilled jumbo orders as of March,” adding that the Chicago-based company has repeatedly shrunk the production rate of the 747, “most recently to an output of six jets a year, as the order book thinned.” (Image: Boeing 747-8 First Flight. Credit: moonm via Wikimedia Commons)
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8 April 2016
DJI to Train European First Responders to Use UAVs In Rescue Operations

DJIPhantom_Capricorn4049_Wiki.pngThe Verge reports that on Thursday, China-based DJI announced that in partnership with the Brussels-based European Emergency Number Association (EENA), it will begin training first responders in Europe on how to use UAVs in rescue operations. According to the article, the partnership program “will give carefully selected teams of European pilots access to Phantom, Inspire, and Matric 100 (M100) drones.” The article adds that the first two pilot training events, slated for May and September this year, will take place in Denmark and Ireland. (Image Credit: Capricorn4049 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
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8 April 2016
SpaceX Set to Resume Supply Missions to ISS Today

SpaceXFalcon9_OnLaunchpad_NASA.jpgThe New York Times reports that following a nine-month hiatus due to a rocket failure, SpaceX is set to resume its resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, when it is scheduled to launch its Dragon spacecraft into orbit and deliver nearly 7,000 pounds of cargo from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The article notes that if SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off successfully, the Dragon capsule will dock at the ISS on Sunday, where it will remain until May, “and then return to Earth carrying experimental samples including blood samples of Scott Kelly.” The article adds that following four previous unsuccessful attempts, SpaceX will once again, “try to land the booster, on a floating platform instead of on land.” CBS News notes that SpaceX has thus far “managed several successful guided re-entries and vertical descents to ocean ‘splash downs,’ three partially successful attempts to land on off-shore barges and one successful touchdown at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station last December.” However, according to the article, the primary goal of the mission is “to deliver 1,410 pounds of science gear, 1,205 pounds of crew supplies, 674 pounds of station hardware, 26 pounds of spacewalk equipment, 238 pounds of computer gear and 72 pounds of Russian equipment.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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7 April 2016
FAA Panel Recommends Easing Drone Restrictions

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgSeveral news outlets report on a new set of proposed rules from an FAA panel of experts. CNN Money writes that the proposed rules include allowing drones to “fly 20 feet above people’s heads, and have a 10-foot buffer space on all sides, mostly for safety during [takeoff] and landing.” CNN Money explains that the rules were proposed by a panel that included “members from the drone industry, GoogleX, 3D Robotics, Intel, DJI, airlines and realtors.” The article adds that the FAA will review the proposed rules before releasing them for public comment ahead of the FAA’s formal proposal. The AP notes that the recommendations could pave the “way for drone delivery – a dream for companies like Amazon, which [has] already announced its desire to deliver products by unmanned aircraft.” The Washington Post adds that the proposed rules also recommend “dividing into four categories the drones allowed to fly over people.” The panel suggested different categories so “operators would know what restrictions applied.” USA Today outlines the four proposed categories as large drones, small quadcopters, drones for use in closed areas, and drones for use over crowds. (Image: DJI Phantom 2. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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7 April 2016
SpaceX to Ferry Inflatable Habitat to ISS On Friday

BEAM_NASA.pngOn its website, ABC News (4/6) reports that when SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule lifts off toward the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, “it will be carrying with it an inflatable habitat that could one day be used by astronauts traveling to Mars or on another deep space mission.” The article explains that the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is “a fabric room NASA envisions astronauts will be able to set up and pack up with ease,” adding that it also contains sensors to monitor temperature and radiation changes as well as how it may respond to any impact from potential orbital debris. In a blog post, NASA explained, “When we are traveling to Mars or beyond, astronauts need habitats that are both durable and easy to transport and to set up. That’s where expandable technology comes in.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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6 April 2016
Google Awarded Patent for UAV Delivery of Medical Equipment

Google_ProjectWing_Testing.jpgQuartz reports that on Tuesday, Google was awarded a patent for a “device that can call for a drone to fly in with specific medical equipment” in case of emergencies. Quartz describes the system as “a cross between an old HAM radio and one of the callboxes found on the sides of highways” that would deliver necessary medical equipment based on the type of emergency reported. Tech Insider and MarketWatch also cover the story. (Image Credit: YouTube/X: The Moonshot Factory)
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6 April 2016
NASA Science Chief John Grunsfeld to Retire at End of Month

JohnGrunsfeld_NASA.pngSPACE reports that on Tuesday, NASA officials announced that John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, will retire on April 30, 2016, following nearly a quarter-century of service at the space agency. The article notes that Grunsfeld has led NASA’s Science Mission Directorate since January 2012, “and has therefore been in charge for big moments such as the Mars rover Curiosity’s Red Planet touchdown in August 2012 and the New Horizons spacecraft’s epic flyby of Pluto in July 2015.” In a statement on his pending retirement, Grunsfeld, a former astronaut, said, “After exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life in the universe, I can now boldly go where I’ve rarely gone before – home.” Meanwhile, in the same statement, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden added, “John leaves an extraordinary legacy of success that will forever remain a part of our nation’s historic science and exploration achievements.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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6 April 2016
SpaceX, Boeing Still On Schedule for 2017 Astronaut Launches

Boeing_CST-100.jpgSPACE reports that according to NASA, SpaceX and Boeing are still on schedule to begin launching astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2017. Speaking to reporters near the Kennedy Space Center, NASA’s Misty Snopkowski, who is working with SpaceX, said, “We’re currently targeting next year for our [first] launch to the space station with those providers,” adding, “We’ve been working with the providers to make sure they meet our human spaceflight requirements for the astronauts, and they also have to go through a really rigorous safety-review process to make sure that their design is safe and keeps our astronauts safe on their journey up to the space station.” (Image: Boeing CST-100 spacecraft. Credit: NASA)
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5 April 2016
New Report Finds Carrier Complaints Rising, Virgin America Ranked Best Airline

VirginAmerica_Wiki.pngThe AP reports that according to the annually published Airline Quality Rating report, while U.S. flights are increasingly arriving on time and carriers are losing less luggage, but still flier complaints rose 34 percent last year, reaching the highest level since 2000. In the new report, published on Monday, co-authors Dean Headley, a professor at Wichita State University, and Brent Bowen, dean of the aviation school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, “use publicly available information from the U.S. Department of Transportation [DOT] to rate the airlines for on-time performance, baggage handling, bumping passengers because of oversold flights, and complaints filed with the government.” (Image Credit: Kentaro Iemoto via Wikimedia Commons)
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5 April 2016
FAA Data Reveals Risk of UAVs to Aircraft

DJIS800_AlexanderGlinz_via_WikimediaCommons.jpgBloomberg News reports in depth on the “potentially more fearsome prospect” of UAVs entering airport airspace, incidents which the FAA says “have surged since 2014, with more than 1,200 reports nationwide last year,” according to a Bloomberg News analysis of agency data released last week. Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) President Tim Cannoll said of the risk drones pose to airliners, “We’re not kidding when we say it has to be mitigated as a threat. ...Your imagination can run wild with the problems of hitting hard metal objects at 200 mph.” In a statement released with its data the FAA said that it hopes “to send a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal.” (Image Credit: Alexander Glinz via Wikimedia Commons)
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5 April 2016
FAA Committee Recommends Standards for Commercial UAV Use

DJIPhantom3_AssociatedPressAlexBrandon_Purchased.jpgThe AP reports that a government-sponsored committee is “recommending standards” that could “clear the way” for the use of UAVs to deliver packages, record news footage, inspect cell phone towers, and provide other services that require flight over populated areas and crowds. The recommendations call for the creation of different categories of UAVs: smaller-sized UAVs could fly “at least 20 feet” over the heads of crowds, while larger-sized UAVs might not be able to fly over crowds or be subject to other restrictions. The FAA formed the committee in February in order to expedite the rule-making process. The committee is made up of 27 companies or trade associations, including UAV manufacturers, as well as “airline and private pilots, airports, crop dusting companies, and helicopter operators.” (Image: DJI Phantom 3 drone. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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4 April 2016
Blue Origin Launches, Lands Reusable Rocket for Third Consecutive Time

NewShepardLaunch_Apr2016_BlueOrigin.pngUSA Today reported that on Saturday, Blue Origin “took another step toward making reusable rockets a reality” by successfully launching and landing its New Shepard vehicle for a third consecutive time. Declaring the mission a success on Twitter, Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos “said the rocket’s hydrogen-fueled BE-3 engine fired properly to enable a soft booster touchdown in west Texas, followed by a crew capsule landing nearby under parachutes. Wired noted that ahead of the launch, the spaceflight company “announced it was upping the ante by restarting the rocket engine only 3,600 feet in the air, leaving less room for error as it maneuvers on the way down.” Additionally, the launch and landing of the rocket also tested an algorithm for the crew capsule, “which separates from the rocket and lands via parachutes.” (Image Credit: Blue Origin)
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4 April 2016
Drone Racing Gaining Popularity

DroneRacer.pngThe CBS Evening News reported that drone races are growing in popularity across the U.S. The pilots wear first-person view (FPV) goggles that receive “streaming video from a camera on the drone” and give “racers the sensation that they are flying, that they are the drone.” Drone racing can be “disorienting because your body is giving you one sensation and your eyes are giving you something else,” according to expert drone racer Chad Nowak. CBS News also carries the story on its website.
(Image Credit: HeliPal via YouTube)
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4 April 2016
Bolden Discusses Journey to Mars, Commercial Space Partnerships

CharlesBolden.jpgIn an interview with CNBC (4/2), NASA Administrator Charles Bolden discussed planning for the journey to Mars and the commercial space industry. Speaking with CNBC’s “On the Money,” Bolden said, “We think we’re on the right trajectory to get humans to Mars in the 2030’s,” explaining that “we’ve been sending precursor missions to Mars for almost 50 years now.” Remarking on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program partners, Bolden said, “They’re good for NASA and the nation, primarily because they help us to bring launches back to American soil, whether it’s for cargo or people.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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1 April 2016
Four Companies Leave Small UAV Coalition to Form Consumer-Focused Group

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgUSA Today reports that four member companies of the Small UAV Coalition—DJI Technology, Parrot, GoPro, and 3DR—have left the advocacy group to form their own organization, which will specifically focus on consumer issues. The article explains that as the UAV market continues to mature, “a shifting of needs was inevitable,” since larger companies such as Amazon, Google, and others “are looking more at drones for delivery, cargo and more commercial uses,” while consumers are using UAVs for photography, racing and other recreational purposes. In a statement, Adam Lisberg, DJI Technology spokesman, explained that “the business is growing so big that we thought we would most benefit [from] a group focused on the issues that are important to small drone manufacturers and our customers.” (Image: DJI Phantom 2. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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31 March 2016
State Farm Begins Using Drones for Roof Inspections

Drone_Over_Neighborhood_AP_Purchased.pngUSA Today reports that State Farm, “the first insurer to win approval from the [FAA] to use drones commercially, has launched hundreds of experimental drone flights for routine roof inspections.” Airwave CEO Jonathan Downey, who is working with State Farm, said that companies are increasingly likely to use drones for inspections in difficult-to-reach as well as dangerous places. He adds that along with reducing employee risks, drones are less expensive than helicopters. The article mentions that the FAA is “granting more than 4,200 special permits for companies to fly drones for commercial purposes such as aerial photography and crop monitoring.” (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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31 March 2016
Oil Industry Woes Spurring Blimp Revival

LMC_Hybrid_Airship_AP_Purchased.jpgIn continuing coverage, Bloomberg News reports that Lockheed Martin has landed an order to deliver as many as 12 airships to UK-based Straightline Aviation (SLA) as decreased oil revenues have prompted cost-conscious fossil fuel companies “to consider aircraft able to carry workers and cargo to remote locations without the need for hefty investment in runways and roads.” In an interview, SLA Chief Executive Officer Mike Kendrick remarked, “Building huge infrastructure might have been acceptable when oil was at $90 a barrel, but nowadays they need to make economies like the rest of the planet.” The Globe and Mail (CAN) notes that for a long time blimps have been touted as a potential “workhorse in Canada’s North and the oilsands, where huge pieces of heavy equipment often need to be transported to places with no all-weather roads.” Kendrick explained that people “are waiting for this because they need the economies that it brings and are also happy that the carbon footprint is reduced.” Meanwhile, SLA’s Mark Dorey similarly remarked on the capability of the aircraft, noting that “You don’t have to build ice roads or bridges or wait for the environmentalists to give you permission. You can simply land on the ice.”  (Image: Straightline Aviation (SLA) signed a letter of intent to purchase up to 12 Lockheed Martin Hybrid Airships. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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31 March 2016
NASA Set to Officially Unveil Green Rocket Fuel Mission Spacecraft Today

NASA_GPIM_ArtistsConcept.pngFox News reports that Colorado-based Ball Aerospace & Technologies, which was selected in 2012 to research alternative rocket fuels for NASA, will open its doors today to reveal NASA’s Green Propulsion Infusion Mission (GPIM) spacecraft. According to the article, the space vehicle is scheduled to launch in early 2017, “where it will have the ability to display its hydroxyl ammonium nitrate-based fuel and oxidizer propellant blend – known as AF-M315E.” In a recent overview of the GPIM, NASA explained the benefits of the fuel, stating, “AF-M315E has significantly reduced toxicity levels compared to hydrazine, making it easier and safer to store and handle,” adding that it “also requires fewer handling restrictions and potentially shorter launch processing times, resulting in lower costs.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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30 March 2016
FAA Increases Altitude Limit For Commercial UAVs

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgThe Hill reports on the FAA’s announcement of a new policy that will allow certain small, commercial unmanned aircraft vehicles to fly as high as 400 feet, doubling the currently authorized altitude of 200 feet, except in restricted airspace and other prohibited areas. The article explains that “the regulation applies to commercial and governmental unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators with a Section 333 exemption and an aircraft that weighs less than 55 pounds.” The regulatory change could decrease the workload for Certificate of Waiver or Authorization applications by up to 40%, according to The Hill. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said that “Expanding the authorized airspace for these operations means government and industry can carry out unmanned aircraft missions more quickly and with less red tape.” Brian Wynne, head of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), said the agency’s move “provides greater flexibility to those receiving FAA exemptions.” Air Transport World also reports on the new regulation that applies to UAVs weighing less than 55 pounds. The FAA said, “Operators must fly under daytime visual flight rules, keep the [UAV] within visual line of sight of the pilot and stay certain distances away from airports or heliports.” (Image: DJI Phantom 2. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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30 March 2016
WSJournal Analysis: Airships Poised For Return Nearly 80 Years After Hindenburg Disaster

LMC_Hybrid_Airship_AP_Purchased.jpgIn an analysis, the Wall Street Journal reports that almost 80 years after the Hindenburg disaster, companies such as Lockheed Martin say there is renewed commercial interest in giant airships. According to the article, England-based aviation-services company Straightline Aviation recently signed a $480 million deal with Lockheed to purchase 12 new hybrid blimps, each 280 feet long and able to carry up to 47,000 pounds of cargo. The article notes that unlike traditional blimps, hybrid vessels use both internal gas systems and their aerodynamic design to facilitate flight, which provides them with great fuel efficiency and makes them attractive for operations that involve the transport of heavy loads to distant and secluded locations. (Image: Straightline Aviation (SLA) signed a letter of intent to purchase up to 12 Lockheed Martin Hybrid Airships. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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29 March 2016
Boeing 737 Max 8’s Leap-1B Engines Significantly More Efficient

