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SpaceX adds another 60 satellites to Starlink network

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A Falcon 9 rocket lifts off Saturday from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX successfully deployed 60 more Starlink internet satellites in orbit Saturday, continuing a record launch cadence while engineers assess a concern with Falcon 9 rocket engines that has delayed other missions, including the next crew flight to the International Space Station.

The 60 Starlink satellites blasted off from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:31:34 a.m. EDT (1531:34 GMT) Saturday. The mission was delayed from Thursday to allow time for engineers to assess a problem with a camera on the Falcon 9 rocket’s upper stage.

Nine kerosene-fueled Merlin 1D engines powered the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) launcher into the sky on a trajectory northeast from Cape Canaveral.

The rocket’s first stage shut down its engines and separated two-and-a-half minutes into the mission, beginning a controlled descent to a pinpoint landing on a floating platform parked some 400 miles (630 kilometers) northeast of the launch site.

The landing concluded the third trip to space and back for the reusable Falcon 9 booster — designated B1060 — and the touchdown occurred moments before the rocket’s upper stage delivered the 60 Starlink satellites into a preliminary parking orbit.

SpaceX did not try to catch the Falcon 9’s two-piece payload fairing as they fell back to Earth under parachutes. A nose cone structure damaged a net on one of SpaceX’s fairing recovery vessels on the company’s most recent launch Oct. 18.

Instead, SpaceX dispatched one of the boats from its fleet to retrieve the fairing structures from the Atlantic Ocean for inspections, refurbishment, and potential use on a future flight.

After coasting across the Atlantic Ocean, Europe and the Middle East, the Falcon 9’s upper stage briefly reignited its single engine at T+plus 44 minutes to inject the Starlink satellites into a near-circular orbit at an altitude of roughly 170 miles (275 kilometers) with an inclination of 53 degrees to the equator.

All 60 satellites, which were flat-packed on top of the Falcon 9 rocket for launch, separated from the upper stage at 12:34 p.m. EDT (1634 GMT). A live video feed from the rocket showed the flat-panel satellites receding from view as they flew south of Tasmania.

The satellites, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, were expected to unfurl power-generating solar arrays and prime their krypton ion thrusters to begin raising their orbits to an operational altitude of 341 miles (550 kilometers), where they will join more than 800 other Starlink relay stations to beam broadband internet signals across most of the populated world.

SpaceX plans to operate an initial block of around 1,500 Starlink satellites in orbits 341 miles above Earth. The company, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, has regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission to eventually field a fleet of up to 12,000 small Starlink broadband stations operating in Ku-band, Ka-band, and V-band frequencies.

There are also preliminary plans for an even larger fleet of 30,000 additional Starlink satellites, but a network of that size has not been authorized by the FCC.

SpaceX says the Starlink network — designed for low-latency internet service — is still in its early stages, and engineers continue testing the system to collect latency data and speed tests. In a filing with the FCC dated Oct. 13, SpaceX said it has started beta testing of the Starlink network in multiple U.S. states, and is providing internet connectivity to previously unserved students in rural areas.

On Sept. 28, the Washington Military Department announced it was using the Starlink internet service as emergency responders and residents in Malden, Washington, recover from a wildfire that destroyed much of the town.

Earlier this month, Washington government officials said the Hoh Tribe was starting to use the Starlink service. SpaceX said it recently installed Starlink ground terminals on an administrative building and about 20 private homes on the Hoh Tribe Reservation.

A catalog of Starlink satellites maintained by Jonathan McDowell, a widely-respected astronomer who tracks global spaceflight activity, indicated that 53 of the Starlink satellites have been deorbited since their launch, primarily test models that launched last year. Two other satellites have failed and another 20 appear have stopped maneuvering, leaving around 820 spacecraft presumably operational, according to McDowell.

Since Oct. 6, SpaceX has shot 180 Starlink satellites into orbit on three dedicated Falcon 9 rocket missions. That’s more satellites than in the entire constellation operated by Planet, which owns the second-biggest fleet of spacecraft in orbit.

As of this week, Planet had around 150 active SkySat and Dove Earth-imaging satellites in its fleet, a company spokesperson said.

SpaceX continues Starlink launches while engine issue delays other missions

The launch of three Starlink missions on Falcon 9 rockets this month occurred as SpaceX delayed other launches to study an issue with Merlin engines that aborted a Falcon 9 countdown Oct. 2 with a U.S. military GPS navigation satellite.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, tweeted after the abort that the countdown was stopped at T-minus 2 seconds after an “unexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator,” referring to equipment used on the rocket’s nine Merlin first stage main engines. The gas generators on the Merlin 1D engines drives the engines’ turbopumps.

