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In an aviation first, Boeing drone refuels another aircraft in mid-air

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For the first time ever, an un-crewed aircraft has successfully refuelled another aircraft while both planes were in flight. In the test, Boeing’s MQ-25 T1 aerial tanker drone transferred jet fuel to a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Codenamed the Stingray by the Navy, the MQ-25 T1 was developed and built at Boeing’s facilities in St. Louis, Missouri, after the aerospace company won a US$805 million US Navy contract. The prototype drone made its first autonomous flight at the MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in 2019, although no refuelling was performed at that time.

Such was not the case on June 4th of this year, however, when the autonomously flying MQ-25 refuelled a piloted F/A-18 Super Hornet in mid-air. The fighter pilot started by flying in close formation below and behind the drone, at which point the MQ-25 released and extended its fuel-delivery drogue – this is essentially a funnel-like receptacle on the end of a long hose.

The pilot then moved in so that the drogue was able to couple with the F/A-18’s nose-mounted fuel probe, at which point jet fuel was transferred from the MQ-25 to the Super Hornet. According to Boeing, both aircraft were flying at “operationally relevant speeds and altitudes.”

The refuelling exercise came after 25 prior test flights of the MQ-25 T1
The refuelling exercise came after 25 prior test flights of the MQ-25 T1

Kevin Flynn

Ultimately, plans call for Stingray tanker drones to operate off of aircraft carriers, taking to the air to refuel passing F/A-18 Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers and F-35C Lightning II aircraft. That task is currently performed by piloted F/A-18s, which have to be removed from combat duty in order to do so.

“This history-making event is a credit to our joint Boeing and Navy team that is all-in on delivering MQ-25’s critical aerial refuelling capability to the fleet as soon as possible,” says Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

The MQ-25 T1 is now due to be shipped to Norfolk, Virginia, where it will the subject of aircraft carrier deck trials later this year.

You can watch the refuelling exercise for yourself, in the video below.

Boeing MQ-25 Becomes First Unmanned Aircraft to Refuel Another Aircraft

Source: Boeing

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Source: https://newatlas.com/drones/boeing-mq-25-drone-refuels-another-aircraft/

NEWATLAS

World’s first wooden satellite to launch later this year

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A first-of-a-kind spacecraft is set to make history later this year, but will do so using materials you could find at your local hardware store. The world’s first wooden satellite will enter orbit as a box made largely of birch plywood, which will be packed with sensors from the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the potential of the material in space.

The Woodsat is a CubeSat measuring around 10 cm (4 in) along each side, but what’s unique about this box-shaped miniature satellite is that the surface panels will be made from plywood. In fact, the only non-wooden parts featured on the outside are the corner aluminum railings that will help with its deployment once in space, along with a metal selfie stick.

The Woodsat is the brainchild of Finnish science journalist Jari Makinen, who also heads up a company called Arctic Astronauts that sells replica CubeSats for educational use and space hobbyists.

“I’ve always enjoyed making model planes, involving a lot of wooden parts,” says Makinen. “Having worked in the space education field, this got me wondering; why don’t we fly any wooden materials in space? So I had the idea first of all to fly a wooden satellite up to the stratosphere, aboard a weather balloon. That happened in 2017, with a wooden version of KitSat. That having gone well, we decided to upgrade it and actually go into orbit.”

Makinen has since secured commercial backing for a mission to space, and lined up a launch partner in Rocket Lab, which will supply its Electron booster for lift-off. ESA, meanwhile is working on a sensor suite that, along with the onboard cameras, will track the satellite’s performance in space.

The Woodsat features surface panels of birch plywood
The Woodsat features surface panels of birch plywood

ESA

One camera will be mounted to the selfie stick to capture images of the wooden surfaces, while also onboard will be an LED light, a sensor to monitor the pressure levels in the Woodsat’s cavities and a contamination sensor called a quartz crystal microbalance. This will track tiny deposits that take shape on the satellite coming from either the onboard electronics or the surface of the wood, which itself had to be treated in preparation for the mission.

“The main difference is that ordinary plywood is too humid for space uses, so we place our wood in a thermal vacuum chamber to dry it out,” explains Woodsat’s chief engineer Samuli Nyman. “Then we also perform atomic layer deposition, adding a very thin aluminum oxide layer – typically used to encapsulate electronics. This should minimize any unwanted vapors from the wood, known as ‘outgassing’ in the space field, while also protecting against the erosive effects of atomic oxygen. We’ll also be testing other varnishes and lacquers on some sections of the wood.”

