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DoD focus on climate could shape future investments in weather satellites

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WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last month directed the Pentagon to develop plans to prepare for the impact of climate change and extreme weather. The new guidance is intended to shape policies and budgets over the next several years, including investments in satellites for weather monitoring.

“Every year we see the consequences of increasing incidents of flooding, drought, wildfires, and extreme weather events on our installations at home,” Austin said in a Jan. 28 statement. 

In 2019 alone, he said, 79 military bases suffered consequences of climate-related events.  

Austin’s directive came on the heels of a Jan. 27 White House executive order that said “climate considerations shall be an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security.”

To prepare for what could be more catastrophic climate effects in the future, DoD will conduct wargames and risk assessments, said Austin. “We will include the security implications of climate change in our risk analyses, strategy development and planning guidance.”

The specifics of how Austin’s guidance “breaks down into dollar amounts” have yet to be worked out, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters. He said it could take a few months to identify what resources might be needed.

The military unit primarily responsible for weather forecasting is the Air Force 14th Weather Squadron, based in Asheville, N.C. The squadron uses data from ground and space based sources to develop weather forecasts used to plan military operations and to determine climate change impacts.

Military weather satellites include the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program and the Electro-Optical/Infrared Weather System–Geostationary (EWS-G) which provide data to the 14th Weather Squadron. The U.S. Space Force is buying a new satellite called Weather System Follow-on-Microwave (WSF-M) and is evaluating concepts for a new Electro-Optical/Infrared Weather System constellation in low-Earth orbit.

A Space Force spokesman said the service currently “does not operate and is not developing capabilities specifically to monitor climate change” and will continue to work with civil agencies like NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to address weather surveillance needs.

The spokesman said the Space Force is considering future investments to improve weather monitoring in the Arctic, a region considered strategically important and where melting ice could cause significant disruption. The Air Force and the Space Force have installations across Alaska, Canada, and Greenland including satellite command and control stations, and a network of more than 50 early warning and missile defense radars. 

A study is under way to “determine if additional space-based capabilities are needed to monitor arctic conditions, or if ground-based capabilities will suffice,” the spokesman said.

Weather surveillance technologies 

Industry executives told SpaceNews that the new emphasis on climate change could create opportunities for the military to invest in advanced sensors and to take advantage of lower cost satellites. They point out that the Air Force for years struggled to replace aging weather satellites. Congress also has been critical over the years of the Air Force’s weather satellite programs.

As climate events become more extreme and impactful, the military will need more timely and more precise data, said Shawn Cochran, a business development executive at Raytheon Intelligence & Space.

He said the Space Force will be playing catchup after years of funding cuts to weather satellite programs. “No matter all the good intentions, any time there’s been austerity in budgets it seems they’ve raided the capabilities in weather to pay for other programs,” Cochran said. 

NASA is the nation’s lead agency for climate research and it would not make sense for DoD to duplicate existing efforts, said Cochran. DoD however could benefit from the innovation in low-flying satellites that provide more frequent observations, he said. 

Raytheon is one of three competitors in the Electro-Optical/Infrared Weather System program run by the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center. 

Raytheon, General Atomics and Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Associates are developing competing space sensors to provide global cloud characterization and theater weather imagery. 

Capt. Kaitlin Toner, spokesperson for the Space and Missile Systems Center, said the evaluation of prototypes should be completed in March, and one or two of the three proposals will be selected for further development. The plan is to deploy new satellites by 2025.

John Fisher, president of Brandywine Photonics, said new DoD investment could help fill weather data gaps at lower cost than was previously possible. 

Brandywine Photonics won an Air Force small business research contract to design a compact hyperspectral infrared sounding small satellite sensor to measure water vapor and temperature profiles. This technology can be used for military weather forecasts and for detecting greenhouse gases. 