Boeing737Max.jpgSaj Ahmad, Strategic Aero Research chief analyst, writes in the Khaleej Times (ARE) that the Boeing 737 Next Generation family features “some of the most radically advanced technologies and safety systems” and is “one of the safest airplanes you can hope to fly on.” Ahmad adds that the Boeing 737 Max 8, “powered exclusively by CFM International’s Leap-1B engine,” has a “good chance” of entering service sooner than originally anticipated. The engine features “15 per cent fuel efficiency over the existing CFM56-7BE engine.” (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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28 March 2016
Flirtey Completes First FAA-Sanctioned UAV Delivery to Urban Target

DroneDeliveryTest1_France_AP.jpgThe AP reported that drone delivery startup Flirtey made history on March 10, 2016 by successfully delivering a package in Hawthorne, Nevada, via drone, the first time a UAV has made a fully autonomous delivery in an urban setting in the United States. Flirtey also conducted the country’s first legal drone delivery in a rural zone, having previously delivered supplies to a health clinic in provincial Virginia. The article noted that Nevada is one of the states approved by the FAA as a test site for unmanned aerial systems. Fortune reported that Flirtey’s half-mile UAV flight in Hawthorne relied on GPS, and “sent the flying robot to an uninhabited house where it eventually lowered the package to the home’s front porch using a rope while hovering above.” According to the article, Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny “said Flirtey was able to win FAA approval for its latest drone delivery over bigger companies like Amazon and Google because of its prior experience testing drone deliveries in Australia and New Zealand.” (Image: A DPD Geopost prototype drone flies carrying a parcel flies during a test flight in Pourrieres, southern France, June 23, 2015. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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28 March 2016
Lockheed Martin to Develop Hypersonic SR-72 UAS

SR-71B_Blackbird_NASA831_wiki.pngThe Washington Post reported that the Pentagon is “pushing an effort to develop new hypersonic weapons capable of flying at Mach 5 and faster,” partially in response to concerns that China is developing hypersonic technology that could give it a tactical advantage, and that Lockheed Martin Skunk Works is developing an unmanned follow-on to the SR-71 Blackbird called the SR-72 that could fly at Mach 6. The article also noted that Raytheon won a DARPA contract last year to develop a Mach 5 aircraft and, more recently, won a $20 million NASA contract to develop a faster-than-sound passenger jet. (Image: SR-71B Blackbird, NASA 831. Credit: USAF/Judson Brohmer - Armstrong Photo Gallery - via wikimedia Commons)
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25 March 2016
FAA Predicts 7 Million UAVs Will Swarm U.S. Skies by 2020

Drone_Over_Neighborhood_AP_Purchased.pngBloomberg News notes that according to an annual aviation forecast report released on Thursday by the FAA, annual UAV sales in the U.S. will reach a total of 2.5 million this year and climb to 7 million by 2020. The report indicates that UAV purchases are rising both for hobbyists and for commercial operators conducting inspections, aiding farmers, and monitoring construction sites. Popular Science adds that the aviation agency “expects that 42 percent of commercial drones will end up in industrial inspection, a further 19 percent in agriculture, 15 percent in insurance, 22 percent in real estate or aerial photography, and just 2 percent in government.” (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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24 March 2016
Pentagon to Allocate $5 Billion On Space Investments In 2016

GPS_Sat_NASA.pngSpace News reports that on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the Department of Defense (DoD) will allocate $5 billion in 2016 toward new space investments, including $2 billion for space control efforts “to address potential threats to U.S. space systems.” The article explains that DoD officials are “concerned about China and Russia developing anti-satellite systems, jamming and electronic warfare that could render national security satellites useless.” (Image Credit: NASA via Wikimedia Commons)
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24 March 2016
UAV Market to Grow Into a $100 Billion Industry In Five Years

DJI_Phantom4_AP.pngForbes reports on the growing UAV market, deeming it a “revolution” that has “all the earmarks of a new product category.” Last year, about one million drones were sold in the U.S. Thus far, nearly a billion dollars have been invested in UAV companies, which does not include spending from companies such as Boeing, General Atomics, Intel, and Qualcomm. According to Goldman Sachs, the UAV market will become a $100 billion industry within five years. Additionally, Forbes notes that “the future for drones is as much about policymakers and regulators as it is about the technologists.” Senator David Vitter (R-LA), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on small business and entrepreneurship, said, “The FAA’s failure to meet regulatory deadlines has limited the growth of the commercial “drone” industry.” (Image: DJI Phantom 4. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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23 March 2016
Senate Democrats Call for New Airport Security Measures In FAA Bill Following Brussels Attacks

AirportSecurity_Dulles_AP-Purchased.pngPolitico reports that following the terror bombings in Brussels, Senate Democrats “will push for a package of airport security measures as part of a must-pass reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced the plan on Tuesday, calling for “improving screening for Transportation Security Administration officers to place more emphasis on counterterrorism training, as well as adequate funding for those efforts,” and “for tougher vetting of aviation workers with access to security areas at airports.” In addition, Schumer’s plan also calls for “tightening up security at airport perimeters and providing sufficient funding to do so.” The Washington Times reports that Schumer added, “I believe that the administration’s doing a very good job fighting terrorism, but you can never be too careful.” (Image: A security sign is posted at Air Canada at Dulles International Airport on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010 in Chantilly, Va. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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23 March 2016
Orbital ATK Cargo Ship Launches Toward ISS Under Light of Full Moon

OrbitalATKLaunch_22March2016_CreditNASA.pngCBS News reports that an Atlas V rocket carrying an Orbital ATK cargo capsule bound for the International Space Station (ISS) “thundered to life” beneath the full moon Tuesday night, “lighting up the night sky with a rush of fiery exhaust from its Russian-built RD-180 first-stage engine.” According to the article, the Atlas V booster put on “a spectacular show” as it rose above Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, “smoothly accelerating as it burned up its first-stage load of liquid oxygen and RP-1 rocket fuel.” If the mission goes as planned, the cargo spacecraft “will catch up with the station early Saturday, pulling up to within about 30 feet and then standing by while Expedition 47 commander Timothy Kopra, operating the station’s robot[ic] arm, locks onto a grapple fixture.” The AP reports that Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft holds almost 8,000 pounds of food, equipment and research supplies for NASA, including a fire experiment, a commercial-quality 3-D printer, “and experimental robotic grippers modeled after the thousands of sticky hairs on geckos’ feet.” USA Today and SPACE also report on the story. (Image Credit: NASA)
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23 March 2016
Australia: “Highly Likely” That Mozambique Debris From Missing MH370

MA370_LaurentErrera_Wiki.pngThe AP reports that an analysis conducted by a team of international investigators indicates that the two debris fragments recently found along the coast of Mozambique are “highly likely” to belong to the mysteriously vanished Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370). Noting that the discovered parts are consistent with panels from the missing Boeing 777 aircraft, Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester said in a statement, “The analysis has concluded the debris is almost certainly from MH370.” Still, according to the Times, “the chances that the debris itself could offer any fresh clues into precisely where the plane crashed are slim.” The Huffington Post notes that one piece of debris “was discovered in February by a civilian U.S. investigator while the other was found in December by a South African tourist.” Reuters adds that Chester explained in his statement thatdebris such that “has been found on the east coast of Africa is consistent with drift modeling...and further affirms our search efforts in the southern Indian Ocean.” (Image Credit: Laurent Errera via Wikimedia Commons)
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22 March 2016
Orbital ATK Preps Cygnus for Fifth ISS Cargo Mission

ULA_AtlasV_FirstStage_NASA.pngSeeking Alpha reports that Orbital ATK is in “final preparations” for the company’s Cygnus spacecraft mission to the International Space Station (ISS), and that “for the second time,” Cygnus, carrying approximately 7,900 pounds of cargo, will launch atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The Washington Post reports that Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft is set to lift off for the ISS on Tuesday night carrying nearly 8,000 pounds of supplies for NASA, including “a commercial-quality 3-D printer,” “the makings for a large-scale fire,” and “robotic grippers inspired by the tiny, sticky hair on geckos’ feet.” The article explains that the new 3-D printer is a “bigger and better” upgrade to an earlier model sent to ISS, and is intended to create 3-D items as needed for real-time use. Meanwhile, in an experiment to determine how fire behaves in a micro-gravity environment, NASA will set fire to the Cygnus capsule, “once it leaves the space station in May and is a safe distance away.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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22 March 2016
First American-Made Airbus Jet Performs Successful Flight Test

AirbusA320Neo_wiki.pngThe AP reports that on Monday, Europe-based aircraft manufacturer Airbus performed the maiden test flight of its first American-made jetliner, taking off and landing the A321 passenger jet at its new facility near downtown Mobile, Alabama. In a statement following the three-hour test flight over the Gulf of Mexico, which included “a series of maneuvers and tests of all the airplane’s operating systems,” Alabama Governor Robert Bentley called the exercise a “major milestone” for the state’s aerospace sector, saying, “Aerospace and aviation industries are extremely important to Alabama, and it is exciting to know soon JetBlue will receive its first A321 proudly made in Alabama.” The article notes that the jetliner “will be delivered to purchaser JetBlue in a few weeks after final preparations.” Reuters also briefly reports on the story. (Image Credit: Don-vip - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)
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22 March 2016
World’s Longest Aircraft Set For Maiden Flight this Spring

Airlander10_FirstFlight_HybridAirVehicles-YouTube.pngReuters reports that on Monday, UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles announced that the world’s longest aircraft, the 92-meter long Airlander 10, is set to perform its maiden flight later this spring. At a media event showcasing the massive airship, Hybrid Air Vehicles said that the vessel could remain airborne for up to two weeks, and indicated that it could be “useful for humanitarian missions or coastguard monitoring,” according to the article. Reuters explains that the UK-based company is looking to sell the Airlander 10 to potential customers who are looking to ferry cargo and delivery aid for the purposes of surveillance, communications, or leisure. (Image Credit: Hybrid Air Vehicles via YouTube)
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21 March 2016
Future of UAS Industry Considered

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgNewsweek reported on the burgeoning UAS industry and “the future of drones being a significant part of a connected world.” The article mentioned that the FAA’s Marke Gibson spoke of the “huge commercial benefit” of UAS technology, which will have to come with sound safety regulations and a “balance between the public trust and safety and enabling innovation.” Likewise, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said that his agency will not “sit back and say, ‘OK, we’re done’” when it comes to UAS rules, as “Maintaining the highest levels of safety requires us to constantly evolve in our approach, whether we’re talking about commercial aircraft like Boeing 747s, or unmanned quadcopters that weigh a few pounds.” (Image: DJI Phantom 2. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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21 March 2016
NASA Astronauts, Russian Cosmonauts Join Crew At ISS

Exp47-48_NASA.pngThe Orlando Sentinel reported that following a six-hour spaceflight lifting off from Kazakhstan, the Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin successfully docked at the International Space Station (ISS) at 11:09 ET on Friday after “orbiting the Earth four times to align with the station.” The article explained that during his stay at the ISS, Williams “will become the new American record holder for cumulative days in space, at 534, beating Scott Kelly’s one-year mission.” In addition, Williams will take command of the ISS on June 4, commencing Expedition 48 and marking his third expedition, which is also a record. (Image Credit: NASA)
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18 March 2016
Veteran Astronaut Jeff Williams Set To Launch For ISS On Record-Setting Mission

JeffWilliams_NASA.pngUSA Today reports that veteran NASA astronaut Jeff Williams is set to depart from Kazakhstan today on “a record-setting mission that will make him America’s most experienced space traveler.” When he returns from his six-month trip to the International Space Station (ISS), Williams will have spent a total of 534 days in space, “two weeks more than the mark NASA’s Scott Kelly set during a yearlong mission that ended this month and was the longest single U.S. flight.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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18 March 2016
U.S. Air Force Facing Pilot Shortage for Fighter Jets, Drones

NGC_RQ4_Wiki.pngCNN reports that on Wednesday, during a subcommittee hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee,, U.S. Air Force General Herbert Carlisle warned that the service needs 511 additional fighter pilots as well as 200 more drone pilots in order to sufficiently fulfill its current military operations. In his testimony, Carlisle explained that “remote piloted aircraft enterprise is one that’s in high demand, we are in high demand for fighters as well, we don’t have enough of either.” (Image Credit: U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia Commons)
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17 March 2016
Senate Approves Amended FAA Extension

ATC-at-Dulles.jpgThe Hill reports that on Thursday, the Senate approved a four-month extension of the FAA funding, unanimously approving “an amended version of legislation the House passed on Monday.” The difference between the Senate and House versions is the Senate’s extension of aviation taxes through July 15, shorter than the March 31, 2017 extension proposed by the House. Transport Topics reports that the bill, which was approved by voice vote without debate, “did not include trucking-related provisions.” The AP and Law360 provide similar brief coverage. Aviation Week reports that while the Senate Commerce Committee did not push for air-traffic control privatization on the bill, “senators acknowledge that most efforts” to improve the FAA’s air-traffic control issues “have fallen short.”  (Image: Dulles Airport ATC Tower. Credit: AIAA)
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17 March 2016
Former Astronaut Janet Kavandi Appointed Director Of NASA Glenn Research Center

JanetKavandi_2NASA.pngThe Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that following a year of serving as its deputy director, Janet Kavandi has been appointed as director of the NASA Glenn Research Center in Ohio, becoming the first woman and former astronaut to be named to the post. Stepping into her new role, Kavandi succeeds Jim Free, who is in a new position at NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in Washington, DC. Noting what he called her extraordinary leadership throughout her career at the agency, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “I know she’ll bring that same excellence to bear on Glenn’s critical role in our journey to Mars.” (Image Credit: NASA via Wikimedia Commons)
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17 March 2016
FAA Approves Rule Allowing Drone Pilots to Fly During Emergencies

DJIPhantom_Capricorn4049_Wiki.pngThe Verge reports that since June 2015, the number of commercial drone operators in the U.S. has increased from 500 to more than 3,000, with the emergency services category growing the fastest. According to The Verge, “hundreds of drone pilots with no direct connection to local police, fire, or medical agencies have now been granted permission by the FAA to pursue emergency services missions with their drones, and to charge for that work.” However, an FAA spokeswoman said that even though drone pilots have FAA permission for emergency missions, other rules and regulations may prevent them from undertaking that type of mission. The article adds that Amazon and other tech companies have called “for regulations based on performance and safety standards.” Engadget also covers the story. (Image Credit: Capricorn4049 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
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16 March 2016
Boeing Starts Assembly Of Next-Generation Dreamliner

Boeing787_Wikipedia.pngThe Chicago Sun-Times reports that in a press release distributed Monday Boeing announced that it has begun major assembly for the first unit of the 787-10 Dreamliner aircraft, putting it two weeks ahead of schedule. In the press release, Ken Sanger, vice president of 787 airplane development at Boeing, said, “We are taking all the right steps to ensure we integrate the 787-10 into the production system smoothly.” The Sun-Times notes that the 787-10 jet is a longer variant of the 787-9 Dreamliner, “which commercial airlines began using in 2014,” and adds that it “will undergo final assembly at a Boeing plant in South Carolina.” (Image: The first public appearance of the 787 on July 8, 2007. Credit: I, Yasobara via Wikimedia Commons)
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16 March 2016
UAV Industry Concerned About Upcoming FAA Regulations