The mission planners expect the Woodsat to survive this atomic oxygen, which forms near the fringes of the atmosphere when oxygen molecules are broken down by the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. They do, however, expect the wood to be darkened by this ultraviolet radiation as it orbits the planet at an altitude of around 500 to 600 km (310 to 372 miles). All going to plan, Woodsat will launch before the end of the year.

“In the end, Woodsat is simply a beautiful object in terms of traditional Nordic design and simplicity, it should be very interesting to see it in orbit,” says Makinen. “Our hope is it helps inspire people to take increased interest in satellites and the space sector as something that already touches all our lives, and is only going to get bigger in future.”

Source: ESA

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Source: https://newatlas.com/space/world-first-wooden-satellite-woodsat/

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NEWATLAS

World’s first wooden satellite to launch later this year

Published

on

A first-of-a-kind spacecraft is set to make history later this year, but will do so using materials you could find at your local hardware store. The world’s first wooden satellite will enter orbit as a box made largely of birch plywood, which will be packed with sensors from the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the potential of the material in space.

The Woodsat is a CubeSat measuring around 10 cm (4 in) along each side, but what’s unique about this box-shaped miniature satellite is that the surface panels will be made from plywood. In fact, the only non-wooden parts featured on the outside are the corner aluminum railings that will help with its deployment once in space, along with a metal selfie stick.

The Woodsat is the brainchild of Finnish science journalist Jari Makinen, who also heads up a company called Arctic Astronauts that sells replica CubeSats for educational use and space hobbyists.

“I’ve always enjoyed making model planes, involving a lot of wooden parts,” says Makinen. “Having worked in the space education field, this got me wondering; why don’t we fly any wooden materials in space? So I had the idea first of all to fly a wooden satellite up to the stratosphere, aboard a weather balloon. That happened in 2017, with a wooden version of KitSat. That having gone well, we decided to upgrade it and actually go into orbit.”

Makinen has since secured commercial backing for a mission to space, and lined up a launch partner in Rocket Lab, which will supply its Electron booster for lift-off. ESA, meanwhile is working on a sensor suite that, along with the onboard cameras, will track the satellite’s performance in space.

The Woodsat features surface panels of birch plywood
The Woodsat features surface panels of birch plywood

ESA

One camera will be mounted to the selfie stick to capture images of the wooden surfaces, while also onboard will be an LED light, a sensor to monitor the pressure levels in the Woodsat’s cavities and a contamination sensor called a quartz crystal microbalance. This will track tiny deposits that take shape on the satellite coming from either the onboard electronics or the surface of the wood, which itself had to be treated in preparation for the mission.

“The main difference is that ordinary plywood is too humid for space uses, so we place our wood in a thermal vacuum chamber to dry it out,” explains Woodsat’s chief engineer Samuli Nyman. “Then we also perform atomic layer deposition, adding a very thin aluminum oxide layer – typically used to encapsulate electronics. This should minimize any unwanted vapors from the wood, known as ‘outgassing’ in the space field, while also protecting against the erosive effects of atomic oxygen. We’ll also be testing other varnishes and lacquers on some sections of the wood.”

The mission planners expect the Woodsat to survive this atomic oxygen, which forms near the fringes of the atmosphere when oxygen molecules are broken down by the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. They do, however, expect the wood to be darkened by this ultraviolet radiation as it orbits the planet at an altitude of around 500 to 600 km (310 to 372 miles). All going to plan, Woodsat will launch before the end of the year.

“In the end, Woodsat is simply a beautiful object in terms of traditional Nordic design and simplicity, it should be very interesting to see it in orbit,” says Makinen. “Our hope is it helps inspire people to take increased interest in satellites and the space sector as something that already touches all our lives, and is only going to get bigger in future.”

Source: ESA

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Source: https://newatlas.com/space/world-first-wooden-satellite-woodsat/

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NEWATLAS

World’s first wooden satellite to launch later this year

Published

on

A first-of-a-kind spacecraft is set to make history later this year, but will do so using materials you could find at your local hardware store. The world’s first wooden satellite will enter orbit as a box made largely of birch plywood, which will be packed with sensors from the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the potential of the material in space.

The Woodsat is a CubeSat measuring around 10 cm (4 in) along each side, but what’s unique about this box-shaped miniature satellite is that the surface panels will be made from plywood. In fact, the only non-wooden parts featured on the outside are the corner aluminum railings that will help with its deployment once in space, along with a metal selfie stick.