NASA announced Oct. 10 that the launch from the Kennedy Space Center of SpaceX’s first operational Crew Dragon flight to the International Space Station would be delayed from Oct. 31 until early to mid-November to allow time for engineers to study and resolve the engine issue.

Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s human spaceflight programs, tweeted Oct. 21 that the space agency and SpaceX were making “a lot of good progress … on engine testing to better understand the unexpected behavior observed during a recent non-NASA launch.”

It’s too early to report findings at this point, as SpaceX continues testing to validate what’s believed to be the most credible cause,” Lueders tweeted.

She wrote that SpaceX is replacing one engine on the Falcon 9 rocket assigned to the Crew Dragon mission — known as Crew-1 — and one engine on the Falcon 9 booster designated for launch of a U.S.-European oceanography satellite next month from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The engines being replaced displayed behavior during their ground testing that was similar to the “early-start behavior” noted during the aborted GPS launch Oct. 2., Lueders wrote.

The launch of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich oceanography satellite remains scheduled for Nov. 10 from California, Lueders said.

“We are also still working towards a mid-November launch for Crew-1,” she added. “We will want a few days between Sentinel-6 and Crew-1 to complete data reviews and check performance. Most importantly, we will fly all our missions when we are ready.”

The Crew-1 mission will launch four astronauts to begin a six-month expedition on the International Space Station. It follows a two-man Crew Dragon test flight that launched May 30 and concluded with a successful return to Earth on Aug. 2, the first orbital flight of astronauts to launch from U.S. soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

In a press briefing Oct. 16, a NASA manager said engineers from NASA, the U.S. Space Force, and SpaceX are jointly investigating the engine problem that surfaced during the Oct. 2 countdown.

“I can tell you an incredible amount of data has been looked at, to include members from our commercial crew program which also has an upcoming Falcon flight,” said Tim Dunn, NASA’s launch director for the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission.

In addition to testing at the launch base at Cape Canaveral, SpaceX removed engines from the Falcon 9 rocket for the GPS mission and returned them to the company’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for detailed testing and reviews.

“We’ve learned a lot,” Dunn said. “There’s going to be some hardware implications as we move forward, depending on the engines installed on various rockets. The GPS mission obviously is affected. The NASA Crew-1 mission is affected. On Sentinel-6, we are looking at the engines that are on our first stage. We are going to work through what we need to do, but as of today, we have a path forward that allows us to do whatever necessary rework may be required and still maintain that Nov. 10 launch date.”

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/10/24/spacex-adds-another-60-satellites-to-starlink-network/

Aerospace

Otto Aviation selects VOLTA as its collaborative MDO framework

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Otto Aviation selects VOLTA as its collaborative MDO framework

ESTECO has announced that Otto Aviation, the California-based start-up that recently emerged with its revolutionary Celera 500L, has selected VOLTA as its digital engineering framework for multidisciplinary design optimization (MDO) and simulation process data management (SPDM).

The Otto Aviation Celera 500L is the most fuel-efficient passenger aircraft in the world. Flight tests of the prototype aircraft substantiate fuel economy of 18 to 25 mpg and cruise speeds of 450 mph. Passengers can relax in the 6’2” wide cabin at trans-continental ranges. The dramatic reduction in fuel consumption makes the Celera 500L the most environmentally friendly airplane in its class and presents a major leap forward in the effort to develop a zero-emission air transportation system.

“Multidisciplinary Design Optimization of this aircraft is essential to its performance,” said David Bogue, Chief Technology Officer at Otto Aviation. “We need a tool that improves team collaboration and gets the job done faster. VOLTA’s server-based framework allows team members to alter optimizations on a real-time basis and deliver the best overall performance.”

Travis Fousek, Senior Aeronautical Systems Engineer added: “Our goal in evaluating the VOLTA framework set out to improve the high-lift system of the aircraft. Not only have the VOLTA optimization results shown marked performance gains, but the framework has allowed faster design cycles and increased collaboration between structures, flight controls and aerodynamics disciplines, all due to the rich visualization, exploration, and workflow toolsets. We are looking forward to utilizing VOLTA for many upcoming projects and further improving the efficiency and performance of our aircraft.”

Roel Van De Velde, Director A&D for ESTECO concluded: “We are proud to partner with Otto Aviation to bring their vision of a laminar flow aircraft to reality. Just like Otto Aviation, ESTECO has a strong pioneering spirit; VOLTA is an industry-first framework for server-based optimization and collaboration, and more and more aerospace companies are selecting us to modernize their MDO infrastructure. We are very excited that Otto Aviation has chosen us as well, and we are looking forward to support the development of this groundbreaking aircraft with our best-in-class technology.”

www.esteco.com

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Harnessing innovation crucial to UK aerospace and defence future

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While the UK is seen as a world leader in Aerospace and Defence (A&D) innovation, second only to the US, a lack of a leadership culture, challenges sourcing and retaining talent and the impact of COVID-19 could stifle this status unless action is taken now.