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgThe Washington Post reports that on Wednesday, the Senate will consider “how much regulation is needed for a burgeoning industry that is projected to supply 2.8 million drones this year, with a bottom line rapidly approaching $1 billion in annual sales.” The Post adds that the FAA is expected to introduce regulations on drones weighing up to 55 pounds this spring. The article also mentions that the UAV industry is concerned about these new regulations, which may limit the development and use of newer UAV technologies. (Image: DJI Phantom 2. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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15 March 2016
ICAO Looks to Establish Commercial Space Tourism Guidelines

SpaceShipTwo_2013_AP_Purchased.pngThe Wall Street Journal reports that at the Abu Dhabi aerospace symposium, the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) said that it plans to establish guidelines for commercial space tourism. The ICAO set a deadline of 2019 for proposals. The Journal notes that while the ICAO does not have any enforcement authority, its regulations often establish benchmarks for national laws. The article mentions that the FAA currently has a non-interference policy regarding regulation of commercial space tourism, noting that the FAA did not step in even after that Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crash in 2014. (Image: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo at a Virgin Galactic hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, CA, Sept. 25, 2013. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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14 March 2016
Scott Kelly to Hang Up Spacesuit, Retire On April 1

ScottKelly_ISS_NASA.pngThe AP reports that less than two weeks after returning from a record-long 340 day stay in space, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is “hanging up his spacesuit,” and will retire on April 1. In a post on Facebook, Kelly, who joined the U.S. Navy in 1987, wrote, ‘‘I look forward to continuing my 30 years of public service in a new role,” adding, ‘‘To continue toward any journey, we must always challenge ourselves to take the next step.’’ Additionally, in a statement issued by NASA, Kelly said, “This year-in-space mission was a profound challenge for all involved, and it gave me a unique perspective and a lot of time to reflect on what my next step should be on our continued journey to help further our capabilities in space and on Earth.’’ The Washington Post added that Kelly, “who has amassed a cult following thanks in large part to the steady stream of photos from space he posted to social media, tweeted, On my @NASA #retirement after a #YearInSpace: https://t.co/5InAr0R3se Thanks for following! The journey continues... pic.twitter.com/PIWpZlJ34K.” (Image Credit: NASA via YouTube)
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11 March 2016
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Celebrates 10 Years of Pioneering Scientific Work

MRO_NASA.pngThe Washington Post reports that NASA is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and notes that thus far it has lasted five times longer than its primary investigative mission, “delivering unprecedented data on Mars and its history back to scientists on Earth.” In a statement, Rich Zurek, NASA project scientist, said, “The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter remains a powerful asset for studying the Red Planet, with its six instruments all continuing capably a decade after orbit insertion.” The article explains that while NASA’s Mars rovers “get most of the attention,” the MRO “was responsible for last year’s studies on the possibility of seasonal liquid water on the Red Planet,” and the images it captures also “help scientists determine landing sites and new destinations for rovers.” Fox News adds that out of the seven currently active Mars missions, “MRO returns more data every week than the other six combined, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the Orbiter mission.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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11 March 2016
Review: DJI Phantom 4 Is Obvious Choice for First-Time UAV Buyers

DJI_Phantom4_AP.pngThe Verge features a review of DJI’s newly released Phantom 4, highlighting the quadcopter’s autonomous obstacle avoidance and auto-tracking features. The review concludes that “the addition of these autonomous features makes it the obvious choice for anyone looking to purchase their first drone.” (Image: DJI Phantom 4. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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11 March 2016
Thriller “Eye In The Sky” Highlights Ethical Considerations of Drone Warfare

HelenMirren_as_Col_KatherinePowell.pngIn a review for the New York Times, Stephen Holden writes that the Gavin Hood-directed drone thriller “Eye in the Sky” is “a grim, suspenseful farce in which unpredictable human behavior repeatedly threatens an operation of astounding technological sophistication.” According to Holden, the drone “reinforces the Orwellian notion that nowadays there are no hiding places if the powers-that-be are out to get you.” Holden highlights the various ethical considerations presented by the film, and notes that it does not “present as overtly critical a view of drone warfare” as the recently released “Good Kill.” Meanwhile, in a review for Salon, Andrew O’Hehir writes that “conscientious precision and painstaking identification in ‘Eye in the Sky’ is presented as morally murky,” but adds that it still may be presenting “an overly reassuring picture.” Concluding his review, O’Hehir states that the moralistic themes are “not quite enough to prevent [the] movie from sliding down the ideological slope toward inadvertent propaganda.”  Aerospace America also published a review. (Image: Helen Mirren stars as Col. Katherine Powell in Gavin Hood’s “Eye in the Sky." Credit: Aerospace America)
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10 March 2016
Qatar Airways CEO Prepared to “Walk Away” from A320Neo Deal Over Engine Issue

AirbusA320Neo_wiki.pngBloomberg News reports that Qatar Airways said it could soon cancel its $6.4 billion order with Airbus for the manufacturer’s upgraded A320neo jetliner if supplier Pratt & Whitney is unable to resolve a cooling issue affecting the aircraft’s engine. The article notes that if the issue cannot be resolved, the Doha-based carrier “could potentially switch its contract for 50 planes and 30 options to jets powered by the CFM International venture of General Electric Co. and Safran SA, [although] first deliveries aren’t due until next year.” Reuters reports that at a news conference at the ITB tourism exhibition in Berlin, Qatar Aiways CEO Akbar Al Baker said, “We will only accept it when we are fully satisfied that it can operate efficiently and safely at Qatar operations (and)...once we get sufficient performance guarantees and undertakings from both Airbus and Pratt & Whitney,” adding, “We are at the threshold of the walk-away clause in our contract, but I hope we will not have to exercise this.” (Image Credit: Don-vip via Wikimedia Commons)
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10 March 2016
Phantom 2 Breaks UAV-Altitude Record – and Law – with 11,000 Foot Flight

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgPopular Mechanics reports that a European UAV hobbyist has apparently flown a DJI Phantom 2 to a record altitude of 11,000 feet. According a video posted on YouTube, the UAV reached the altitude in three-and-a-half minutes, draining its power, and it quickly returned back to the ground before the remaining 27% of its battery life ran out, landing with just 4% left. The article explains that in order to accomplish the feat, “the operator most likely had to disable software restrictions that prevent out-of-the-box hobby drones from flying above a certain limit,” as DJI’s quadcopters are capped at a 1,500 feet. Gizmodo adds that in the European Union, where the video was filmed, “the restriction is supposed to be 500 feet.”(Image: DJI Phantom 2. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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9 March 2016
United Confirms Order of 25 Additional Boeing 737 Jets

Boeing737Max.jpgThe Wall Street Journal reports that United Continental Holdings has confirmed that it will purchase 25 additional Boeing 737 jets, saying that the aircraft will be delivered at the start of 2017, and will replace the smaller 50-seat regional jets that the carrier is phasing out of its fleet. The article notes that the deal allows Boeing to stymie the efforts of Canada-based Bombardier and Brazil-based Embraer to make inroads with United, “considered one of a small global group of airlines whose stamp of approval can open doors for a manufacturer seeking credibility.” USA Today reports that in a statement, Gerry Laderman, United’s senior vice president of finance and acting chief financial officer, said, “The new 737-700 aircraft are ideal for our fleet as we continue to reduce our reliance on 50-seat aircraft.” He also explained, “Retiring the 747 fleet and replacing those aircraft with more customer-pleasing, current generation aircraft creates a more reliable and efficient fleet that provides a better overall experience for our customers traveling on long-haul flights.” (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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8 March 2016
Missing Malaysian Jet Remains “Agonizing Mystery” Two Years After Disappearance

MA370_LaurentErrera_Wiki.pngBloomberg News reports that on Tuesday, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak, said that his government remains dedicated to solving the “agonizing mystery” of MH370, “as the country marks the second anniversary of the aircraft’s disappearance.” The article notes that the search efforts to find the jet, covering 120,000 square kilometers of the southern Indian Ocean, are slated to be complete in June. In an email on Tuesday, Najib said that if the efforts prove unsuccessful, officials from Malaysia, Australia, and China will coalesce “to determine the way forward.” Najib also said, “The search has been the most challenging in aviation history,” adding that he remains “hopeful” that the aircraft will be found during the current search efforts, which have thus far covered 85,000 square kilometers. AFP adds that Najib stated, “The current search operation is expected to be completed later this year, and we remain hopeful that MH370 will be found.” Meanwhile, Darren Chester, Australia’s transport minister, whose country is leading the search, said on Tuesday, “Finding the aircraft would give answers to the world, in particular the families of missing loved ones, about what happened.”  (Image Credit: Laurent Errera via Wikimedia Commons)
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8 March 2016
Orbital ATK Plans In-Space Satellite Servicing

InOrbitSatelliteServicing_NASAArtistsImpression.pngReuters reports that on Monday, Orbital ATK said that within six to eight weeks it “hopes to announce” a contract to extend “the life and uses of aging commercial satellites in geosynchronous orbit,” and quotes an Orbital ATK official who said that 70 of the 380 communications satellites in orbit could need servicing to replenish their propellant fuel. Reuters reports that the company plans to operate 10 MEV spacecraft that can perform refueling and repositioning services. (Image: Artist's concept. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)
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8 March 2016
NASA to Livestream Total Eclipse This Evening 

Solar_Eclipse_Wiki.pngYahoo! Good Morning America reports that on Tuesday, a full solar eclipse “will be visible to people in parts of southeast Asia, while people in parts of Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa will be able to enjoy a partial solar eclipse, according to NASA.” The article notes that NASA will live-stream the total eclipse, which is predicted to happen between 8:38 p.m. and 8:42 p.m. EST Tuesday night. (Image Credit: Sancho Panza via Wikimedia Commons)
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7 March 2016
Scott Kelly Speaks About His Return to Earth

ScottKelly_ISS_NASA.pngIn a front-page article, the Washington Post reported that after nearly a year of “whirling through space,” NASA astronaut Scott Kelly returned home last week “invigorated by the breathtaking views he photographed throughout his odyssey for the gravity-bound denizens of Earth.” The article highlighted that despite the widespread popularity of Kelly’s social media presence, the chief goal of his one-year mission “was an experiment in analyzing the physical and psychological effects of long-term spaceflight in anticipation of an eventual manned mission to Mars.” Reuters reported that on Friday during a press conference at the NASA Johnson Space Center, Kelly spoke about the physical and psychological effects that he has experienced since his return, telling reporters, “It seemed like I lived there forever,” as he remarked on his distorted sense of time at the International Space Station (ISS). (Image Credit: NASA via YouTube)
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7 March 2016
SpaceX Succeeds On Fifth Launch Attempt; Rocket Lands Hard at Sea

Falcon9Launch_CapeCanaveral_NASA.pngThe AP reported that on their fifth attempt in just under two weeks, SpaceX successfully launched an SES communications satellite into orbit Friday evening on its fifth attempt in one-and-a-half weeks. While SpaceX also attempted to perform a rocket landing on an ocean barge situated 400 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, but immediately before the rocket was expected to touch down, “the TV camera on the platform cut out, drawing loud groans from the crowd gathered at company headquarters in Hawthorne, California.” Posting on Twitter about an hour after the hard landing, CEO Elon Musk disclosed, “Didn’t expect this one to work [very hot reentry], but next flight has a good chance.” Reuters explained that the 23-story-tall Falcon 9 booster faced a challenge in sending a 12,613-pound satellite into orbit 25,000 miles above Earth, an altitude 100 times greater than the orbit of the ISS, which suggested that its return velocity would be too high to perform a soft landing successfully. Meanwhile, SPACE noted that SpaceX “publicly stated that the chances of success were slim, but it hoped to try anyway.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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4 March 2016
AIAA Executive Director Speaks at National Press Club on “Ensuring U.S. Leadership In Space”

SandyMagnus_NationalPressClub_2_4Mar2016.pngA coalition of space organizations today released a joint white paper, “Ensuring U.S. Leadership in Space,” at a National Press Club Newsmaker news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The work highlights and addresses the challenges facing continued U.S. exploration and use of space, and the need for the next administration and Congress to make space policy a priority. The paper offers sensible policy solutions to the four most common challenges that continued space exploration and use efforts face – unpredictable budgeting, foreign competition, the hostile space environment, and workforce trends. (Image: Sandy Magnus, AIAA executive director, provides remarks on "Ensuring U.S. Leadership In Space," at the National Press Club on 4 March 2016. Credit: Frank Slazer, @FSlazer, VP, Space Systems, AIA)
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3 March 2016
Aircraft Debris Found In Mozambique May Belong to MH370

MA370_LaurentErrera_Wiki.pngSeveral media outlets report that American tourist Blaine Allen Gibson found a piece of aircraft wreckage washed ashore in Mozambique. It is believed that the piece of wreckage may belong to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which mysteriously disappeared somewhere over the South China Sea almost two years ago. While breaking the story for NBC Nightly News, correspondent Tom Costello said that Gibson sent a photograph of the wreckage “to the search command center in Australia which sent it to investigators in Malaysia, the U.S. and at Boeing.” Costello added, “Sources close to the investigation tell NBC News there’s a high probability the debris is part of the skin of a horizontal stabilizer on the tail of a Boeing 777 and very possibly from MH-370.” Reuters reports that the NTSB and Boeing both declined to comment on the discovery, and referred questions to authorities in Malaysia. Aviation International News reports that in a series of Twitter posts on Wednesday, Liow Tiong Lai, Malaysian transportation minister, tweeted, “Based on early reports, [there is] a high possibility [that] debris found in Mozambique belongs to a [Boeing 777].” He added, “I [urge] everyone to avoid undue speculation as we are not able to conclude that the debris belongs to MH370 at this time.” (Image Credit: Laurent Errera via Wikimedia Commons)
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3 March 2016
Kelly Embraces “Fresh, Frigid” Air Upon Return to Earth

KellyReturnsISS_NASA.jpgCBS News reports that Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko ended their record 340-day stay at the International Space Station (ISS), “with a fiery Super Tuesday plunge to Earth, settling in a jarring rocket-assisted touchdown on the steppe of Kazakhstan to close out a medical research voyage that may help pave the way for eventual flights to Mars.” Veteran ISS astronaut Jeffrey Williams told CBS News in an interview on Monday that a Soyuz landing is “quite a ride.” The AP reports that NASA’s “space-endurance champ,” Scott Kelly, welcomed the “fresh, frigid air,” as he returned to “bitterly cold” Kazakhstan. In a welcome ceremony commending the returning spacemen, Talgat Musabayev, former cosmonaut and Kazak space agency chief, congratulated Kelly on his 340-day mission, “the longest an American ever lived in space.” Meanwhile, President Barack Obama also “joined the chorus of praise pouring in,” posting on Twitter, “Welcome back to Earth, @StationCDRKelly! Your year in space is vital to the future of American space travel. Hope gravity isn’t a drag!” In addition, the White House “said Obama spoke with Kelly on Wednesday, thanking him for his service and for sharing his journey through social media.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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3 March 2016
Army Preparing for Next-Generation Helicopters

