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Virgin Orbit reaches orbit on second LauncherOne mission

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Updated 7:20 p.m. Eastern with post-launch comments from Virgin Orbit.

COVINGTON, La. — Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket reached orbit on its second flight Jan. 17, demonstrating the performance of the air-launch system after years of development.

The company’s Boeing 747 aircraft, called Cosmic Girl, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 1:38 p.m. Eastern with the LauncherOne rocket attached. The plane flew out over the Pacific just off the Southern California coast and released the rocket at about 2:39 p.m. Eastern.

The rocket ignited its NewtonThree first stage engine for three minutes, followed by stage separation and ignition of the NewtonFour engine in the rocket’s second stage for nearly six minutes. After a 46-minute coast, the rocket reignited the NewtonFour for a five-second burn, followed by payload deployment in an approximately 500-kilometer orbit, although Virgin Orbit took more than an hour to confirm those final steps.

“A new gateway to space has just sprung open,” said Dan Hart, president and chief executive of Virgin Orbit, in a statement after the launch, praising his company’s “laser focus” on the program despite technical challenges and the ongoing pandemic. “That effort paid off today with a beautifully executed mission, and we couldn’t be happier.”

“Virgin Orbit has achieved something many thought impossible,” said Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, in that statement. “This magnificent flight is the culmination of many years of hard work and will also unleash a whole new generation of innovators on the path to orbit.”

The launch was the capstone of a development program that dates back to July 2012, when Virgin Galactic announced its intent to develop a small launch vehicle to complement its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle. LauncherOne was originally planned to use the same WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft as SpaceShipTwo, but the company later decided to acquire a Boeing 747 for use as a carrier aircraft. Virgin Galactic spun out the LauncherOne project into a separate company, Virgin Orbit, in 2017.

The customer for the Launch Demo 2 mission was NASA under a contract awarded in 2015 as part of its Venture Class Launch Services program to support emerging small launch vehicle developers. The mission, called ELaNa 20 by NASA, carried 10 cubesats from eight universities and one NASA center. The spacecraft are designed to perform a range of science and technology demonstration missions.

Despite flying payloads, Virgin Orbit emphasized before the launch that the primary purpose of the flight was to test the vehicle. “It’s important to note that this is a test launch,” Dan Hart, president and chief executive of Virgin Orbit, said in a prelaunch call with reporters. “Any early launches of a launch system carry a certain amount of risk.”

“We will be thrilled to get the data and see the performance of the first stage and the second stage as it goes through their paces. We’re also mindful that there’s risk on whether we will get to the final orbit,” he added. “We are working vigorously and looking at all the details in making sure we have the best shot possible to get to orbit.”

Virgin Orbit’s first LauncherOne flight, in May 2020, failed seconds after ignition of the rocket’s NewtonThree engine. An investigation determined a liquid oxygen feed line ruptured, causing the engine to shut down.

Hart said in the prelaunch call that the company brought in “some of the best industry experts,” including former chief engineers of the Atlas and Delta launch vehicles, for an independent investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration, NASA and U.S. Air Force monitored the investigation, with support from The Aerospace Corporation.

After identifying the cause, Virgin Orbit performed a new structural analysis of that portion of the vehicle and modified components to address the problem, followed by testing on a vibration table and static-fire tests of the engine. The company also performed a similar examination of NewtonFour, the engine in the second stage that did not get a chance to fire in the previous launch attempt. “There were some minor mods that we made there as well,” Hart said.

In the prelaunch briefing, Virgin Orbit didn’t disclose plans for their next launch, but Hart stated that the company was assembling the next LauncherOne rocket, which he described as being a “few weeks away from being ready.” Several other vehicles in earlier stages of assembly. In the post-launch statement, the company confirmed they are moving into commercial operations with their next launch, but did not disclose a schedule or customer for that next launch.

Hart said the company saw a diversified market for LauncherOne, with growing interest from U.S. national security customers. “The market has shifted a little bit, where the moves that the government has made open up new opportunities there, and we’re very focused on that,” he said. That’s in addition to demand from NASA and other nations’ space agencies and from developers of constellations of dozens of smallsats.

“We are really positioned to ramp up into a steady cadence of launch,” Hart said.

Source: https://spacenews.com/virgin-orbit-reaches-orbit-on-second-launcherone-mission/

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Aeroforma expands sheetmetal aerospace parts production

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The addition of a new hydroform deep draw press from Quintus Technologies brings increased capacity, flexibility, and production efficiencies to aerospace parts manufacturer Aeroforma Technologies.

Installed in the Aeroforma Technologies facility in Cheltenham, the Quintus model QFM 1.1-800 Deep Draw Press uses hydraulic pressure up to 11,600 psi to form parts in a variety of shapes, thicknesses, and tough materials, achieving tight tolerances with minimal thinning.

Proprietary flexible forming technology enables the press to perform four forming operations in a single machine. In addition to block tool forming, cavity tool forming, and expansion forming, the very versatile Quintus press is also equipped with a movable punch forming system for deep drawing of intricate shapes.

The press is a good fit for Aeroforma Technologies, which over several decades has earned an enviable reputation as a supplier of high-quality fabricated metal components to the aerospace industry. Installation of the QFM 1.1-800 represents Aeroforma Technologies’ commitment to benefit its customers by bringing core processes under one roof to reduce lead times, streamline logistics, and increase competitiveness.

