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SpaceX sets booster reuse milestone on Starlink launch

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WASHINGTON — SpaceX launched a set of Starlink satellites May 9 on a Falcon 9 whose first stage was making its tenth flight, a long-awaited goal in the company’s reusability efforts.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 2:42 a.m. Eastern. The rocket’s upper stage deployed its payload of 60 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit nearly 65 minutes later.

The launch, the third in less than two weeks for SpaceX, brings the total number of Starlink satellites in orbit to more than 1,550. The company is gradually expanding its beta test program for the broadband internet service as the constellation grows. SpaceX noted on the launch webcast that it opened up that beta test program in the last week to people in Austria and France.

The launch itself was noteworthy as it marked the first time a Falcon 9 first stage had flown 10 times. The booster first launched the Demo-1 commercial crew test flight in March 2019. It later launched the Radarsat Constellation Mission, the SXM-7 satellite for SiriusXM and six Starlink missions, most recently March 14, before this launch.

SpaceX had long identified 10 flights as a goal for Falcon 9 reuse in order to justify the significant investment the company made into reusability. In recent months, though, company executives have suggested that the booster can fly more than 10 times.

“There doesn’t seem to be any obvious limit to the reusability of the vehicle,” Elon Musk, chief executive of SpaceX, said at an April 23 NASA press conference after the Crew-2 launch.

The company has been using its own Starlink missions to push the boundaries of booster reuse. That has uncovered issues, such as a February launch where the Starlink payload reached orbit but the booster failed to land. That booster was making its sixth flight, but some engine components, such as “boots” or covers around the engines, were life leaders. One of those covers had a hole that allowed hot gas from the engine exhaust get into other parts of the engine, triggering a shutdown that prevented the stage from landing.

“We do intend to fly the Falcon 9 booster until we see some kind of a failure with the Starlink missions, have that be a life-leader,” Musk said at the briefing, noting at the time that a tenth flight of a booster was upcoming. “We’re learning a lot of about reusability. It’s a hard problem for rockets.”

SpaceX has not disclosed whether it will attempt to use this booster for an eleventh launch, but the successful landing at least preserves that possibility. “This booster gets to live again,” Michael Andrews, the host of the SpaceX launch webcast, said shortly after the landing.

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Source: https://spacenews.com/spacex-sets-booster-reuse-milestone-on-starlink-launch/

Aerospace

Six predictions for USAF’s sixth generation fighter jet – experts at Raytheon explain

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Prototypes of the US Air Force’s sixth generation fighter jet, which is meant to be deployed in 2030, have already flown in secret.

Forming the centre piece of the service’s Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) programme, the fighter sometimes referred to as F-X, will replace the F-22 Raptor. Read all our articles on NGAD here.

Now technologists and engineers at Raytheon Intelligence & Space (RI&S) are working on the very same kinds of systems they believe will bring the kind of technical superiority USAF wants its new plane to deliver.

They are designing systems, including sensors, communications, electronic warfare, that will one day provide the technical superiority that a sixth generation fighter is meant to give.

Raytheon’s experts have six predictions for these advanced aircraft.

One system for everything

Sixth generation fighters could have a piece of gear that does multiple jobs, replacing different systems typically seen on today’s aircraft. This hardware would include adaptable software that changes between tasks in mere nanoseconds.

“You no longer have a radar, no longer have electronic warfare, no longer have a radio,” said Jason Clark, director for Advanced Mission Systems at RI&S. “Instead, you have multifunction hardware that does it all and can be repurposed very quickly – switching between functions so quickly it seems instantaneous.”

Northrop Grumman concept for a sixth generation fighter

Flying data centres

The computer processing power for sixth generation fighters will reach staggering levels, taking the sophisticated mission computers aboard today’s aircraft and essentially turning the planes into flying data centres.

“Next generation multifunction systems will produce orders of magnitude more data than previous systems,” said Tomek Rys, business development director for communications & airspace management systems at RI&S. “On-board compute clusters composed of high-performance, ruggedised processors will effectively put a data centre in the sky. These systems will leverage artificial intelligence to turn data into information in real time. The result will be faster decision making.”

Related: US Air Force reveals first look at its new fighter jet

AI will be the wingman of the future

Pilots for sixth generation fighters could have help from nearby planes flown autonomously through a concept known as manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) or ‘loyal wingman’ drones.