V-22_Osprey_Wiki.jpgIn an extensive article, Scout reports that the U.S. Army is preparing for its first official flights of two technologically advanced, next-generation helicopters, currently being developed to include such capabilities as “flying faster, flying farther without needing to refuel, operating in high-hot conditions and having an ability to both reach high speeds and hover like a helicopter.” According to the article, the new aircraft are part of the Army-led Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) initiative, “aimed at paving the way toward ultimately engineering a new fleet of aircraft for all the services to take flight by 2030.” In an interview, Dan Bailey, JMR TD program director, said that the high-tech helicopters are expected to begin ground testing later this year, and initial flight testing will begin in 2017. (Image: A V-22 Osprey flies a test mission. Credit: James Haseltine, U.S. Air Force, via Wikimedia Commons)
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2 March 2016
Scott Kelly Returns to Earth After Record Stay In Space

KellyReturnsISS_NASA.jpgCNN reports that after 340 days in space, the longest-ever stint for a NASA astronaut, Scott Kelly is now back on Earth, having safely landed late Tuesday night in the Kazakhstan desert, alongside Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov. According to CNN, images from the landing site show Kelly “pumping his fist and giving a thumbs up after being hoisted from the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that brought the trio back.” The article adds that all three of the space travelers underwent field tests immediately after exiting the return capsule, noting that while long stays in space could negatively impact a person’s eyesight and bone strength, Kelly “said last week that physically, he feels pretty good.” AFP reports that Kelly’s and Kornienko’s stay in space “was the longest by any astronauts aboard the ISS and seen as a vital chance to measure the effects of a prolonged period in space on the human body.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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2 March 2016
DJI Launches New Autonomous UAV

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgBloomberg News reports that China-based UAV developer DJI is providing “an answer to concerns that amateur pilots will crash their aircraft into things” with the launch of its most recent product, the Phantom 4 quadcopter, which “uses multiple cameras and software to sense and avoid obstacles automatically.” The article explains that using a mobile app, operators “can tap on a destination and the drone will choose the best route to get there,” and, while the aircraft is flying, “pilots can focus on controlling the camera without worrying about navigation.” According to the article, semi-autonomous UAVs such as the Phantom 4 “could help appease U.S. regulators and politicians,” as legislators have called on developers “to create technology that would make it impossible for the devices to operate in restricted areas.” (Image: DJI Phantom 2. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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1 March 2016
Scott Kelly Hands Over Command of ISS to Tim Kopra Ahead of Today’s Return

scottKelly_NASA.jpgThe Telegraph (UK) reports that on Monday, NASA’s Scott Kelly handed over the reins of the International Space Station (ISS) to fellow astronaut Tim Kopra, “as he prepares to make his return to Earth after spending a year in space.” During a special ceremony at the ISS, Kelly called his pending departure “bittersweet.” According to the article, Kelly “will leave the ISS and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere on Tuesday March 1 after 340 days in space,” and “will be joined by Russian cosmonaut colleague Mikhail Kornienko, his roommate for the past year,” and cosmonaut Sergey Volkov. Fox News reports that Kelly is slated “to touch down in Kazakhstan, at about 11:45 p.m. EST,” and will be transferred to Houston a day later, where “he will be feted by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden as well as Second Lady Jill Biden and Assistant to the President for Science and Technology John P. Holdren.” Kelly will also be welcomed by his “identical twin brother and former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.”
(Image Credit: NASA)
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1 March 2016
NASA Unveils Design for Quiet Supersonic Jetliner

QueSST_NASA.pngUSA Today reports that on Monday, NASA unveiled its design of a supersonic aircraft capable of flying at speeds of 1,100 mph, nearly twice as fast as modern commercial jetliners and comparable to the retired Concorde, “but without that jet’s sonic boom.” According to the article, the “weird-looking” new jet, coined Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST), features “a long, skinny nose, oddly angled wings and a tail fin folded into what looks like an origami airplane.” The article explains that while supersonic jets normally create sonic booms from shock waves formed as they cut through the air, QueSST “would be designed to dissipate the many small shock waves so they can’t meld together.” NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said that QueSST’s signature sound would therefore be “more like a soft thump,” rather than “the annoying sonic boom that currently prohibits commercial supersonic flight over land.” CNN reports that NASA announced that it has awarded a $20 million contract to Lockheed Martin to complete the preliminary design for the project, which is the first in a series of “X-planes.” (Image: artist’s concept of a possible QueSST x-plane design. Credit: Lockheed Martin via NASA)
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1 March 2016
U.S. Air Force Announces New Partnerships to Replace Russian Engines

RD-80engine_Wiki.jpgThe Los Angeles Times reports that on Monday, Aerojet Rocketdyne and United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced the formation of a public-private partnership with the U.S. Air Force “to develop an American-made rocket propulsion system to replace the Russian engine currently being used to blast many government satellites into orbit.” The agreement will fund the development of Aerojet’s AR1 engine, intended to replace the Russian-made RD-180, which powers ULA’s Atlas V rocket. In addition, the Air Force is set to contribute two-thirds of the total investment needed to complete the project by 2019, including an initial $115.3 million “for a total agreement value of $804 million.” ULA CEO Tory Bruno stated that the rocket launch company “continues to work with both Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne to pursue two options for a next-generation American engine and that is why we’re teaming with two of the world’s leading propulsion companies.” Reuters reports that in addition to the $115 million contract awarded for the development of Aerojet’s propulsion system, the Air Force also awarded a $46.6 million joint contract to Blue Origin and ULA who have partnered for the development of the Jeff Bezos-owned start-up’s BE-4 rocket engine. The article notes that ULA has previously said that it aims to replace the Russian-made engines on its Atlas V rocket with BE-4 motors, although the company is keeping open the option to use Aerojet’s AR1 instead.  (Image: RD-180 test firing. Credit: NASA via Wikimedia Commons)
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29 February 2016
SpaceX Aborts Third Consecutive Launch Attempt, Seconds Before Liftoff

SpaceXFalcon9_OnLaunchpad_NASA.jpgUSA Today reports that just seconds before a planned liftoff on Sunday night, SpaceX “scrubbed its third attempt in five days to launch a commercial communications satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.” Explaining the aborted launch, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk “said on Twitter that a low thrust alarm led computers to cut off the rocket’s nine Merlin 1D main engines about a second before it would have lifted off from Launch Complex 40.” Musk elaborated that the issue was caused, in part, by the rocket sitting on the launch pad for 35 minutes longer than expected after a boat off the coast entered its flight path. According to the article, the delay “caused liquid oxygen loaded into the rocket’s propellant tanks to heat up, and a ‘helium bubble triggered (the) alarm,’ Musk said.” Reuters adds that Musk said that SpaceX will provide an update after reviewing data from the launch attempt. (Image Credit: NASA)
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29 February 2016
Air Force Designates Next-Generation Bomber B-21, Unveils Artist Rendering

USAF_B-21Bomber_ArtistRendering_USAF.pngReuters reported that on Friday, Air Force Secretary Deborah James revealed the first artist’s rendering of the next-generation long-range bomber (LRS-B) developed by Northrop Grumman, and disclosed that the new stealth bomber has been officially designated as the B-21. Speaking at the annual Air Warfare Symposium hosted by the Air Force Association, James said that the name of the new aircraft will be decided in a contest among service members. CNN added that the concept art revealed that the next generation aircraft is black and “sleek” with “swept-back wings and stealthy design” and resembles “another famous bomber,” the B-2 Spirit. While the concept initially “seems basic,” other countries “will be picking it apart for clues” to determine “where U.S. design is headed.” Meanwhile, the Washington Post noted that the B-21 will be a “stealth aircraft … capable of carrying nuclear weapons.” (Image Credit: USAF)
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29 February 2016
Kelly’s Year In Space Highlighted

scottKelly_NASA.jpgIn continuing coverage, USA Today reported that during his tenure at the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who will return to Earth this Thursday, “documented his year in hundreds of social media posts.” The article highlighted Kelly’s “#YearInSpace,” describing it as “a year of Earth photography, spacewalks and freeze-dried food.” Among other events, the article noted that Kelly “watched Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos defeat the Carolina Panthers with the rest of America in Super Bowl 50,” and “captured a stunning photo of the blizzard that hit Washington, D.C., with nearly three feet of snow in mid-January.” The Denver Post also reports on Kelly’s return to Earth, highlighting the benefits of his year-long mission at the ISS toward efforts to perform a manned mission to Mars. (Image Credit: NASA)
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26 February 2016
SpaceX Scrubs Satellite Launch for Second Time

SpaceXFalcon9_OnLaunchpad_NASA.jpgIn continuing coverage, USA Today reports that SpaceX once again aborted the rescheduled launch of its satellite-carrying Falcon 9 booster, which was slated to liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday following a scrubbed mission a day prior. The article notes that SpaceX, which has not announced a new launch date, delayed its initial launch attempt on Wednesday “to ensure that liquid oxygen in the two-stage rocket’s fuel system would be kept as cold as possible, improving the rocket’s performance.” SPACE reports that less than two minutes prior to liftoff, launch controllers ended the countdown, “apparently because of an issue with the loading of liquid-oxygen propellant onto the Falcon 9.” During SpaceX’s launch webcast, John Insprucker, the company’s Falcon 9 product director, said, “preliminary [indications are] that we were still evaluating the liquid oxygen propellant load, looking at how much time we had left in the count to finish loading the liquid oxgyen,” adding that “at that time, the launch team decided that we would need to hold the countdown.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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26 February 2016
House GOP Leaders Scrap Plan To Privatize Air Traffic Control

ATC-at-Dulles.jpgSeveral major national news outlets report that House Republican leaders are scrapping the FAA reauthorization bill that would separate air traffic control from the FAA. GOP leaders are instead planning to bring a temporary reauthorization measure before the House. According to the AP, Republicans report that details about the temporary extension are still being considered.   Fox News reports that House Republicans scrapped the bill “after it struggled to find support because of” the “controversial plan to privatize” air traffic control. The article adds that privatization of air traffic control will not be a part of the temporary reauthorization bill.  (Image: Dulles Airport ATC Tower. Credit: AIAA)
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26 February 2016
Utah Bills Would Allow Law Enforcement to Shoot Down UAVs

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgThe AP reports that two Utah legislators are proposing bills that would allow law enforcement officials to better deal with interference from UAVs during emergency response operations. According to the article, state Sen. Wayne Harper has proposed legislation, which was debated on Thursday, that would allow law enforcement officials to “neutralize” UAVs, “which could include shooting them, jamming their signals or convincing their operators to move them.” Meanwhile, state Rep. David Lifferth – who is sponsoring a different bill, which is yet to be debated – “said he came up with the idea after hearing of numerous incidents in which law enforcement had to stop fighting fires because drones flew too close.” After noting that he supports the technology, he added, “if you get in the way of some acute activity you run the risk of losing it.”  (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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25 February 2016
NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly Shares His Experiences In Orbit Ahead of Next Week’s Return to Earth

scottKelly_NASA.jpgUSA Today reports that on Wednesday evening, SpaceX is set to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying an SES-9 satellite. The launch is “the first of what could be three missions this year for European satellite operator SES.” According to USA Today, the launch of the SES-9 commercial communications satellite highlights SpaceX’s comeback from a failed Falcon 9 launch attempt last June, “as the company flies an upgraded version of the rocket for the second time since December.” The article adds that while SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on an ocean platform situated about 400 miles offshore, the company also said that “a successful landing is not expected.” Reuters explains that due to the sheer weight of the 12,613-pound satellite, the Falcon 9 must fly almost twice as fast as it did during the December mission by the time the first stage separates from the payload, thereby increasing the return velocity of the rocket and making a landing difficult. (Image Credit: NASA)
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25 February 2016
FAA Considers Allowing Drones to Fly Over People

Drone_Over_Neighborhood_AP_Purchased.pngSeveral major news sources report that the FAA is considering drone regulations that would allow some drones to fly over people who are not associated with the aircraft. The FAA announced on Wednesday that it established an advisory panel to develop recommendations. Reports point out that the panel has until April 1 to submit its recommendations. USA Today reports that the April 1 deadline sets a “blistering pace for federal regulators,” but adds that the “strategy worked in setting up a national registry for drone owners in December within weeks of a proposal.” On Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, “The department continues to be bullish on new technology.” He added, “The short deadline reinforces our commitment to a flexible regulatory approach that can accommodate innovation while maintaining today’s high levels of safety.” USA Today mentions that the FAA, until now, “has discouraged drone flights over people who aren’t associated with the aircraft.” (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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24 February 2016
SpaceX Falcon 9 Set To Launch SES-9 Satellite

SpaceXFalcon9_OnLaunchpad_NASA.jpgUSA Today reports that on Wednesday evening, SpaceX is set to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying an SES-9 satellite. The launch is “the first of what could be three missions this year for European satellite operator SES.” According to USA Today, the launch of the SES-9 commercial communications satellite highlights SpaceX’s comeback from a failed Falcon 9 launch attempt last June, “as the company flies an upgraded version of the rocket for the second time since December.” The article adds that while SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on an ocean platform situated about 400 miles offshore, the company also said that “a successful landing is not expected.” Reuters explains that due to the sheer weight of the 12,613-pound satellite, the Falcon 9 must fly almost twice as fast as it did during the December mission by the time the first stage separates from the payload, thereby increasing the return velocity of the rocket and making a landing difficult. (Image Credit: NASA)
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24 February 2016
Giant Facebook Drone Preparing to Go Online

FacebookUAV2_YouTube.jpgPopular Science reports that despite recent setbacks in India, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg continues to move forward with his ambitious goal “to connect the world through his philanthropic organization, Internet.org,” a vision that heavily relies on “a drone infrastructure, to fly over remote locations and beam internet access down to the ground.” The article adds that on Tuesday, Zuckerberg wrote that the social media giant “has been flying prototypes of its drones every week, and [that] the company is in the process of building a full-scale aircraft for a larger test.” The Facebook CEO also wrote about the drone, known as Aquila, which has a 139-foot wing span. “It has solar panels on the wings and propellers for thrust. It communicates using lasers (!!) and it can fly for 3-6 months in the air before having to land again. It should work in all weather conditions.”  (Image Credit: Facebook/YouTube)
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23 February 2016
UN Agency Bans Lithium Batteries As Cargo On Passenger Planes

787DreamlinerBatteryProblems_wiki.pngNBC News reports that on Monday, the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) banned cargo shipments of lithium ion batteries on passenger planes, despite opposition from the rechargeable batteries industry. The FAA said that one such battery in the hold is enough to cause an explosion if it overheats and could result in a “catastrophic hull loss” in a process called “thermal runaway.” While the UN agency’s decision is not binding, most countries abide by its standards. The decision is also backed by the FAA, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and the National Transportation Safety Board. The AP reports that Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, the ICAO council’s president, spoke about the ban, which becomes effective April 1, “This interim prohibition will continue to be in force as separate work continues through ICAO on a new lithium battery packaging performance standard, currently expected by 2018.”(Image Credit: NTSB via Wikimedia Commons)
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23 February 2016
Airbus Urged to Produce More Jets for China Amid Booming Demand