“Our strategy of providing a vertically integrated sourcing solution—from raw material procurement through to forming, welding, surface treating, and assembly—is one which our customer base is finding increasingly attractive,” said Antoni Kwiatkowski, group managing director, Aeroforma Technologies. “Key to that strategy is ensuring state-of-the-art machinery along with extensive industry knowledge and experience. With its class-leading hydroform envelope and depth of draw, the Quintus press helps ensure that we remain ahead of the pack.”

The Quintus Flexform process utilises a combination of a single rigid tool half, operating in conjunction with a flexible rubber diaphragm subjected to high hydraulic pressure, to form sheetmetal parts with great accuracy and repeatability. This process produces high-quality parts, in complex shapes and tough alloys, and at tight tolerances. It also generates significant tool and process cost savings, especially of great value where intricately shaped components are required in low to moderate volumes.

The QFM 1.1-800 is equipped with two forming stations, one of which is the deep draw, offering a maximum blank diameter of 43.1 inches (1095 mm) and maximum draw depth of 10 inches (254 mm). The second forming station is tailor made to accommodate block tool, cavity tool, and expansion tool forming.

“Our Flexform technology is ideal for aerospace engine components, including deep drawn parts, in high-strength, heat-resistant materials,” said Jan Söderström, CEO of Quintus Technologies.

www.quintustechnologies.com

The post Aeroforma expands sheetmetal aerospace parts production appeared first on Aerospace Manufacturing.

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/aeroforma-expands-sheetmetal-aerospace-parts-production/

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Meggitt signs another 737 MAX contract

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Meggitt has signed a long-term, £multi-million agreement with Boeing for the supply of cockpit indicators on the 737 MAX. The contract covers a suite of cockpit indicators across all versions of the aircraft.

This contract expands Meggitt content on the 737 MAX programme, which already includes the engine and APU fire detection & suppression systems, electrical power conversion equipment, and elastomeric seals. Deliveries are scheduled to commence in Q2 2022.

Meggitt chief executive, Tony Wood, said: “We are delighted to be expanding our relationship with Boeing at this important time as the 737 MAX returns to service and the wider aviation industry starts to look through the challenges of the last year towards a recovering outlook for air traffic globally.”

www.meggitt.com

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thyssenkrupp Aerospace seals RUAG materials order

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thyssenkrupp Aerospace has announced it will supply the technology group RUAG International with material for projects involving OEMs such as Airbus, Boeing and SAAB starting in 2021.

The agreement covers the procurement and delivery of aluminium, titanium, plastics and steel, just-in-time. The first orders have already been placed with thyssenkrupp Aerospace.

For some of their current projects, RUAG Aerostructures was looking for a partner who could plan material requirements with pinpoint accuracy, while also handling increased material requirements at short notice. These special requirements cover projects, such as the payload mounts for additional fuel tanks for the SAAB JAS 39 Gripen and ailerons for Boeing.

“We look forward to supporting RUAG Aerostructures,” said Ludwig Greiner, key account manager at thyssenkrupp Aerospace Germany. “With our materials expertise and supply chain competence, we can plan for the long term but also respond to rush orders. We deliver the material at the right time, ensuring that our customers can focus on their core business.”

Marco Geering, general manager at RUAG Aerostructures, added: “In our business, reliability and flexibility are particularly important. With thyssenkrupp Aerospace we have a competent partner at our side.”

www.thyssenkrupp-aerospace.com

 

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We Need to Build a Cloud for the Next Decade: Satya Nadella

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As the world enters the second wave of digital transformation, we need to foundationally transform how the cloud can drive the next level of economic growth, Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Satya Nadella said.

Nadella was speaking at the Microsoft Ignite 2021, the annual flagship event virtually attended by more than 100,000 global participants, including IT decision-makers, developers, data professionals, security professionals and other technology enthusiasts.

“The true test of technology has always been whether organizations can improve their time to value, increase agility, and reduce costs…but as the world recovers, it will require much more from technology and the cloud, in particular, to help address our most pressing challenges,” Nadella said.

Five key attributes will drive the next-generation of innovation in the cloud, Nadella said. “These are ubiquitous and decentralized computing, sovereign data and ambient intelligence, empowered creators and communities, expanded economic opportunity for the global workforce, and trust by design,” he said.

As businesses have accelerated their digital journeys over the past year, the demand for technology has significantly picked up to enable various use-cases like telehealth, remote manufacturing, and new ways of working from home. Microsoft believes the cloud has been the foundation to enable all of these.

Microsoft announced ‘Microsoft Mesh’, a new mixed reality platform built on, which enables geographically distributed teams to interact holographically with each other.

“With mixed reality technology, the digital and physical worlds have come together,” Nadella said.

“This has been the dream for mixed reality, the idea from the very beginning,” said Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman. “You can actually feel like you are in the same place with someone sharing content or you can teleport from different mixed reality devices and be present with people even when you’re not physically together.”

Microsoft also announced a new semantic search capability in Azure Cognitive Search, an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered cloud search service for mobile and web app development. This capability enables developers to deliver results based on user intent as opposed to a keyword-based search, which is the industry norm. Semantic search leverages some of the most advanced natural language models to improve the relevance and ranking of search results.

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