“With the Biden administration, we expect to see much stronger support for dual-use infrared sounding and hyperspectral land imaging satellite payloads in the Space Force, National Reconnaissance Office, and the Space Development Agency,” Fisher said. 

Cheaper small satellites and launch, and availability of optical inter-satellite links to move data are key trends that DoD could tap to get fast and reliable weather data, said Fisher. A constellation of just 14 satellites could provide hourly revisits, he said. And with optical links, weather observations can be obtained in minutes.

SpaceNews

Source: https://spacenews.com/dod-focus-on-climate-could-shape-future-investments-in-weather-satellites/

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Virgin Galactic unveils new spaceship for its growing fleet

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Virgin Galactic has unveiled the company’s first SpaceShip III in its growing fleet, VSS Imagine.

The spaceship showcases Virgin Galactic’s innovation in design and astronaut experience. Imagine also demonstrates progress toward efficient design and production, as Virgin Galactic works to scale the business for the long-term.

VSS Imagine will commence ground testing, with glide flights planned for this summer from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

The livery design, finished entirely with a mirror-like material, reflects the surrounding environment, constantly changing colour and appearance as it travels from earth to sky to space.

Leveraging a modular design, the SpaceShip III class of vehicles are built to enable improved performance in terms of maintenance access and flight rate. This third generation of spaceship will lay the foundation for the design and manufacture of future vehicles.

As VSS Imagine begins ground testing, manufacturing will progress on VSS Inspire, the second SpaceShip III vehicle within the Virgin Galactic fleet. The introduction of the SpaceShip III class of vehicles is an important milestone in Virgin Galactic’s multi-year effort that targets flying 400 flights per year, per spaceport.

VSS Imagine is unveiled ahead of VSS Unity’s next test flight, which is planned for May 2021.

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, commented: “Today we unveiled our SpaceShip III class of vehicles, marking the beginning of the Virgin Galactic fleet. VSS Imagine and Inspire are stunning ships that will take our future astronauts on an incredible voyage to space, and their names reflect the aspirational nature of human spaceflight. Congratulations to our dedicated team who worked so brilliantly to achieve this milestone.”

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, added: “Virgin Galactic spaceships are built specifically to deliver a new, transforming perspective to the thousands of people who will soon be able to experience the wonder of space for themselves. As a SpaceShip III class of vehicle, Imagine is not just beautiful to look at, but represents Virgin Galactic’s growing fleet of spaceships. All great achievements, creations and changes start with an idea. Our hope is for all those who travel to space to return with fresh perspectives and new ideas that will bring positive change to our planet.”

www.virgingalactic.com

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/virgin-galactic-unveils-new-spaceship-for-its-growing-fleet/

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Hexcel joins ASCEND project

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Hexcel joins ASCEND project

Hexcel has announced its role within the recently launched UK-based project called ASCEND (Aerospace and Automotive Supply Chain Enabled Development) that will focus on developing high-rate manufacturing and processing technologies that will accelerate the development of new, lightweight advanced composite materials.

The composites company will join lead partner GKN Aerospace and 13 other project stakeholders in a collaboration across the UK supply chain to develop the technologies and automation equipment required to manufacture lightweight, more fuel-efficient structures for sustainable air mobility, aerospace, and automotive industries.

Hexcel will contribute to the ASCEND project framework, developing a new HexPly fast cure prepreg system that will significantly reduce component processing times compared to existing aerospace prepregs.

In addition to its new fast curing prepreg technology, Hexcel’s range of Liquid Composite Moulding (LCM) products will be incorporated into the ASCEND project work packages. The project will use both HiTape advanced unidirectional dry carbon reinforcements and HiMax multiaxial non-crimp fabrics reinforcements.

The ASCEND project will allow Hexcel to collaborate with Tier 1 companies, engineers, tooling specialists, and production equipment OEMs to deliver both prepreg and liquid composite moulding solutions that meet both the performance targets and satisfy the processing requirements for high-rate automated manufacture.