“We’re realising underlying artificial intelligence and machine learning can support the idea of a manned aircraft commanding an unmanned team,” Clark said. “Today, a flight lead can command four or eight other manned aircraft and expect them to go out and complete the mission on their own. Autonomous behaviours could allow for similar mission-level tasking for aircraft that are not necessarily controlled by a human.”

Future fighters will land on their own

Future aircraft may use new hardware and software to land autonomously on aircraft carriers. This type of technology is already advancing with the US Navy and Marine Corps.

“We are developing algorithms that can use future encrypted signals to safely guide aircraft to a precise landing zone in all-weather and terrain conditions,” said Marcelo Cavalcanti, director for international business development at RI&S. “The goal is to have aircraft land autonomously, but it can also serve as guidance to the pilot. I see this technology supporting VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft, including future urban air mobility vehicles.”

Lockheed Martin concept art for a sixth generation fighter jet

Digital engineering will make costs clear up front

An endeavour as big as building a next generation fighter aircraft is hard to predict. Small glitches and design choices can affect costs and schedules years into the future. A digital thread that connects all data available could help the military predict costs and performance more accurately.

“The next level of digital engineering will be interconnectivity throughout the supply chain,” said Conn Doherty, senior director for future aircraft systems and technology at RI&S. “We’re working with aircraft makers and our suppliers to develop interconnectivity and two-way digital interfaces. This will dramatically reduce our turnaround times and reduce errors through automation, resulting in better solutions. Connecting in cost models will give us a more precise and accurate understanding of production, operations and maintenance costs for decades to come.”

Sensors will be swappable

Sensors on aircraft today use common interfaces that allow them to talk to computers on aircraft. This standardisation makes sense, considering the range of different and new hardware that may need to be plugged in one day.

“It’s almost plug-and-play for sensors,” said Jennifer Benson, chief engineer for advanced electro optical at RI&S. “Do I pick an electro-optical sensor to do a job? Or do I pick an infrared sensor? Future sensors may be modular enough to swap right on the flight line. We are designing today for that level of commonality and modularity in our sensors.”

www.raytheonintelligenceandspace.com

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UK satellites set to launch today on SpaceX rocket from Kennedy

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Three UK-built satellites are set to launch on a SpaceX rocket today from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Monitoring and tackling climate change and tracking endangered wildlife are among the missions of the three.

UK companies have received nearly £15 million from the UK Space Agency, through the European Space Agency’s Pioneer Partnership Programme, to develop the trio of satellites.

Two of the satellites, built by Spire, in Glasgow, will develop optical intersatellite links (ISL) which will provide a step change in how we get large amounts of data from space down to Earth. This will enable constellations of satellites to become integrated networks in space, capable of delivering very high volumes of data at speed to anywhere in the world, including remote and rural areas, disaster areas and at sea.

This enhanced data and better predictive analytics will improve our understanding of the environment and the impact we have on it.

Spire has been supported by the UK Space Agency, through the European Space Agency’s Pioneer Partnership Programme with nearly £9 million of total funding, to develop a range of innovative technologies and data platforms including the pair of satellites planned for tomorrow’s launch.

Theresa Condor, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Spire Space Services, said: “At a critical time for our planet, and with COP26 taking place later this year, we need to be able to map out and report on rapidly changing phenomena on Earth. That is the core purpose of Spire’s constellation. Enhanced data and better predictive analytics help us to further understand our environment and the impact we have on it.

“Optical ISL allows us to deliver the most time sensitive data faster and at higher volumes for critical applications such as weather monitoring and forecasting.”

The third satellite is built by In-Space Missions, based in Hampshire, supported by £4.9 million of funding for this and future validation missions expected to launch in 2022/2023. The Faraday Phoenix satellite incorporates payloads for six customers including Airbus, Lacuna, SatixFy and Aeternum.

Doug Liddle, CEO at In-Space Missions, said: “The team here at In-Space is incredibly proud to be launching our highly capable and innovative satellite which has come together in less than a year. We’re particularly excited to be flying on a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral – a location with such an amazing history.”

The In-Space satellite includes the demonstration payload for Lacuna Space, which is developing a ground-breaking satellite IoT service, thanks to £800,000 in funding. This is the next step in Lacuna’s space network, further improving the company’s capability to service massive deployments for the IoT.

www.gov.uk/uksa

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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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