AirbusA320Neo_wiki.pngBloomberg News reports that Chinese budget carrier Spring Airlines wants Airbus to manufacture more aircraft since demand in China is growing rapidly. In an interview on Tuesday, Spring Airline Vice President Stephen Wang said that Airbus “isn’t producing fast enough,” adding that “for the Chinese aviation industry, there’s still at least 10 golden years, that is 10 years of big growth.” The article explains that the airline “wants more aircraft than it has ordered because of rising demand in a country projected to become the world’s biggest air travel and aerospace market in two decades.” (Image Credit: Don-vip - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)
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23 February 2016
Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Cargo Ship Leaves ISS

Cygnus_Departs_ISS_NASAImage.pngExecutiveBiz reports that “an Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft has departed the … International Space Station after a 72-day stay there for astronauts to collect cargo and supplies for science experiments on the ISS.” Frank Culbertson, president of Orbital ATK’s space systems group, said, “We now turn our efforts toward final preparations for the next Cygnus cargo mission in March with a continued focus on supporting the needs of the crew members aboard the ISS.” ExecutiveBiz explains that the company “has begun preparations for the next resupply mission called OA-6, which is awaiting approval from the Eastern Range for a March 22 launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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22 February 2016
Virgin Galactic Unveils New SpaceShipTwo

SpaceShipTwo_2013_AP_Purchased.pngThe Los Angeles Times reported that billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson reentered the commercial space race on Friday with the rollout of Virgin Galactic’s new SpaceShipTwo at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The article noted that in a voice message played at the event, famed physicist Stephen Hawking named the new passenger spacecraft VSS Unity, and “said his ultimate ambition was to go to space,” adding, “If I’m able to go and if Richard will still take me, I will be very proud to fly on this spaceship.” Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic’s CEO George Whitesides stated that the company is “opening space to people in all walks of life,” remarking that “it’s time for all of humanity to get out and experience it.” The AP explained that Virgin’s new SpaceShipTwo is “designed to be flown by a crew of two and carry up to six passengers on a high-speed suborbital flight to the fringes of space,” where, at an altitude greater than 62 miles above Earth, “passengers will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the Earth below.” (Image: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo at a Virgin Galactic hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, CA, Sept. 25, 2013. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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22 February 2016
Friday Marked Deadline to Register UAVs In FAA Database

DJIPhantom3_AssociatedPressAlexBrandon_Purchased.jpgSeveral news outlets provided coverage of Friday’s deadline for the public to register drones weighing between half a pound and 55 pounds with the FAA. Coverage focused on the FAA’s goal of raising awareness about federal UAS rules, as well as the steep penalties and possible criminal charges that face anyone who fails to register their UAV with the government. NBC News featured on its website a video showing FAA Administrator Michael Huerta saying that “We want to raise public awareness,” because “[f]or many operators or unmanned aircraft, particularly hobbyists, they may not be aware of what the rules are.” Bloomberg News carried audio on its website of Earl Lawrence, the FAA’s director of the Office for UAS Integration, “on drone owners’ compliance with the new rules on today’s registration deadline.” (Image: DJI Phantom 3 drone. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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22 February 2016
Record Number Apply To Become Next NASA Astronauts

BruceMcCandless_STS-41-B_NASA.jpgUSA Today reported that on Friday, NASA announced that it has received more than 18,300 applications to join its next astronaut class, constituting a record total that “is more than double the previous record of 8,000 back in 1979, just before the space shuttle era began, and nearly three times the number who applied in 2012, just after the shuttle program’s retirement.” The article noted that NASA “plans to select eight to 14 astronaut candidates by mid-2017,” adding that its ultimate goal is “to send a crew to Mars by the late 2030s.” Ars Technica added that NASA Administrator Charles Bolden “said the total number of applications reflects public approbation for NASA’s Journey to Mars.” Bolden, who flew on four space shuttle missions, remarked in a statement, “It’s not at all surprising to me that so many Americans from diverse backgrounds want to personally contribute to blazing the trail on our Journey to Mars,” adding, “A few exceptionally talented men and women will become the astronauts chosen in this group who will once again launch to space from US soil on American-made spacecraft.”  International Business Times also reported on the story.  (Image Credit: NASA via Wikimedia Commons)
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19 February 2016
Virgin Galactic To Unveil New Spacecraft Today

SpaceShipTwo_2013_AP_Purchased.pngUSA Today reports that on Friday, Virgin Galactic will unveil its new SpaceShipTwo passenger spacecraft at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, replacing the first SpaceShipTwo vehicle that was destroyed during a deadly test flight on October 31, 2014. The article notes that the original spacecraft performed 55 test flights before it was destroyed, adding that Virgin Galactic officials “say each of its flights provided important lessons.” The article adds that after it is introduced today, the new SpaceShipTwo “will be subject to extensive on-the-ground testing before it’s carried aloft, unpowered, for further testing.” If the spacecraft successfully completes initial testing, “it will eventually be tested under its own rocket power.” Reuters notes that on Thursday, during a tour of Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne rocket design and manufacturing facility in California, Richard Branson expressed his eagerness to reenter the commercial space race alongside fellow high-profile entrepreneurs Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Paul Allen. Branson told Reuters, “To have three or four people who are fairly entrepreneurial competing with each other means we’ll be able to open up space at a fraction of the price that governments have been able to do so in the past.” (Image: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo at a Virgin Galactic hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, CA, Sept. 25, 2013. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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19 February 2016
China’s Commercial UAS Market Set For Explosive Growth

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgCNBC reports that “research firm IDC recently said it estimates camera drone shipments in the Chinese mainland to hit 3 million units by 2019, up from their prediction of 390,000 shipments in 2016.” Jean Xiao, research manager for IDC China’s Client System Research Group, said, “Currently we can see that most drones in the Chinese market are used for photography. They are mainly applied in areas of media and consumer entertainment.” She added “in the near future with necessary technology development and government policy support, ‘drones will have various vertical applications in areas of agriculture, education, transactionals, and more.” CNBC notes “five things to watch out for” in the Chinese drone market, including: the importance of 4K cameras, stiff price competition, movement “from specialized to general distribution channels,” growth in commercial camera drones, and “more competition from new entrants.”  (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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18 February 2016
Bombardier Lands First C-Series Order Since 2014, Still Expects to Cut 7,000 Jobs Amid Earnings Drop

Bombardier_CSeries_Wikipedia.jpgThe New York Times reports that on Wednesday, Bombardier disclosed its plans to lay off about 7,000 employees worldwide over the next two years as it struggles to attract buyers for its new C-Series aircraft. According to the article, the Montreal-based transportation company said that the layoffs, which will impact both its rail and aviation businesses, would affect nearly 3,400 jobs in Europe and another 2,800 jobs in Canada. Bombardier also revealed that Air Canada has signed a letter of intent to purchase 45 C-series jets, with options to buy an additional 30. The article notes that although Air Canada has not yet signed a formal contract, the deal puts Bombardier at 288 firm orders for its C-Series aircraft. The Wall Street Journal adds that the deal would be valued at about $3.8 billion at list prices, and could potentially increase to $6.4 billion if Air Canada chooses to buy the additional 30 jets. In addition, during a conference call with analysts, Bombardier’s CEO Alain Bellemare said that the firm order, its first since September 2014, constitutes a strong endorsement of the C-Series and marks a turnaround for the company. (Image Credit: Yan Gouger via Wikimedia Commons)
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18 February 2016
U.S. Navy Offers UAS For International Sale

FireScout_Wiki.pngDefense News reports that “several of the U.S. Navy’s key unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are now available for international sale, including the diminutive Fire Scout helicopter able to operate from small surface ships.” Michael Sears, assistant program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons, international weapons, said that the systems available include “the RQ-21 Blackjack, a relatively new UAS in service with the US Marine Corps, built by Boeing Insitu; the MQ-8B Fire Scout made by Northrop Grumman, and the latter company’s MQ-4C Triton large-scale maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, which the Navy announced on Tuesday had completed its operational assessment.” Defense News points out that “Triton, previously known as the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program, already has at least one probable international partner in Australia, which is in discussions with the US over the arrangement to buy the system.” (Image: Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout. Credit: U.S. Navy via Wikimedia Commons)
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18 February 2016
NTSB Backs Ban On Lithium Batteries On Planes

787DreamlinerBatteryProblems_wiki.pngAir Cargo News reports that the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Air Navigation Commission has recommended a ban on the transport of rechargeable lithium ion batteries on passenger aircraft. NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart said that his agency “urges the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration [PHMSA] to take action on safety recommendations to reduce the likelihood and severity of potential cargo fires and to provide additional time for the crew to safely land a cargo aircraft in the event a fire is detected.” He added, “The NTSB wants shippers to physically separate lithium batteries from other flammable hazardous materials stowed on cargo aircraft and to establish maximum loading density requirements that restrict the quantities of lithium batteries and flammable hazardous materials.” According to the NTSB, “Lithium batteries carried as cargo can be a fire and explosion ignition source, a source of fuel to an existing fire, and subjected to overheating that can create an explosive condition.” While PHMSA “cannot issue regulations or enforce requirements,” Hart said “Congress has given PHMSA authority to do so if it finds credible evidence of a deficiency in the international regulations that has substantially contributed to the start or spread of an on-board fire.” (Image Credit: NTSB via Wikimedia Commons)
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17 February 2016
Jobs In U.S. Aerospace, Defense Sector Expected to Rise 3.2% This Year

FighterJetEngines_UndergoesTesting_USAirForce.pngReuters cites a study released on Tuesday by Deloitte that forecasts that the nation’s aerospace and defense industry will add 39,443 jobs in 2016, an increase of about 3.2% from 2015, marking the sector’s first job growth in five years. According to Deloitte, the rebound will be focused on the U.S. military market. (Image: A fighter jet engine undergoing testing. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp via Wikimedia Commons)
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17 February 2016
SpaceX Successfully Completes Parachute Test

SpaceXParachuteTest_Feb2016_NASA.pngSPACE reports that SpaceX has “successfully tested parachutes that will be used on its Dragon spacecraft to bring human passengers back to Earth,” adding that in the most recent Dragon test video, “four red-and-white chutes helped a simulated spacecraft descend to the desert near Coolidge, Arizona, after the system was released from a C-130 cargo aircraft.” The article adds that SpaceX is upgrading its Dragon vehicle to be able to send humans to the International Space Station starting in 2018 as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA explained in a statement that “SpaceX continues to perform tests of flight-like hardware that allows engineers to assess the reliability,” adding, “Later tests will grow progressively more realistic to simulate as much of the actual conditions and processes the system will see during an operational mission.” (Image Credit: NASA/YouTube)
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17 February 2016
FAA’s Drone Registration Deadline Is Friday

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgThe Hill reports the FAA’s February 19 deadline for drone registration is quickly approaching. The agency notes that “failure to register an aircraft may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions” including “civil penalties up to $27,500.” Criminal penalties can include fines up to $250,000 with the possibility of up to three years of imprisonment. The FAA is imposing a $5 fee for drone registrations, but provided refunds for those who registered their drones within the first 30 days of the requirement. Approximately 325,000 drones have been registered so far, the agency said. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta praised the response to the drone registration rules in a recent speech: “The speed with which we were able to roll this out is a testament to the invaluable input we received from the diverse task force of stakeholders we brought to work on this issue.”  (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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16 February 2016
IATA: No Deadly Jetliner Accidents Occurred Globally In 2015

Asiana_Crash_Wiki.jpgThe Wall Street Journal reports that in data released on Monday, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) revealed that in 2015 not a single passenger worldwide died from a commercial jetliner accident attributed to pilot error, jet malfunctions, or poor weather, marking a long sought after milestone once deemed an unreachable goal for the global aircraft industry. The Journal notes that the IATA reported three deadly jetliner accidents in 2014 and six in 2013, while adding that the data excludes aircraft believed to have been downed by criminal acts. Given that 37.6 million commercial aircraft flights globally transported more than 3.5 billion passengers in 2015, the IATA called it an “extraordinarily safe year.” USA Today adds that the overall crash rate for commercial airlines was “one for every 3.1 million flights worldwide in 2015,” explaining that the four crashes recorded last year involved turboprop aircraft and occurred outside of the U.S. The article adds that despite the report’s findings, safety experts are particularly concerned about the increasing use of aircraft automation. (Image Credit: NTSB via Wikimedia Commons)
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16 February 2016
DARPA Tests Self-Navigating Quadcopter

DARPA_Drone_Program.pngAerospace Technology reports that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) “has tested a self-navigating quadcopter using only onboard sensors / software at an old hangar set up as a warehouse at Otis Air National Guard Base.” The report explains that the test was part of DARPA’s fast lightweight autonomy program, “which intends to develop and test algorithms that can reduce human intervention needed to fly small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) around a crowded urban surrounding.” The report notes that “two years ago, DARPA started a challenge for researchers to build an autonomous drone” and that the teams that competed included MIT “collaborating with US-based nonprofit engineer laboratory Draper, the University of Pennsylvania and technology firm Scientific Systems in Woburn, Massachusetts,… in collaboration with AeroVironment.” Aerospace Technology notes that “researchers at DARPA were able to achieve the targeted speed of 20m per second for the unmanned quadcopters using a commercial DJI Flamewheel 450 airframe, E600 motors with 12in propellers and 3DR Pixhawk autopilot as the common quadcopter UAV platform for the test.” (Image Credit: DARPA/YouTube)
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12 February 2016
Scientists Discover Gravitational Waves, Confirming Einstein’s Century-Old Theory

GravitationalWaves_ArtistsImpression_NASAThe New York Times notes that in a report published on Thursday in the journal Physical Review Letters, scientists with the LIGO group and the Virgo Collaboration revealed that thatthey have detected gravitational waves, “the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago.” According to the Times, the discovery “means that scientists have finally tapped into the deepest register of physical reality, where the weirdest and wildest implications of Einstein’s universe become manifest.” The article explains that if the findings are replicated in future experiments, the slight chip discovered by LIGO in September, “seems destined to take its place among the great sound bites of science.” Szabolcs Marka, a Columbia University professor who is one of the LIGO scientists, remarked, “I think this will be one of the major breakthroughs in physics for a long time.” The Washington Post reports that the discovery “was hailed as a triumph for a controversial, exquisitely crafted, billion-dollar physics experiment and as confirmation of a key prediction of Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.” The article notes that the project was led by researchers from CalTech and MIT, with support from an international consortium of scientists and institutions. (Image Credit: R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL via NASA)
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11 February 2016
NASA Plans to Return to Designing X-Planes

NA-X-15_NASA-Wiki.pngFlightglobal reports that NASA’s 2017 budget proposal reveals plans to “return to a decades-old tradition of developing and flying experimental aircraft projects, or ‘X-planes,’ in order to achieve new breakthroughs in supersonic and subsonic aeronautics research.” The article notes that the budget request shows a 23 percent increase from $640 million in 2016 to $790 million in funding for NASA’s aeronautics research. The article mentions that NASA’s history of X-planes included projects such as “the supersonic Bell X-1 and the hypersonic North American X-15.” (Image: The North American X-15 aircraft. Credit: NASA via Wikimedia Commons)
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11 February 2016
Boeing to Reduce Executive and Management Jobs In Cost-Cutting Drive