The technical integration enabled by the ASCEND project partnerships will ensure a complete understanding of customer performance and processing needs, coupled with the opportunity to industrialize new technologies utilizing the extensive capabilities of GKN’s Global Technology Centre in Bristol.

Paul Mackenzie, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Hexcel, said “We are  proud to be part of the ASCEND program, and we look forward to working with other leading companies as we develop processes and materials that help to make the next generation of sustainable air mobility, aerospace, and automotive vehicles possible. This project offers the perfect platform for Hexcel to collaborate and further develop our HexPly, HiMax, and HiTape technologies.”

The ASCEND partners working alongside Hexcel include Assyst Bulmer, Airborne, Cobham Mission Systems Wimborne, Cygnet Texkimp, DES Composites, FAR-UK, Hive Composites, LMAT, Loop Technology, McLaren Automotive, The National Composites Centre, Solvay Composite Technologies, Rafinex, and Sigmatex (UK).

Together, the group looks forward to delivering the material and automation innovations that will power more sustainable mobility solutions of the future.

www.hexcel.com

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes extends landing gear kits contract with Magellan

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes division has extended its component supply contract with Canada-based supplier Magellan Aerospace.

Under this long-term contract, Magellan will continue to supply landing gear kits and structural components for Boeing platforms such as the 737, 767, and 777.

The contract extension also shows that Magellan meets Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ cost, quality and performance requirements.

Magellan business development, marketing and contract vice-president Haydn Martin said: “Securing this major business extension for key Boeing platforms is foundational for our New York and Kitchener facilities as the aerospace industry works to recover from the impact of the global pandemic.

“The confidence that Boeing has placed in Magellan is significant and demonstrates our ability to offer our customers comprehensive and reliable solutions.”

For Boeing, the company is using a vertical integration strategy that leverages global resources in Ontario, New York City, and India.

It has also made significant investments across all its facilities regarding manufacturing technology and the workforce to enhance its competitiveness worldwide.

Magellan will deliver these kits and hardware from its facilities in Kitchener, Ontario and New York City, New York. The company will also produce an extra supply of kits to reduce production risk.

Deliveries will be made directly to Boeing’s assembly facilities in Renton and Everett, Washington, US.

Last month, Magellan signed a five-year renewal agreement with Avio Aero to supply magnesium and aluminium castings.

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Source: https://www.aerospace-technology.com/news/boeing-commercial-aircraft-magellan/

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ZeroAvia raises new funding for hydrogen-electric engine development

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Zero-emission aviation firm ZeroAvia has raised $24.3m in new funding to support the development of a 2MW hydrogen-electric engine.

Hong Kong-based venture capital firm Horizons Ventures, an existing investor, led the latest funding round and was joined by new investor British Airways.

Other investors, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Summa Equity, Shell Ventures, and SYSTEMIQ, also joined the financing.

The financing takes the company’s total private investment to more than $53m while the total funding raised is close to $74m since its formation.

ZeroAvia’s funding comes a few months after the UK Government, through the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), and Innovate UK, announced a $16.3m (£12.3m) grant to deliver a 19-seat hydrogen-electric powered aircraft in the market by 2023.

The new funding will accelerate the hydrogen-electric powertrain development for a ten to 20-seater regional aircraft.

ZeroAvia aims to commercialise the engine as early as 2024. The company aims to enter the more than 50-seater commercial aircraft segment by 2026.

The funding will also de-risk the company ambition to power a 100-seat single-aisle aircraft by 2030.

ZeroAvia CEO and founder Val Miftakhov said: “This new funding, in conjunction with our other recent milestones, will significantly accelerate our path to zero-emission solutions for larger regional aircraft at a commercial scale.

“With many airlines lining up and ready to make the shift to zero-emissions, we expect to see wide-scale adoption of this technology.”

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Source: https://www.aerospace-technology.com/news/zeroavia-electric-raising-funds/

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