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Navy, Boeing Make Aviation History with MQ-25 Becoming the First Unmanned Aircraft to Refuel Another Aircraft

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– MQ-25 T1 test asset refuels a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, demonstrating its aerial refueling mission for the first time

For the first time in history, the U.S. Navy and Boeing [NYSE: BA] have demonstrated air-to-air refueling using an unmanned aircraft – the Boeing-owned MQ-25™ T1 test asset – to refuel another aircraft.

During a test flight June 4, MQ-25 T1 successfully extended the hose and drogue from its U.S. Navy-issued aerial refueling store (ARS) and safely transferred jet fuel to a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, demonstrating the MQ-25 Stingray’s ability to carry out its primary aerial refueling mission.

“This team of professionals was integral in the successful flight,” said Rear Adm. Brian Corey, who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons.  “Over the next few years, we will work side-by-side with Boeing to deliver this capability that will greatly enhance the future carrier air wing.”

“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 refueling capability to the fleet as soon as possible,” said Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “Their work is the driving force behind the safe and secure integration of unmanned systems in the immediate future of defense operations.”

During the initial part of the flight, the F/A-18 test pilot flew in close formation behind MQ-25 to ensure performance and stability prior to refueling – a maneuver that required as little as 20 feet of separation between the MQ-25 T1 air vehicle and the F/A-18 refueling probe. Both aircraft were flying at operationally relevant speeds and altitudes. With the evaluation safely completed, the MQ-25 drogue was extended, and the F/A-18 pilot moved in to “plug” with the unmanned aircraft and receive the scheduled fuel offload.

The milestone comes after 25 T1 flights, testing both aircraft and ARS aerodynamics across the flight envelope, as well as extensive simulations of aerial refueling using MQ-25 digital models. MQ-25 T1 will continue flight testing prior to being shipped to Norfolk, Virginia, for deck handling trials aboard a U.S. Navy carrier later this year.

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Source: https://aero-space.eu/2021/06/09/navy-boeing-make-aviation-history-with-mq-25-becoming-the-first-unmanned-aircraft-to-refuel-another-aircraft/

Aerospace

Transportes Aeromar signs ATR aircraft propeller maintenance contract

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Mexican carrier Transportes Aeromar has awarded a contract to Piedmont Propulsion Systems to support its next-generation ATR 42 and 72 aircraft fleet.

As part of the multi-year contract, Piedmont Propulsion Systems will provide complete propeller maintenance for the aircraft.

The financial details of the contract have not been disclosed.

Transportes Aeromar procurement and supply chain manager Javier Tellez Vidal said: “After a competitive market study of the alternatives, the decision to choose Piedmont Propulsion Systems made both technical and financial sense for us.”

Piedmont Propulsion Systems is a wholly owned subsidiary of First Aviation Services and a verified propeller maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) provider.

It offers new proprietary replacement parts and repairs certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The company’s customer base includes Air Canada Jazz, WestJet, Lion Air Group, FedEx Express, Lufthansa Technik, Bombardier Aerospace and the US Department of Defence.

Last month, it became an independent MRO facility to offer complete major inspection support for the Model 568F propeller, including the removal and re-application of the blade compression wrap.

The propeller is fitted on the Next-Gen ATR turboprop aircraft family.

Piedmont Propulsion Systems general manager Sammy Oakley said: “Piedmont Propulsion Systems has invested extensively in the ATR/568F platform which allows us to provide significant cost savings for our customers. We’re excited to continue and grow our relationship with Javier Tellez and his team.”

Headquartered in Westport, Connecticut, First Aviation Services provides component repair and overhaul, PMA parts manufacturing and spare part management for the global aviation industry.

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Source: https://www.aerospace-technology.com/news/transportes-aeromar-atr-contract/

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Report: Space Force has to prepare for operations beyond Earth’s orbit

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Col. Eric Felt: ‘Operating spacecraft beyond geosynchronous Earth orbit poses unique challenges’

WASHINGTON — A new report published by the Air Force Research Laboratory suggests the U.S. Space Force has to prepare for a day when the moon and the volume of space around it could become the next military frontier.

 “A Primer on Cislunar Space” was released June 23 by AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate. Its intended audience are military space professionals who one day might have to develop spacecraft and concepts for operations in regions beyond Earth’s orbit.

Col. Eric Felt, the director of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, said the document aims to “educate and inspire.”

“Operating spacecraft beyond geosynchronous Earth orbit poses unique challenges,” Felt said in a statement. “As commerce extends to the moon and beyond, it is vital we understand and solve those unique challenges so that we can provide space domain awareness and security.”

Cislunar space generally is defined as the region that contains the Earth, moon, and Lagrange points where spacecraft may be deployed in the future if a cislunar economy emerges.

The report was written by C. Channing Chow, CEO of Cloudstone Innovations; Marcus Holzinger, associate professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder; and Peter Garretson, a consultant at the American Foreign Policy Council.

AFRL has long been a proponent of advancing research on cislunar space. The Space Vehicles Directorate last year announced it will fund an experiment to investigate technologies to monitor cislunar space. The experiment was named CHPS, for Cislunar Highway Patrol System.

One of the concerns is developing technologies for surveillance, navigation and communications in cislunar space.

A cooperative agreement signed by the Space Force and NASA last year calls for future collaboration on cislunar space research and technologies.