BoeingEverettPlant_Wiki.pngThe Wall Street Journal reports that in an effort to slash costs amid increased industry competition, Boeing revealed on Wednesday that it plans to cut executive and management jobs at the company. In a webcasted event, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner discussed his concerns about the Chicago-based company’s loss in market share to rival Airbus and other industry upstarts, and its possible repercussions. Meanwhile, Boeing spokesman Doug Alder stated, “We will start reducing employment levels beginning with executives and managers first,” adding, “We will also use attrition and voluntary layoffs. As a last resort, involuntary layoffs may be necessary.” The Seattle Times reports that according to two sources who viewed the internal webcast, Conner said that job cuts are required “because Boeing cannot compete with Airbus right now on prices.” Similarly, according to a Boeing 787 engineer, Conner “said a lot of customers are really leaning toward Airbus, and we’re having to cut our prices to even come close to making deals.” (Image: Boeing Everett Factory October 2011. Credit: Jeremy Elson - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
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11 February 2016
U.S. Air Force Still Expecting to Ramp Up F-35 Orders Moving Forward

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgThe Wall Street Journal reports that despite Air Force plans to cut F-35 orders this year, Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, program executive officer for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, said the service nevertheless expects a long-term increase in output and intends to grow production from 50 aircraft in 2016 to 160-170 by the middle of the 2020s. Higher production levels are important to cut the average cost of each plane. The Pentagon is expected to put $100 million into cost-cutting efforts next year, on the heels of the $170 million that Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and BAE Systems have already collectively invested. Defense News reports that on Wednesday Bogdan hosted a roundtable discussion of the F-35 where he “laid out the biggest risks ahead in development of the fifth-generation fighter jet.” Topics included the potential for a block-buy, the ALIS system, software development, reprogramming labs, and more. (Image: This Air Force version of the F-35 Lightning II completed a test flight April 20, 2010, from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas. Credit: USAF)
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11 February 2016
FAA Shrinks “No Drone Zone” Around Washington National Airport

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgIn continuing coverage, DCist reports that the FAA “has updated its drone policies in the D.C. region, with the most significant regulation allowing hobbyists to fly unmanned aircrafts closer to the District than was permitted in recent months.” DCist explains, “last December, the FAA extended the ban from 15 to 30 miles, causing hobbyist parks within 30-miles of Ronald Reagan National Airport to shutter” but, effective Wednesday, “the special flight rules area prohibits drones from flying within 15 miles of Washington, without specific FAA authorization.” DCist points out that “the new regulations also mandate that hobbyists who plan to operate within five miles of an airport or heliport notify the facility and air traffic control tower before operating.” (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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10 February 2016
White House Proposes $19 Billion NASA Budget for 2017 Fiscal Year

SLS-Artists-Concept-of-Launch-NASA.jpgThe Wall Street Journal reports that in its proposed budget released on Tuesday, the White House called for NASA to receive $19 billion in funding for the 2017 fiscal year starting October 1. The Journal notes that while the spending plan constitutes just a 1.5% decrease in funding from the current fiscal year, it is likely to face stiff opposition in Congress due to its proposed significant cuts to human space exploration initiatives. According to the article, despite strong bipartisan support for manned deep-space exploration missions, the budget request aims to decrease spending on such programs by about $800 million. USA Today adds that the proposal would also cut $100 million from planetary science programs, while boosting Earth science initiatives by $250 million, drawing “heated criticism” from a top Republican. In a statement issued by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, its chairman, Texas Representative Lamar Smith, said, “This is not the proposal of an administration that is serious about maintaining America’s leadership in space.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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10 February 2016
NASA Plans to Return to Designing X-Planes

NA_X-15_NASA-WikiFlightglobal reports that NASA’s 2017 budget proposal reveals plans to “return to a decades-old tradition of developing and flying experimental aircraft projects, or ‘X-planes,’ in order to achieve new breakthroughs in supersonic and subsonic aeronautics research.” The article notes that the budget request shows a 23 percent increase from $640 million in 2016 to $790 million in funding for NASA’s aeronautics research. The article mentions that NASA’s history of X-planes included projects such as “the supersonic Bell X-1 and the hypersonic North American X-15.” (Image: The North American X-15 aircraft. Credit: NASA via Wikimedia Commons)
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10 February 2016
Airbus A321neo Completes Maiden Flight In Germany

AirbusA320Neo_wiki.pngReuters reports that on Tuesday, an Airbus A321neo successfully completed its first flight using CFM International’s LEAP-1A engines. According to the article, the five-and-a-half-hour maiden flight, which began in Hamburg, Germany, was considered unusual since the A321neo variant using Pratt & Whitney’s Geared Turbofan engine will enter service first.  Aviation International News reports that the first production A321neos with Pratt & Whitney PW1100Gs are expected to be delivered at the end of 2016. Airbus “switched the flight test sequence as Pratt continues work on a cooling problem that forced it to impose certain operating restrictions on the smaller A320neo related to restart.” Flightglobal also covers the story.  (Image Credit: Don-vip - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)
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9 February 2016
UN Agency Proposes Limits On Aircraft Emissions

Aircraft_Emissions_NASA.png The New York Times reports that on Monday, following more than six years of negotiations, the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) proposed the first binding limits on aircraft carbon dioxide emissions, “the latest in a series of international efforts to address climate change.” According to the article, while some environmentalist groups “said the proposed rules were too weak and failed to include aircraft currently in use,” others, including the Obama administration, “praised it, saying that it was an important first step and that it tackled one of the most intractable rifts over reducing carbon emissions.” According to Reuters, “‘The U.S. pushed hard for a strong standard and I think we are very pleased with the result,’ a senior administration official told reporters.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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8 February 2016
United Nations Condemns North Korean Satellite Launch, Vows “Significant” New Sanctions

NorthKoreanUnha-3rocket_Wiki.jpgUSA Today reports that on Sunday, the UN Security Council “unanimously condemned North Korea’s launch of a long-range missile as a violation of UN resolutions banning ballistic missile tests and promised ‘significant’ new sanctions.” The Security Council contended that “even though North Korea characterized the rocket test as a satellite launch, it was clearly an effort to develop a ballistic missile and violated four U.N. resolutions dating to 2006.”  (Image Credit: Sungwon Baik / VOA via Wikimedia  Commons)
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8 February 2016
Airbus Switches Engines For A321neo Maiden Flight

AirbusA320Neo_wiki.pngThe Wall Street Journal reports that Airbus has changed its plans to use engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney for the maiden flight of its A321neo jetliner, set to occur as early as this week, and will instead use engines developed by CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric and Safran. The article calls the engine switch for the maiden flight unusual given the length of time used in developing new jets. However, while Airbus said that the first A321neo with CFM engines will take flight “in the coming days,” the Pratt & Whitney-powered model will follow “in the coming weeks.” Airbus stated that “it doesn’t matter which engine comes first.” Bloomberg News notes that United Technologies CEO Greg Hayes “said in December that the cool-down process for the company’s geared turbofan engine powering the A320neo had issues, and that the problem would be addressed in February, with ‘more robustness’ to be introduced to some parts. (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
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8 February 2016
NRO Payload Expected To Be Launched From Vandenberg On Wednesday

ULADeltaIV_ReadyForLaunch_NASA.pngThe Santa Ynez Valley News reports that Vandenberg Air Force Base is “scheduled to launch a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload from Space Launch Complex-6 on Wednesday, with a launch window opening at 3:39 a.m. PDT.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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5 February 2016
Bill Seeks To Remove Air Traffic Control Operations From FAA

ATC-at-Dulles.jpgIn continuing coverage, the Washington Post reports that the FAA reauthorization bill that was introduced by House Republican leaders this week includes a proposal to move air traffic control (ATC) operations away from the FAA. According to the article, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx released a statement, which suggested that the Obama administration “has yet to decide whether to support” the proposal. On Tuesday during a meeting with reporters, Foxx said, “It’s important for me to leave room for our team to digest the ideas that are put out there.” He added, “I’ve been careful to say that while I’m not reflexively saying yes or no, I want to leave myself room to look dispassionately at what’s presented and to try to offer an opinion at some point that will reflect our best thinking.”  (Image: Dulles Airport ATC Tower. Credit: AIAA)
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4 February 2016
Private Space Launches Set To Surge In 2016

SpaceXFalcon9_OnLaunchpad_NASA.jpgReuters reports that private space companies such as SpaceX and United Launch Alliance are set to perform more than 30 launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station this year, signaling an increased demand for commercial communications and imaging satellites in addition to NASA and military missions. In a commercial space webcast on Wednesday, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said, “We want to be able to fly every week, for sure, if not multiple times in a week.” Meanwhile, Dale Ketcham, Space Florida business strategist, remarked on the launch rate, saying, “The last time we saw 30-plus launches would have been back in the 1960s.” (Image: SpaceX Falcon 9 on launch pad. Credit: NASA)
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4 February 2016
Super Bowl to be “No Drone Zone”

LevisStadium_Wiki.jpgNBC News reports that the FAA announced a prohibition on operating UAVs within a 32-mile radius of the Super Bowl stadium on game day. According to FAA regulations, the U.S. government “may use deadly force” against UAVs determined to be a security threat, while violating operators could face “civil penalties and criminal charges,” NBC reports. The Los Angeles Times reports that while the Super Bowl flight ban also applies to other aircraft besides UAVs, general aviation with approved flight plans are allowed within the 32-mile radius. The FAA is also instituting a “highly restricted” zone within a 10-mile radius of the stadium, where only “commercial aviation and law enforcement” may fly. (Image: Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Credit: Jim Bahn via Wikimedia Commons)
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3 February 2016
North Korea Declares Plans to Launch Satellite Into Orbit, Drawing Global Ire

NorthKoreanUnha-3rocket_Wiki.jpgThe New York Times reports that in “a new dare to the United States and its allies,” North Korea has notified the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) that it is planning to launch a payload-carrying multi-stage rocket into space on a yet-to-be specified date between February 8 and 25. According to the Times, Natasha Brown, spokeswoman for the specialized UN agency, which is responsible for navigational safety at sea, “said North Korea’s notification described the payload as an Earth observation satellite it called Kwangmyongsong, which translates as Lode Star.” The notification said that if the launch goes according to plan, the first stage of the rocket would fall in the waters situated west of South Korea, while the second stage would fall in the waters east of the Philippines. According to the Washington Post, despite North Korea’s “claims of a peaceful space program,” the rocket launch “would likely stir further alarm in the West and across Asia as another act of defiance by Pyongyang.” The article explains that while Pyongyang did not provide specific details about the rocket, the notification “raised concern that the launch could be an upgraded version of the Unha 3 booster launched in December 2012, carrying a satellite into orbit.” The Post adds that such a rocket “could signal improvements in multi-stage expertise that could have crossover applications for long-range ballistic missiles.”  (Image Credit: Sungwon Baik / VOA via Wikimedia  Commons)
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3 February 2016
ULA to Launch GPS Satellite On Friday In First 2016 Mission

Atlas5ReadyForLaunch.jpgSpaceflight Now reports that United Launch Alliance (ULA), set to kick off an “ambitious 2016,” is scheduled to launch its Atlas 5 rocket into orbit on Friday, deploying “the last satellite in the current generation of Global Positioning System navigation spacecraft,” the GPS 2F-12. The article notes that the GPS 2F-12 is “the 12th and final spacecraft built by Boeing for the Air Force under the Block 2F program,” which features “improved accuracy, better anti-jamming and longer design lives than previous designs.” Colonel Steve Whitney, director of the Air Force’s Global Positioning Systems Directorate, remarked, “This mission will signify an end of an era with completion of the 2F series and exemplify the historic milestone and achievement for all of us involved.” (Image Credit: NASA via Wikimedia Commons)
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2 February 2016
Amazon Testing UAV Deliveries In The Netherlands

Google_ProjectWing_Testing.jpgFortune reports that on Monday during a Washington Post event, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that his company is testing Prime Air UAVs in the Netherlands, as well as in Canada and the UK. According to the article, the FAA has placed restrictions on commercial UAV use, making it difficult for Amazon to roll out its Prime Air service in the U.S. While the FAA granted Amazon approval to test unmanned aircraft in April, the company is restricted from flying UAVs at night or outside the line of sight of the operator. Meanwhile, on Monday, Dutch law enforcement officials said that they are considering using eagles rather than weaponry or UAV-tracking technology to prevent unmanned aircraft from flying into restricted airspace. (Image Credit: YouTube/Amazon)
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2 February 2016
Washington Post Analysis: Investors Betting On Commercial Space Sector

SpaceXLaunch_Wiki.jpgIn an analysis, the Washington Post reported that following recent high-profile breakthroughs led by entrepreneurs Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson, “the commercial space sector has started to capture the public imagination and make space travel cool again.” The article noted that while “getting investors to place a bet is perhaps one of the greatest hurdles of all” for spaceflight companies, with the recent “revolutionary advancements” within the industry, an enterprise such as SpaceX can now “afford to turn money away.” Steve Jurvetson, partner at Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm DFJ, which was asked “to kindly hold off” during the latest round of SpaceX funding, remarked that following years of stagnation, “the commercial space industry is enormous and ripe for disruption,” contending that “a 100-fold improvement is actually a piece of cake,” while “a thousand-fold improvement is feasible.” (Image: First-ever SpaceX launch from Space Launch Complex-4, Sept. 29, 2013. Credit: U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia Commons)
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1 February 2016
Boeing 737 MAX Completes Maiden Flight

Boeing737Max.jpgUSA Today reported that on Friday, Boeing’s new 737 MAX jetliner took off on its maiden flight from an airfield in Renton, Washington, “ushering in the next chapter for the aerospace giant’s longest-running and best-selling airplane.” In a post-flight press conference following the aircraft’s landing three hours after take-off at nearby Boeing Field in Seattle, pilots manning the flight “praised the jet’s handling and performance.” Test pilot Craig Bonben remarked that the jet “flew beautifully, the engines were extremely quiet,” adding that “there weren’t any problems.” The article noted that the first jet, coined the “Spirit of Renton,” “will soon be joined by four other 737 MAX aircraft in a rigorous flight test and certification program expected to be completed in 2017.” Bloomberg News explained that the nickname is “a reference to the Seattle suburb where Boeing has made single-aisle aircraft since the 1950s.” Keith Leverkuhn, vice president and general manager of the 737 MAX program at Boeing, said, “It is an emotional experience,” adding, “Someone said these things are like comet sightings. They don’t happen very often and when they do, it’s very, very special.” (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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29 January 2016
Japan Reveals First Stealth Fighter

JapaneseStealthFighter.pngThe Wall Street Journal that on Thursday, Japan’s Ministry of Defense unveiled the first-ever Japanese-built stealth fighter jet featuring radar-evasion technology, with the aim of closing the gap with neighboring Russia and China, who have flown such aircraft for more than five years. According to the Journal, the experimental $340 million X-2 is smaller than a typical fighter, unarmed and has under-powered engines, causing some analysts to suggest that Japan intends to use the prototype to signal its aspirations to develop a stealth aircraft in partnership with the U.S. and other international allies. Aerospace analyst Yoshitomo Aoki explained, “In order to participate in a project as an equal partner, Japan has to offer knowledge, experience or technologies worthy of an equal partner.” The AP reports that the red-and-white fighter, which has a 45-foot-long fuselage and a 30-foot-long wingspan, “is expected to make its maiden test flight in February.” (Image Credit: AFP/YouTube)
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29 January 2016
Musk Wants to Go to ISS, Launch Mars Missions by 2025