This is according to the latest PwC report Harnessing Innovation in Aerospace and Defence.

Developed in collaboration with the ADS Group, the survey and report aims to better understand innovation and the shackles that must be released if the UK is to boost its competitive edge and investment potential.

According to the survey of UK A&D firms, nine in 10 say leadership culture is vital in driving successful innovation in future – but over 60% of organisations don’t have innovation fully defined and embedded into their strategy at present.

Craig Kerr, PwC UK’s aerospace and defence consulting leader said: “This year, many UK A&D companies have been consumed with survival and repairing the immediate impacts of COVID-19.  As hard as it is to think about the future in the midst of a crisis, it’s critical that A&D leaders create the space to rethink and to reconfigure their businesses for a different future – it would be wrong to think the supply chains, working practices and investment decisions of the past are the right ones for the future.

“As they respond to these pressures, we anticipate continued innovations through automation and development of products and services embedded with fourth industrial revolution technologies from artificial intelligence to data analytics and 3D printing.

“Other forces such as environmental and climate change will also require innovation in leadership, culture, and products & services. This makes for a very exciting time in the sector with a potentially refreshed environment.”

Four in five senior executives agree there is a lack of bandwidth for innovation at present, acknowledging skills gaps when looking to build teams to design, develop, manufacturer and deliver products and services and across business model innovation as a particular challenge.

Pay levels in comparison with competing sectors, a lack of progression for aspiring graduates due to project longevity and knowledge leakage as a “silver tsunami” of older engineers prepare for retirement are key components contributing to this issue.

Sameer Savani, head of innovation and engineering at ADS Group said: “ADS firms are in a war for talent with sectors such as technology, and new commercial tech in particular, which are seen as more agile and innovative. As an industry, we’ve a great track history as adopters of AI and other forward-leaning technologies – we’ve just hid our light under a bushel.

“We need to do much more to not only promote our innovative qualities but fully align these with future planning and strategy if we are to win this battle and secure our skills pipeline for years to come. We must better embrace diversity and recognise the ‘diversity dividend’, to attract diverse talent in order to exploit diversity of thinking that is key to innovation.

“And this has to be led from the top, with leaders promoting a culture that gives people the permission to be creative and the confidence to take risks as they develop next generation products that are better, faster and cheaper than our competitors.”

Despite the volatile and uncertain economic backdrop of 2020, optimism persists across the A&D industry – over half (55%) remain confident that innovation investment will return in the next three years with senior executives even more bullish (64%) in anticipating an uptick in investment. The spending boost for UK defence recently announced by the government validates this optimism.

When asked to describe the successful aerospace and defence organisation of the future, respondents characterised the 2030 version as technologically and digitally focused, agile and flexible, forward thinking, and customer-centric.

www.pwc.com/uk

www.adsgroup.org.uk

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Valuechain’s MES solution now integrates PrintSyst’s AI Engine

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Valuechain’s MES solution now integrates PrintSyst’s AI Engine

Today marks an important milestone in the strategic partnership between Valuechain Enterprise Systems and PrintSyst, upon completing the integration of PrintSyst’s cutting edge AI engine, the 3DP AI-Perfecter, into Valuechain’s industrial-grade MES, DNA.am.

The two companies have partnered to develop an integrated MES that will leverage PrintSyst’s world class AI engine, which enables an automated pre-printing workflow and thus assists customers in industries such as Aerospace, Automotive and Defence, to significantly improve their productivity and scale up their 3D printing production.

The integrated Valuechain-PrintSyst solution provides a state-of-the-art smart automation that learns from previous Additive Manufacturing builds and analyses the exact intent for which a specific part is going to be used to comply with industry specifications. It then accordingly suggests printing parameters that will have the highest probability of right-first-time Additive Manufacturing builds, accurately estimates 3D parts costs, recommends on the most suitable materials to be used based on 3D parts’ functional needs and eliminates the need for trial and error. Bottom line, this paves the way for transforming 3D Printing productivity through improved quality, cost and delivery responsiveness.

Tom Dawes, CEO of Valuechain, (pictured above on the right) commented: “Industrial 3D printing has continued to grow over recent months, as companies that initially trialled the technology are looking to scale up. Covid-19 has illustrated the importance of a robust supply chain structure, underpinned by secure collaboration and intelligence. However, many of these companies lack the digital solutions that drive 3D printing productivity while providing a path for an automated, standardized and certifiable digital workflow. Based on our customers’ feedback so far, I am confident that our collaboration with PrintSyst will be pivotal in addressing this critical need.”