The Woodsat is the brainchild of Finnish science journalist Jari Makinen, who also heads up a company called Arctic Astronauts that sells replica CubeSats for educational use and space hobbyists.

“I’ve always enjoyed making model planes, involving a lot of wooden parts,” says Makinen. “Having worked in the space education field, this got me wondering; why don’t we fly any wooden materials in space? So I had the idea first of all to fly a wooden satellite up to the stratosphere, aboard a weather balloon. That happened in 2017, with a wooden version of KitSat. That having gone well, we decided to upgrade it and actually go into orbit.”

Makinen has since secured commercial backing for a mission to space, and lined up a launch partner in Rocket Lab, which will supply its Electron booster for lift-off. ESA, meanwhile is working on a sensor suite that, along with the onboard cameras, will track the satellite’s performance in space.

The Woodsat features surface panels of birch plywood
The Woodsat features surface panels of birch plywood

ESA

One camera will be mounted to the selfie stick to capture images of the wooden surfaces, while also onboard will be an LED light, a sensor to monitor the pressure levels in the Woodsat’s cavities and a contamination sensor called a quartz crystal microbalance. This will track tiny deposits that take shape on the satellite coming from either the onboard electronics or the surface of the wood, which itself had to be treated in preparation for the mission.

“The main difference is that ordinary plywood is too humid for space uses, so we place our wood in a thermal vacuum chamber to dry it out,” explains Woodsat’s chief engineer Samuli Nyman. “Then we also perform atomic layer deposition, adding a very thin aluminum oxide layer – typically used to encapsulate electronics. This should minimize any unwanted vapors from the wood, known as ‘outgassing’ in the space field, while also protecting against the erosive effects of atomic oxygen. We’ll also be testing other varnishes and lacquers on some sections of the wood.”

The mission planners expect the Woodsat to survive this atomic oxygen, which forms near the fringes of the atmosphere when oxygen molecules are broken down by the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. They do, however, expect the wood to be darkened by this ultraviolet radiation as it orbits the planet at an altitude of around 500 to 600 km (310 to 372 miles). All going to plan, Woodsat will launch before the end of the year.

“In the end, Woodsat is simply a beautiful object in terms of traditional Nordic design and simplicity, it should be very interesting to see it in orbit,” says Makinen. “Our hope is it helps inspire people to take increased interest in satellites and the space sector as something that already touches all our lives, and is only going to get bigger in future.”

Source: ESA

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Source: https://newatlas.com/space/world-first-wooden-satellite-woodsat/

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Liquid metal mirrors switch reflectivity on and off with a zap

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Engineers have found a way to make liquid metals switch between reflective surfaces or those that scatter light. The transition only requires a small zap of electricity and could be used to make mirrors that can be switched on or off.

Liquid metals conduct electricity and interact with heat and light in the same ways as their solid forms, but the added fluidity opens up a range of new devices that weren’t previously possible. In recent years the slippery shiny stuff has been used to make morphing electronics, stretchable wires, and better batteries.

And now, liquid metals might be able to add switchable reflectivity to their repertoire. Researchers from Kyushu University and North Carolina State University found that changing the voltage of electricity applied to liquid metal can make its surface change from reflective to scattering.

The electricity is oxidizing the metal, which causes its volume to change. That in turn produces a series of tiny “scratches” to appear on the surface, scattering the light randomly. To undo the changes and return the liquid metal to a reflective state, the magnitude of the voltage can be switched from negative to positive.

The switching can be done with a low voltage of just 1.4 V, on par with that used to power an LED. It can be done at room temperature and pressure too, all of which helps make it potentially useful for commercial applications, such as new electronic and optical components.

“In the immediate future this technology could be used to create tools for entertainment and artistic expression that have never been available before,” says Yuji Oki, lead researcher on the study. “With more development, it might be possible to expand this technology into something that works much like 3D printing for producing electronically controlled optics made of liquid metals. This could allow the optics used in light-based health testing devices to be easily and inexpensively fabricated in areas of the world that lack medical laboratory facilities.”

The research was published in the journal Optical Materials Express. The switching can be seen in action in the video below.

Dynamic Control of Reflective/Diffusive Optical Surfaces on Liquid Metal

Source: The Optical Society

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Source: https://newatlas.com/materials/liquid-metal-mirrors-reflectivity-switch/

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