ElonMusk.pngGeekWire reports that at the StartmeupHK Festival in Hong Kong this week, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk “said he’d unveil his detailed plan for sending settlers to Mars in September at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico.” During a panel session, Musk told moderator Kristie Lu Stout of CNN International that personally “going to the space station would be nice,” and that he would hope to do so “maybe four or five years from now.” Musk added that “he was hoping to start flights to Mars around 2025.” When asked about the short time frame, Musk replied, “Well, nine years,” adding. “Seems like a long time to me.” (Image Credit: Heisenberg Media - Flickr: Elon Musk - The Summit 2013, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
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28 January 2016
Patent Application Shows Google Drone Delivery Differs Considerably from Amazon Prime Air

AmazonPrimeAir_Drone.jpgFortune reports that Google filed for a patent this week for a wheeled receptacle to receive drone deliveries, which would help drones avoid hazards like trees or homes, in addition to ensuring orders aren’t placed on wet grass. Fortune notes that Google’s patent application and Amazon’s Prime Air plans, as shown in a recent commercial, are “notably different.” Amazon’s plans involve its drones leaving a package on a small mat in the backyard, which might be more convenient, but Google’s patent application explains that delivering packages to doorsteps or backyards could be risky. The patent application says that the drones’ propellers could potentially harm pets or damage power lines, or the drones may not be able to find a safe landing spot. The Verge and PC Magazine also report on Google’s patent application.  (Image Credit: YouTube/X: The Moonshot Factory)
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28 January 2016
Airbus Helicopters Flies Second H160 Prototype

AirbusHelicoptersH160_AirbusGroup.pngFlightglobal reports that “Airbus Helicopters has flown the second prototype of its new medium-class H160 rotorcraft – the first to be equipped with the new 1,100-1,300shp (820-969kW) Turbomeca Arrano engines that will power production models.” Flightglobal explains that “its initial flight-test article – which uses the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210 powerplants now dropped from the programme – had accumulated 75h by the end of 2015 since first taking to the skies in early June.” According to Bernard Fujarski, head of the H160 program, “After a very busy year [in] 2015, in terms of flight activities, introducing PT2 is an important step in the H160’s development as we will launch performance testing with the Turbomeca Arrano engines.” (Image Credit: Airbus/YouTube)
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27 January 2016
Lufthansa Partners with DJI to Provide UAV Monitoring Services

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgThe Wall Street Journal reports that on Tuesday, German carrier Lufthansa disclosed that it has agreed to collaborate with China-based DJI Technology, the largest UAV manufacturer in the world, to develop unmanned aircraft technology for commercial purposes. According to the airline, its subsidiary Lufthansa Aerial Services intends to offer DJI-developed UAVs equipped with thermal-imaging technology to allow its customers to monitor key infrastructure assets such as electricity lines, roads, railways and above-ground pipelines. Andreas Jahnke, managing director of Lufthansa Consulting, remarked, “Lufthansa will offer clients a one-stop UAV-shop.” Reuters also reports on the story.  (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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27 January 2016
U.S. Air Force Awards Boeing $6 Million Rocket Technology Research Contract

RocketLaunch_NASA.pngSpace News reports that the U.S. Air Force has awarded “$6.1 million to Boeing Network & Space Systems and $3.6 million to Arctic Slope Regional Corp. to perform rocket technology research.” The article explains that the contracts “are part of a broader effort to help end reliance on a Russian rocket engine used for launching national security satellites.” Defense Daily reports that the contracts were awarded under the Air Force’s Booster Propulsion Technology Maturation Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) solicitation, which also awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman in 2015. (Image Credit: NASA)
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26 January 2016
U.S. Air Force Certifies Upgraded Falcon 9 to Launch Military Satellites

SpaceXFalcon9_OnLaunchpad_NASA.jpgSpaceflight Now reports that the U.S. Air Force has certified the latest version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, “featuring higher-thrust engines, enlarged fuel tanks and a super-chilled propellant mixture, for launches of the military’s most valuable satellites.” The formal sign-off of the rocket “clears up any question that the modified launcher is eligible to compete for national security launch contracts.” All future Falcon 9 launches will include the latest iteration of the booster, “which debuted Dec. 21 with the launch of 11 Orbcomm message relay satellites from Cape Canaveral.” Space News reports that the upgrade includes “increased thrust, an improved stage separation system and a stretched upper stage that can hold additional propellant.” (Image: SpaceX Falcon 9 on launch pad. Credit: NASA)
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26 January 2016
Boeing Prepares for First Flight of 737 Max On Friday

Boeing737Max.jpgReuters reports that Boeing has set the first flight of the 737 Max for Friday. Boeing previously announced that it planned to make the first flight of the next generation of Boeing’s 737 aircraft in the first quarter of 2016. Boeing said that it has finished key development steps and has readied the plane for its first takeoff. The flight may be delayed due to weather or other conditions. The 737s are due to be delivered starting in 2017. (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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26 January 2016
Blue Origin to Increase Frequency of New Shepard Suborbital Test Flights

BlueOrigin_Shepard_FirstFliight_YouTube.jpgSpace News reports that Blue Origin plans to increase the frequency of future test flights of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle following the successful completion of two flights in two months. Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson said in a January 25 interview that the company is reviewing data from the most recent flight, but initial indications suggest the vehicle performed as expected. He said, “We expected to shorten” the turnaround time between future test flights “over time this year, and fly this vehicle again and again.” Meyerson added that the company plans to perform “dozens” of test flights of the New Shepard over the next few years, “with hardware and software modifications as needed between flights.” Blue Origin also plans to start carrying uncrewed research payloads on New Shepard later this year. (Image Credit: YouTube/Blue Origin)
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22 January 2016
Amazon Provides Details On UAV Delivery Program

AmazonPrimAir__Amazon-YouTube.jpgQuartz reports that Amazon’s “quest for 30-minute delivery by drone doesn’t just face an uphill battle with regulators, who in the US and elsewhere are still grappling with the challenge of ensuring airspace is kept safe in the age of unmanned shipment services.” Quartz adds that consumers have also expressed concerns about noise levels, privacy, and the associated dangers from crashing drones. Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president for global public policy, said during a recent interview with Yahoo Tech’s David Pogue “that sound-dampening is one of the ‘cool’ engineering challenges that Amazon’s drone program – dubbed Amazon Prime Air – will tackle.” He also said that these aircraft apparently will be sporting “sense-and-avoid technology.”  (Image Credit: YouTube/Amazon)
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22 January 2016
SpaceX Releases Footage of Crew Dragon “Hover Test”

SpaceXHoverTest.pngMashable reports that SpaceX has released video footage from November showing its Crew Dragon capsule performing a “hover test,” with the spacecraft’s SuperDraco thrusters “allowing the vehicle to hover for about five seconds under its own power.” SpaceX, which is conducting the tests under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said that the “jet packs” generated “approximately 33,000 lbs of thrust before returning the vehicle to its resting position.” The article notes that SpaceX “wants to use this kind of Dragon to bring astronauts to and from the International Space Station.” Meanwhile, NASA explained in a blog post that the thrusters “would be used to slow the vehicle’s return to Earth through the atmosphere and ultimately set the spacecraft and its crew down gently.” Gizmodo also reports on the story. (SpaceX/YouTube)
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21 January 2016
Scientists Find Evidence for Planet Nine

FwdLookingInfared_Wiki.pngThe New York Times reports that on Wednesday, two astronomers at the California Institute of Technology revealed that they have found compelling evidence indicating the existence of a ninth planet in our solar system. In a study published in The Astronomical Journal, Caltech professors Michael E. Brown and Konstantin Batygin “laid out a detailed circumstantial argument for the planet’s existence in what astronomers have observed: a half-dozen small bodies in distant elliptical orbits.” According to the researchers, the odds that the peculiar orbital movements of these six bodies would occur by chance are about 1 in 14,000, suggesting that a ninth planet could be gravitationally keeping them in orbit. In addition, the scientists estimate that the planet likely has a mass equal to 10 times that of Earth and that its orbit puts it between 20 to 100 billion miles away from the sun. The AP adds that the “long-hypothesized Planet X” is so remote “that it would take a mind-blowing 10,000 to 20,000 years to circle the sun,” but notes that the planet “hasn’t been spotted yet.” Brown told the AP, “We could have stayed quiet and quietly spent the next five years searching the skies ourselves and hoping to find it,” adding, “But I would rather somebody find it sooner, than me find it later.” (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)
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21 January 2016
Airbus Completes A320neo Delivery to Lufthansa

AirbusA320Neo_wiki.pngThe Wall Street Journal reports that after missing its year-end deadline due to aircraft documentation issues, on Wednesday, Airbus completed the very first delivery of its newest jetliner, the A320neo, to Lufthansa. In a statement, Carsten Spohrsaid, CEO of the German carrier, which has ordered 101 jets from Airbus, said, “We are pleased to be the first airline in the world to take possession of the Airbus A320neo today.” According to the Journal, the France-based jet manufacturer has already landed 4,400 orders for the new aircraft, making it the company’s fastest selling jetliner thus far. Bloomberg News reports that the A320neo, which stands for “new engine option,” provides airlines with “15 percent greater fuel efficiency now and 20 percent by 2020 through planned upgrades.” In addition, despite its recent introduction, “some 95 percent of the plane matches current A320s, a manufacturing strategy that helps integrate new versions into airline fleets.” (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
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20 January 2016
NASA Glenn Research Center Celebrates 75 Years Of Scientific, Economic Achievements

NASAGlennResearchCenter.pngThe Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that NASA’s Glenn Research Center is celebrating its 75th anniversary this month, noting that over time, researchers at Glenn “have done acclaimed work on propulsion, communications, safety and many other technologies crucial to flight.” Remarking on its low profile, Larry Ross, who worked at the center from 1963 to 1995, said, “It’s often been described as one of the best-kept secrets in Cleveland,” adding, “We at the center did a lousy job of promoting it.” Still, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) maintained that, “It would be almost impossible to overstate NASA Glenn’s importance to northern Ohio.” A report from Cleveland State University indicates that with a $612.5 million budget in fiscal 2014, Glenn helped generate $1.382 billion in revenue across Ohio, including $1.253 billion in Northeast Ohio where it is located. (Image: Aerial View of Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field - GPN-2000-002008. Credit: NASA via Wikimedia Commons)
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19 January 2016
SpaceX Launches NOAA Satellite, Unable to Land Rocket at Sea

SpaceXFalcon9_Launches_Jason3_CreditNASA.pngThe New York Times reports that on Sunday, SpaceX successfully sent a Jason-3 ocean-monitoring satellite into orbit atop of its two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, adding that following the launch, SpaceX’s attempt “to recover one of its rockets by landing it on a platform in the ocean failed in a ball of fire.” According to the Times, while the first-stage booster was able to make its descent atop of the droneship in the Pacific Ocean, “a problem with one of its four legs sent it toppling over.” Bloomberg News notes that SpaceX’s primary mission on Sunday was to launch a Jason-3 ocean-monitoring satellite, “a project led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and two European partners,” which will “track sea-level change for purposes such as improved hurricane forecasting.” The article adds that following the failed landing attempt, Musk tweeted, “Definitely harder to land on a ship,” explaining, “Much smaller target area.” On its website, NBC News adds that video footage “showed the rocket had descended with pinpoint accuracy onto the drone ship before a landing leg buckled, causing the booster to tip over and explode.” In a Twitter post, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote that the “lockout collet on one of the rocket’s four legs didn’t latch, leading to the mishap.” Musk explained, “Root cause may have been ice buildup due to condensation from heavy fog at liftoff.” (Image Credit: NASA/JPL)
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15 January 2016
NASA Selects SpaceX, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada For 8-Year Commercial Resupply Contracts

SpaceXFalcon9_OnLaunchpad_NASA.jpgThe Wall Street Journal reports that on Thursday, NASA announced that it had selected incumbent contractors SpaceX and Orbital ATK, as well as newcomer Sierra Nevada, to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS) over the next eight years, through 2024. NASA officials said that under the new plan, which calls for about four supply flights per year, each company would be responsible for at least six total cargo missions to the ISS, with additional missions to be awarded later. According to the officials, while the new cargo missions will have a fixed price, the contracts, with a total value of up to $14 billion, were designed to provide suppliers with flexibility in terms of price, schedule and mission assurance. Ars Technica reports that according to Jim Muncy, a space policy consultant and commercial space industry advocate, “NASA investing in three different ways of delivering experiments and supplies to the ISS is more evidence that the agency is committed to opening up the Space Station and low-Earth orbit to new commercial and scientific uses.” (Image: SpaceX Falcon 9 on launch pad. Credit: NASA)
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14 January 2016
Airline Pilots Over Relying On Automated Flight Systems

AirlinePilots_Wiki.pngThe Washington Post reports, in continuing coverage, on a recent Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report, which found that the FAA is failing to ensure that pilots are capable of flying planes without having to rely on automated systems. “While airlines have long used automation safely to improve efficiency and reduce pilot workload, several recent accidents, including the July 2013 crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214, have shown that pilots who typically fly with automation can make errors when confronted with an unexpected event or transitioning to manual flying,” the OIG said in a letter to the FAA. The NTSB found that the Asiana flight crew’s reliance on automation contributed to the crash. “We’ve recommended that pilots have more opportunity to practice manually flying the aircraft,” said the NTSB’s Robert Sumwalt. “We talked about the pilot’s overreliance on the auto throttle system” in the NTSB crash report, he said, adding, “The general rule of thumb is that any time you’re not sure what the automation is doing, you should disconnect and fly manually.”  Forbes notes that the OIG “also found only two of the nine carriers it visited analyzed data to determine the extent pilots are using autopilot in daily operations which FAA estimates at about 90% of the time despite the fact no industry-wide analysis exists to confirm that number.” (Image Credit: Alex Pereslavtsev via Wikimedia Commons)
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14 January 2016
U.S. Air Force Seeks Proposals For New Airborne Sensors

FwdLookingInfared_Wiki.pngMilitary & Aerospace Electronics reports that on Tuesday, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, issued a notice for the Airborne Sensors for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance project, which “focuses on airborne sensor applications like signals intelligence (SIGINT) and geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) using electro-optical (EO), infrared (IR), multispectral imaging, and hyperspectral imaging sensor technologies, as well as ground-surveillance radar, full motion video, light detection and ranging (LIDAR), and on-board data fusion.” According to the article, proposals in response to the notice “should assume the target aircraft for such technologies are the MQ-9 Reaper medium-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a business jet, and RQ-4 Global-Hawk long-range UAV.” (Image: Forward looking infrared. Credit: David.Monniaux via Wikimedia Commons)
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13 January 2016
Musk Confirms Plans to Land Rocket On Droneship

SpaceXBoosterLanding_Apr2015_SpaceX.jpgCNN reports that in a tweet on Monday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk confirmed that his company will attempt to launch and land a rocket on a platform at sea on January 17, writing, “Aiming to launch this weekend and (hopefully) land on our droneship.” Musk explained in a separate tweet, “Ship landings needed for high velocity missions.” Business Insider adds that “as Musk points out, a ship landing is critical for the missions that require really fast launch speeds.” According to the article, if SpaceX is able to safely land the rocket on the droneship, “it would be another success in furthering a revolution in space exploration,” which could potentially save the company millions of dollars through reusable rocket launches. International Business Times notes that the droneship barge is called “Just Read the Instructions” and measures 150 feet by 250 feet. (Image Credit: SpaceX)
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13 January 2016
Airbus Develops Counter-UAV System