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Source: https://spacenews.com/report-space-force-has-to-prepare-for-operations-beyond-earths-orbit/

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Aerospace

Masten delays first lunar lander mission

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WASHINGTON — Masten Space Systems is pushing back the launch of its first lunar lander mission by nearly a year, the latest in a series of delays by companies with NASA contracts to transport payloads to the moon.

Masten said June 23 that its Masten Mission 1 lander, which had been scheduled to launch in December 2022 to land near Haworth Crater in the south polar regions of the moon, will instead launch in November 2023. The company blamed the delay on the cumulative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and industry-wide supply chain issues.

“We’ve all been impacted by the pandemic in some way, and the aerospace industry is no exception,” Dave Masten, founder and chief technology officer, said in the company’s announcement of the delay. “However, we’ve consulted with NASA, our launch provider and payload partners, and we have full confidence in the new mission schedule.”

Masten won a NASA task order as part of its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program in April 2020 for the mission, valued at $75.9 million. Masten will deliver a set of NASA science and technology payloads, with room on the lander for additional commercial payloads. Masten contracted with SpaceX to launch the lander, a design the company calls XL-1.

“Our team continues to make progress on XL-1 development and achieve important milestones that will help ensure a safe, precise landing near the resource-rich Haworth Crater,” Dave Masten said. One advantage of the delay, the company added, is that there will be reduced shadowing from terrain during the new landing period, a key issue in polar regions where the sun is low on the horizon.

NASA confirmed it was aware of the delay in the Masten lander mission. “Masten has notified NASA it’ll delay the delivery by 12 months due to COVID-19 impacts that pushed past the current launch window,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, tweeted. “NASA Payloads will be ready when Masten is able to launch safely.”

Masten is one of four companies that have received a total of six CLPS task orders that NASA has awarded to date. Two other CLPS companies have also suffered delays in their initial lunar lander missions.

Intuitive Machines confirmed in April that its IM-1 lander mission, which had been scheduled for launch in the fall of 2021, had been delayed to early 2022. The company said SpaceX, its launch provider, delayed the launch because of “unique mission requirements” that neither Intuitive Machines nor SpaceX would disclose.

Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander had also been scheduled to launch in late 2021 as the payload on the inaugural launch of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur. However, ULA has said in recent weeks that the first Vulcan launch had been delayed to 2022 because of customer payload delays.

While Astrobotic hasn’t made a public announcement about the schedule for Peregrine, John Thornton, chief executive of the company, told SpaceNews June 23 that the mission is now scheduled for launch in 2022.

“I commend our team for their incredible work and perseverance through what we can all agree was a tough year,” he said. “Many businesses and supply chains were affected by COVID, and Astrobotic is no exception. We’re optimistically moving into 2022 together with the same tenacity we’ve always possessed.”

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Source: https://spacenews.com/masten-delays-first-lunar-lander-mission/

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Army, Navy satellite operations to consolidate under Space Force

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force later this year will begin to take over the operation of 11 Navy narrowband communications satellites. It also will absorb Army units that currently operate military communications payloads, a Space Force official said June 23.

The transition, scheduled to begin in October, will create a more integrated U.S. military satcom enterprise which for decades has “largely been a loose federation,” said Col. Matthew Holston, commander of Space Delta 8 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.

Holston spoke about the upcoming reorganization at the SMi MilSatCom USA virtual conference. 

Space Delta 8 operates communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites from Schriever and from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. 

With 635 personnel, Space Delta 8 operates 66 satellites: 37 GPS, six Advanced EHF communications, five Milstar, two Enhanced Polar System hosted payloads, 10 Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) and six Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS).

The operation of the Navy’s 11 narrowband communications satellites will move to Space Delta 8. That includes a mix of Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), Ultra High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) and FLTSATCOM UHF satellites. 

Space Delta 8 also will absorb three Navy satellite control antennas and ground control stations at Prospect Harbor, Maine; Laguna Peak, California; and Finegayan, Guam. 

Transitioning from the Army are two units that currently are part of the Army’s satellite operations brigade: The 53rd Signal Battalion and the SATCOM Directorate.

The 53rd Signal Battalion is the only U.S. military unit that controls the payloads of the WGS and DSCS communication constellations.

The SATCOM Directorate supports wideband and narrowband services for U.S. Space Command, and oversees international partner satcom agreements.

 The consolidation of units is “really an opportunity from a space segment perspective as well as a resource management perspective to start moving towards an integrated satcom enterprise,” Holston said.

Army and Navy satellite operators will not be obligated to move over to the Space Force but can voluntarily transfer. 

“We’re working with both our partners in the Army in the Navy to do the service transfers associated with that,” said Holston.

He said this is one step toward accomplishing the Space Force’s vision of an integrated satcom enterprise of military and commercial systems.

That strategy was laid out in the “United States Space Force Vision for Satellite Communications,” which was approved by Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond in January 2020.

Raymond directed the Space Force to figure out how to integrate military and commercial satcom systems so users can roam between networks the way consumer cellphones switch between providers when they travel from one country to another.

Holston said the integration of commercial systems, including space internet services in low Earth orbit, is being handled by the Space Force’s acquisition organization, the Space and Missile Systems Center.  

“I think those discussions are certainly ongoing,” he said. “If you look at the enterprise satcom vision, we certainly want to partner across what is available across different orbital regimes.” 

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Source: https://spacenews.com/army-navy-satellite-operations-to-consolidate-under-space-force/

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