Itamar Yona, PrintSyst’s CEO and co-founder, added that “combining our world class AI engine and hands on industry experience, with DNA.am’s leading industrial-grade MES, will step change the manual, costly and unscalable 3D printing workflow. We are now able to take into account multiple additional parameters that exist in DNA.am MES and automatically train our engine so we can provide instant, highly personalised and optimized printing recommendations to our joint customers.”

www.DNA.am

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Paragraf drives electric transport revolution with graphene sensors

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Paragraf drives electric transport revolution with graphene sensors

Paragraf, a leader in graphene-based transformative electronic sensors and devices, is helping to realise an industry first by implementing a supply chain for graphene Hall-Effect sensors used in high-temperature Power Electronics, Electric Machines and Drives (PEMD) within the aerospace sector.

Named High-T Hall, the project stems from the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) ‘Driving the Electric Revolution’ challenge and brings together Paragraf, Rolls-Royce, TT Electronics (Aero Stanrew) and the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult (CSA Catapult). It is set to demonstrate how graphene-based Hall Effect sensors can operate reliably at high temperatures, paving the way for more efficient electric engines in aerospace and beyond.

Hall Effect sensors play a major role in monitoring current levels and magnetic fields in PEMD applications, which is critical to monitoring drive power consumption and machine speed and position. The deployment of conventional silicon Hall sensors is, however, restricted to environments with temperatures below 150°C and frequencies below 100kHz, which can constrain system level design. Project High-T Hall aims to demonstrate that graphene-based Hall Effect sensors will operate reliably up to 180°C, and potentially even at temperatures of up to 230°C allowing them to be mounted within the machine or power module enclosure thus  enabling much greater flexibility in the design of new PEMD equipment aligned to Silicon Carbide power devices and higher performance more compact electrical machines. The ability to monitor current levels more accurately and reliably will enable better overall system control, which will in turn reduce size and weight and help design more efficient electric engine systems.

Ivor Guiney, co-founder of Paragraf, commented: “We are extremely proud to be part of this pioneering project that will hopefully lead to better efficiency in all-electric engines and help accelerate the adoption of e-planes and, more generally, electric vehicles. Our graphene Hall Effect sensors have already proven to possess unique cryogenic properties, so their resistance to high temperatures will help demonstrate how uniquely versatile graphene devices are from a thermal standpoint.”

As the lead partner in High-T Hall, Paragraf will design and manufacture custom Hall Effect sensors for integration into the systems of Rolls-Royce and TT Electronics. The CSA Catapult will provide their packaging expertise to develop innovative packaging solutions and advanced assembly process for realising the prototypes. The role of Rolls-Royce and TT Electronics will be to test the Paragraf’s graphene Hall Effect sensors in state-of-the-art, aerospace PEMD applications, with the former pioneering the use of this technology in their upcoming gas turbine product portfolio. TT Electronics will use it to develop a range of modular current sensors for use in rugged aerospace electrical systems to reduce Hall Effect sensor temperature-related errors.

Head of Electronics, Stephen Dennison at Rolls-Royce stated: “Rolls-Royce is committed to playing a leading role in reaching net zero carbon by 2050 and this includes championing sustainable power. This project with Paragraf and the other partners will help develop a resilient supply chain that enables companies to source made-to-measure, innovative electronic components to enhance the efficiency and performance of power, electronics, machines and drives.”

Owen Rolfe, Business Development Director at TT Electronics stated: “Now more than ever it’s important we make a proactive effort to accelerate innovation within the Aerospace supply chain. In this case, higher temperature operation of these sensing solutions has the capability to deliver significant efficiency benefits to power electronics systems and that’s something we’re extremely proud and well placed to support.”

Martin McHugh, CTO and Acting CEO at the CSA Catapult stated: “The aim of project High-T Hall is to demonstrate an integrated UK supply chain solution for advanced Hall sensing within PEMD. This will address the issues PEMDs experience when switching frequencies across a broad range of temperature conditions. We are very pleased to be involved in the sensor test platform and reliability testing on this project.”

The use of a graphene-based Hall Effect sensors in high-temperature aerospace environments could not only be replicated in other industries such as automotive. It may also open new opportunities for other graphene-based electronics, beyond sensors, which can help improve efficiency and performance even further in applications such as the engines of EVs.

Project High-T Hall started in July 2020 and is now due to run for one year. It is funded by UK Research and Innovation.

www.paragraf.com

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/paragraf-drives-electric-transport-revolution-with-graphene-sensors/

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