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgThe Daily Mail reports that Airbus has developed a counter-UAV system that is capable of disabling an unmanned aerial vehicle in a monitored area by jamming its signal. According to the article, the system also has the ability to locate the operator of the device. Thomas Müller, head of the Electronics business unit at Airbus Defence and Space, explained that development of the system was prompted after “small drones have revealed a security gap with regards to critical installations such as military barracks, airports or nuclear plants.” The article adds that the system has been tested at Airbus’ facilities and during presentations in Germany and France. (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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13 January 2016
ESA, NASA Astronauts to Perform ISS Spacewalk During “Night Pass”

TimKopra_Dec2015Spacewalk_CreditNASA.pngAFP reports that according to NASA, the ESA’s Tim Peake and NASA’s Tim Kopra are set to perform a spacewalk on Friday in the dark to replace a malfunctioning power unit at the International Space Station (ISS), an excursion expected to take 6.5 hours. For the spacewalk, Peake and Kopra will have to carry a rectangular voltage regulator, a device that weighs 200 pounds on Earth, for 200 feet to the work site. In a press briefing, Paul Dum, lead spacewalk officer for NASA, explained, “It’s about as far at the space station as you can go from the airlock, which certainly raises the pucker factor for the crew.” According to the article, since NASA is unsure about the causes of the power unit failure, “they want the astronauts to avoid any danger from potential sparks by doing the work when the space station is doing a night pass.”   The Guardian adds that the spacewalk is “the first for a British astronaut with the European Space Agency.” (Image: NASA astronaut Tim Kopra during a spacewalk on Dec. 21, 2015. Credit: NASA)
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12 January 2016
“Starman” David Bowie Mourned by Astronauts, Scientists, Celebrities

DavidBowie_Wiki.pngThe New York Times reports that the death of rock legend David Bowie “reverberated across Britain and the world” on Monday, as fans gathered en masse outside his childhood home in London “to express their deep and abiding affection for Mr. Bowie, a local hero whose gender-bending swagger and convention-busting music inspired generations of fans and provided a soundtrack for their lives.” Numerous celebrities and public figures, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, Tony Blair, Madonna, and Kanye West, also chose to pay tribute to the musical pioneer. Meanwhile, in a tweet sent from the International Space Station, British astronaut Tim Peake said, “Saddened to hear David Bowie has lost his battle with cancer,” adding, “His music was an inspiration to many.” According to the Times, Peake has received the nickname Major Tim, “a nod to Mr. Bowie’s fictional astronaut Major Tom, who was immortalized in the song ‘Space Oddity.’”  The AP reports that a tribute from outer space “seemed fitting,” noting that with his unique and otherworldly demeanor, “Bowie often seemed like a creature from another planet, the ‘Starman’ of one of his 1970s hits.” (Image Credit: Adam Bielawski via Wikimedia Commons)
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12 January 2016
Google Says UAV Deliveries Could Begin Within One Year

Google_ProjectWing_Testing.jpgCNN reports that Davis Vos, the head of Google’s “Project Wing” initiative, said that it will be possible to deliver goods to customers via UAV within the next one to three years. CNN explains that “Google is currently working with NASA to create an air traffic control system that would allow for the safe operation of drones in the United States airspace.” On Monday, Vos said that “there is room for commercial drones in the already busy airspace” and that “it is developing the technology to be even safer than general aviation.” CNN points out that Google’s vision is contingent upon the FAA, which “is expected to finalize rules for commercial drones sometime this year,” and that an early draft of the rules would allow for UAVs “to be flown within the user’s line of sight, which would be extremely restrictive for companies looking to make deliveries by drone.” (Image Credit: Google/YouTube)
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11 January 2016
AIAA SciTech 2016: NASA Sees Proposed Moon Orbiting Station As Step Toward Mars

CislunarSpacePanel_SciTech2016.jpgThe Wall Street Journal reported that government and industry officials attending AIAA SciTech 2016 said that NASA and its contract partners are developing preliminary plans for a manned spacecraft to orbit the moon by 2024, the year the International Space Station (ISS) is set to retire. According to the Journal, speakers on the panel, “Research Enabling and Enabled by a Cis-Lunar One-Year Mission,” told attendees that the proposed missions aboard the spacecraft would initially last for a month, extending to yearlong ventures into cislunar space by 2030, which would set up the building blocks for an eventual three-year round-trip manned mission to Mars. The article also noted that while NASA officials have previously spoken in general about the logistics of reaching Mars, the January 8 panel at AIAA SciTech 2016 provided some of the most detailed technical and policy recommendations thus far regarding a slow, step-by-step approach for reaching the Red Planet. (Image: AIAA)
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11 January 2016
AIAA SciTech 2016: NASA Progressing On Development of Hybrid Aircraft Engine

Boeing_CST-100.jpgSpaceflight Insider reported that as one of the two spaceflight companies participating in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), Boeing “is looking to take large strides in the development and production of their CST-100 ‘Starliner’ spacecraft in 2016.” According to the article, CCP astronauts Eric Boe and Bob Behnken “recently reviewed some of the systems that the Starliner will have incorporated into its design via a simulator,” and also “got an advanced peek at what are referred to as ‘trainers’ that will simulate how the spacecraft is expected to perform.” Boe remarked, “The trainers look great, and this visit gives us an opportunity to meet with the Boeing engineers,” adding, “We appreciate them allowing us to give input on these trainers so the devices are ready when they arrive at Johnson Space Center.” The article added that Boeing is set to meet a number of milestones during 2016 as well. (Image Credit: NASA)
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8 January 2016
AIAA SciTech 2016: NASA Progressing On Development of Hybrid Aircraft Engine

FutureAirplaneConcepts_NASA.jpgRT reports that at the ongoing AIAA SciTech 2016 forum, NASA is highlighting “the current state of its propulsion research.” The article specifies that at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, agency scientists and engineers “are looking at electrical systems that could either replace or complement the current turbine engines, turning electricity into thrust,” while adding that doing so “is not going to be simple.” Jim Heidmann, manager for the Advanced Air Transport Technology project at NASA, explained that switching toward “alternative systems requires creating new aircraft designs as well as propulsion systems.” Amy Jankovsky, sub-project lead engineer, added, “Part of our research is developing the lightweight machinery and electrical systems that will be required to make these systems possible.” Meanwhile, Cheryl Bowman, project technical lead, remarked, “Our work is laying a foundation for planes that will require less fossil fuel in the future.” (Image Credit: NASA)
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8 January 2016
Boeing Announces Record Delivery Numbers for 2015

Boeing737Max.jpgThe Wall Street Journal reports that on Thursday, Boeing announced that it delivered a record 762 jetliners in 2015, topping its delivery target of 755 and positioning the company as the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world for the fourth consecutive year, ahead of rival Airbus, which delivered 556 jets. According to the Journal, Boeing spearheaded its delivery growth through an increase in production of its narrow-body 737 jet, and its advanced long-haul 787 Dreamliner. However, its number of new net orders fell by nearly half for the year – dropping to 768 orders compared to the 1,432 orders secured in 2014 – as the company sought to match its delivery and order counts. Meanwhile, Airbus netted 1,000 new deals in 2015. Bloomberg News reports that the two rival companies have both increased their production outputs “to keep pace with sizable backlogs as global carriers upgrade their fleets amid surging demand for air travel.” (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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8 January 2016
SpaceX Planning to Perform Drone Ship Rocket Landing

SpaceXBoosterLanding_Apr2015_SpaceX.jpgOn its website, NBC News reports that SpaceX has confirmed that it intends to make history once again on January 17 by landing its Falcon 9 first-stage booster on a drone ship at sea after launching NASA’s Jason-3 satellite into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The article notes that SpaceX has previously attempted to land a rocket on a drone ship, “an automated seagoing landing platform,” explaining that “a last-minute failure saw the rocket topple over and explode in spectacular fashion.” According to the article, a mobile landing platform could provide “more flexibility in when and how launches can proceed,” and could also “conceivably be placed where it is safest or most fuel-efficient for the rocket to come down.” (Image Credit: SpaceX)
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8 January 2016
Analysis: NASA Must Partner Up for Mars Mission

MarsMission_JPLNASA.jpgIn an analysis, Bloomberg News reports that although NASA officials have said little about the total estimated cost of a mission to Mars, “analysts estimate that the tab could run anywhere from $100 billion to $1 trillion or more,” requiring the space agency to seek help from its international partners. The article notes that in December, Congress approved “$19.3 billion for the fiscal year 2016, with $3.3 billion tagged for [the Orion Capsule] and [the Space Launch System].” Meanwhile, Marco Caceres, senior analyst at the Teal Group, noted that NASA has been coy on the finances of a Mars mission, in part to avoid “scaring” lawmakers, and estimated that the trip to the red planet would cost at least $1 trillion. Similarly, Casey Dreier, advocacy director for The Planetary Society, explained that “everyone expects that a multinational coalition is going to be involved at some level.”  (Image Credit: NASA/JPL via Wikimedia Commons)
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7 January 2016
EHang Unveils World’s First Passenger UAV

EHang_184_AssociatedPress_2.jpgThe AP reports that China-based UAV developer EHang has released “what it calls the world’s first drone capable of carrying a human passenger.” According to the AP, the UAV is powered by electricity and resembles “a small helicopter but with four doubled propellers spinning parallel to the ground like other drones.” The system can be powered in two hours, can fly for 23 minutes at sea level, and includes a cabin capable of fitting one person inside. EHang co-founder and CFO Shang Hsiao said that the company intends to sell the device for a price ranging between $200,000 and $300,000, but added that the system is currently in a legal “grey area.” Chief Marketing Officer Derrick Xiong claims that the vehicle has flown over 100 times, with several flights including a passenger inside. The Daily Mail features a video of the UAV, known as the Ehang 184 AAV. (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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7 January 2016
FAA Says 181,000 UAVs Registered Since December 21

/DJIS800_AlexanderGlinz_via_WikimediaCommons.jpgThe Washington Post reports that according to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, more than 181,000 UAVs have been registered with the federal government since the agency opened the registry on December 21. Speaking on a panel during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Huerta said, “We’re encouraged by the registration numbers we’re seeing so far,” adding that “this is just the beginning.” The article notes that UAV owners have until January 20 to “take advantage of free registration; the $5 fee will come back to them as a refund.” Violators could face civil fines of up to $27,500, as well as potential criminal charges, if they don’t register their UAV.  (Image Credit: Alexander Glinz via Wikimedia Commons)
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7 January 2016
If You Set Out to Explore the Universe, Sound Technology Is a Must

SteveGaddis_AtAIAASciTech2016.jpgAs planetary exploration efforts ramp up in future years, we must ensure that we have the technology to make those explorations safe and successful, a panel of experts told attendees Jan. 6 at the 2016 AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition in San Diego. The panel, “Space Exploration Through Advancing Technologies,” brought together representatives from various NASA directorates to explain what technology is being developed and what technology still needs to be developed as various exploration efforts unfold. (Image: Steve Gaddis, director of the Game Changing Development Program at NASA moderates a panel discussion at AIAA SciTech 2016 in San Diego, CA. Credit: AIAA)
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6 January 2016
Ensuring Resilient Weapons Engineering That Can Keep Pace with Changing Threats

JefferyHolland_SciTech2016.jpgFrom its first flight in 1954, the B-52 has served as the dominant U.S. heavy bomber. It has been modified, retrofitted and upgraded since then to reflect changing missions and technologies, carrying gravity bombs to precision-guided missiles to drones. Could the Boeing-built bomber have been designed from the get-go to make those adaptations cheaper and quicker? Ensuring that the answer is a “yes” for all of the Pentagon’s weapons procurement was the topic of Jeffery Holland’s keynote speech Jan. 6 at the 2016 AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition in San Diego. (Image: Jeffery Holland, director, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, delivers remarks on January 6, at AIAA SciTech 2016, in San Diego, CA. Credit: AIAA)
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6 January 2016
Robert H. Liebeck Delivers AIAA 2016 Dryden Lectureship in Research

RobertLiebeck_SciTech2016.jpgRobert H. Liebeck, senior technical fellow at Boeing, delivered the 2016 AIAA Dryden Lectureship in Research on the evening of Jan. 5 at the AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition in San Diego. Robert H. Liebeck, senior technical fellow at Boeing, delivered the 2016 AIAA Dryden Lectureship in Research on the evening of Jan. 5 at the AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition in San Diego. The lecture was titled “Blended Wing Body Technology Readiness.” (Image: Dr. Robert H. Liebeck (left) receives Dryden Lectureship in Research medal on the evening of January 5, at AIAA SciTech 2016, in San Diego, CA. Credit: AIAA)
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5 January 2016
DJI Launches 2016 Developer Challenge, Announces New UAV Software Development Kit

DJIPhantom3_AssociatedPressAlexBrandon_Purchased.jpgIn a press release posted through PRNewswire, leading UAV company DJI announced on Monday that it had launched its third annual developer challenger, and unveiled the Mobile SDK 3.0, “a new version of the software development kit that will underpin the competition and facilitate creation of a more robust application ecosystem for drones.” According to the press release, the 2016 DJI Developer Challenge is focused on a “theoretical search-and-rescue mission,” features a $100,000 winning prize, and is “open to students and developers around the world.” (Image: DJI Phantom 3 drone. Credit: Associated Press–©)
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5 January 2016
Recovered SpaceX Booster Returns to Hangar

SpaceXBoosterInHangar_Wiki.jpgOn its website, the AP reports that the Falcon 9 rocket “is back in its nest following a historic landing,” adding that SpaceX “shared a picture of the returned booster Sunday,” shown lying horizontally inside a hangar at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The article notes that while SpaceX CEO Elon Musk “plans to fire the booster again in a test to demonstrate rocket reusability,” the rocket “won’t fly again, given its significance.” Still, according to the AP, SpaceX may perform another rocket landing “as early as next month on a space station supply run for NASA.” (Image Credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons)
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4 January 2016
FAA Expands Special Flight Rules Area to 30-Mile Radius Around Reagan National

DJIPhantom_AP_Purchased.jpgIn continuing coverage, the AP reported that the FAA has updated its guidance on where unmanned aircraft may not be flown in the Washington, DC, region. Whereas the agency “warned this summer that unmanned aircraft, such as drones and model aircraft, were prohibited within 15 miles of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport,” the agency’s website “now says they’re banned from Washington’s special flight rules area, a ring with a 30-mile radius encircling much of southern and central Maryland and northern Virginia.” The Washington Post reported that last week, the FAA “sent out a memo to dozens of model aircraft sites in the Washington area telling them that they needed to halt activity because some users were flying within the ‘special flight rules area’” around Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). According to the article, “the FAA announced that drones were subject to a 30-mile prohibition around National” in September. Yet model aircraft had been in place around DCA since September, and yet model aircraft hobbyists were still under the impression for months “that the rule was 15 miles,” at first thinking the FAA directive to be “a mistake.” (Image Credit: Associated Press–©)
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