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Widespread support for Nelson nomination to lead NASA

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s nomination of former senator Bill Nelson as the next administrator of NASA has won widespread support from both members of Congress and the broader space community.

The White House announced March 19 its formal intent to nominate Nelson, a Democrat who served three terms in the Senate from Florida, as NASA administrator. The announcement confirmed weeks of rumors that Nelson was the leading candidate for the job.

“Most every piece of space and science law has had his imprint, including passing the landmark NASA bill of 2010 along with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison,” the White House said in its statement, a reference to the 2010 NASA authorization act that Nelson and Hutchison, a Republican from Texas, authored after the Obama administration canceled the Constellation program. That bill instructed NASA to develop a new launch vehicle, the Space Launch System, and continue work on the Orion spacecraft, while also authorizing the commercial crew program that was an Obama administration priority.

“In the Senate he was known as the go-to senator for our nation’s space program,” the statement added.

The nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate, which will mean for Nelson a return to the Senate Commerce Committee, where he served as its top Democrat in his final years there. That committee has oversight of NASA and will take up his nomination before forwarding it to the full Senate.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, signaled her support for the nomination. “Bill Nelson has long been one of NASA’s strongest and most passionate advocates,” she said in a committee statement. “I am confident that he has the expertise and the political acumen to maintain and build upon the nation’s leadership in space in both the public and commercial sectors.”

Nelson’s nomination also had the support of the leadership of the House Science Committee. “I am pleased that the president has chosen Sen. Nelson to lead NASA,” Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chair of the full committee, said in a statement, citing his “decades of experience in dealing with NASA, Congress and the space and aviation communities.”

“Former Senator Nelson knows space policy inside and out as a leader on the Senate Commerce Committee, and as someone who has been to space,” said Rep. Don Beyer, (D-Va.), chair of the space subcommittee. Nelson, while serving in the House, flew as a payload specialist in 1986 on the final shuttle mission before the Challenger accident.

“His experience, knowledge and strong ties to Capitol Hill will be an asset as the Biden-Harris administration pursues an ambitious agenda of space exploration and scientific advancement, which will require support and funding from Congress,” Beyer added.

In the Senate, Nelson opposed the nomination by the Trump administration in 2017 of Jim Bridenstine for NASA administrator. Nelson argued at Bridenstine’s confirmation hearing that the agency should be led by “a consummate space professional who is technically and scientifically competent and is a skilled executive” rather than a politician such as Bridenstine, who at the time was a congressman from Oklahoma.

The Senate ultimately confirmed Bridenstine on a party-line vote, and Nelson later praised Bridenstine for keeping NASA apolitical. In 2019, after Nelson left the Senate, Bridenstine appointed him to the NASA Advisory Council.

“Bill Nelson is an excellent pick for NASA administrator,” Bridenstine, who left the agency in January, said in a statement to SpaceNews. He praised Nelson for both “political clout” to work with Congress and the White House and “diplomatic skills” to work with international partners.

“Bill Nelson will have the influence to deliver strong budgets for NASA and, when necessary, he will be able to enlist the help of his friend, President Joe Biden,” Bridenstine said. “The Senate should confirm Bill Nelson without delay.”

Nelson’s close relationship with President Biden, a former senator, is seen as a benefit by industry as well. “The value of an administrator who is personally close to President Biden can’t be overstated, giving NASA policy, mission and investment priorities a new level of significance in the White House,” said Mike French, vice president for space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association and a former NASA chief of staff.

Nelson has been treated more warily by more entrepreneurial elements of the space industry, who recall Nelson’s skepticism about the commercial crew program a decade ago. At a hearing in March 2010, for example, he suggested the funding the Obama administration proposed for the commercial crew program might be better used to accelerate development of heavy-lift rockets.

Nelson later supported the program, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an industry group that includes many entrepreneurial space companies, said it “applauds” his nomination to lead the space agency. “America’s commercial space industry looks forward to working with Sen. Nelson to continue providing NASA with the world’s most innovative and affordable technologies and solutions to achieve its ambitious missions above the Earth and across the solar system,” the group stated.

One of the companies that is a member of the group, Blue Origin, also endorsed Nelson’s nomination in a tweet. “Your experience both on and off Earth will ensure that we’ll have strong leadership and commitment when the U.S. returns to the Moon – this time to stay,” the company, which is part of NASA’s Human Landing System program to develop crewed lunar landers, said.

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Source: https://spacenews.com/widespread-support-for-nelson-nomination-to-lead-nasa/

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Virgin Galactic unveils new spaceship for its growing fleet

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Virgin Galactic has unveiled the company’s first SpaceShip III in its growing fleet, VSS Imagine.

The spaceship showcases Virgin Galactic’s innovation in design and astronaut experience. Imagine also demonstrates progress toward efficient design and production, as Virgin Galactic works to scale the business for the long-term.

VSS Imagine will commence ground testing, with glide flights planned for this summer from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

The livery design, finished entirely with a mirror-like material, reflects the surrounding environment, constantly changing colour and appearance as it travels from earth to sky to space.

Leveraging a modular design, the SpaceShip III class of vehicles are built to enable improved performance in terms of maintenance access and flight rate. This third generation of spaceship will lay the foundation for the design and manufacture of future vehicles.

As VSS Imagine begins ground testing, manufacturing will progress on VSS Inspire, the second SpaceShip III vehicle within the Virgin Galactic fleet. The introduction of the SpaceShip III class of vehicles is an important milestone in Virgin Galactic’s multi-year effort that targets flying 400 flights per year, per spaceport.

VSS Imagine is unveiled ahead of VSS Unity’s next test flight, which is planned for May 2021.

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, commented: “Today we unveiled our SpaceShip III class of vehicles, marking the beginning of the Virgin Galactic fleet. VSS Imagine and Inspire are stunning ships that will take our future astronauts on an incredible voyage to space, and their names reflect the aspirational nature of human spaceflight. Congratulations to our dedicated team who worked so brilliantly to achieve this milestone.”

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, added: “Virgin Galactic spaceships are built specifically to deliver a new, transforming perspective to the thousands of people who will soon be able to experience the wonder of space for themselves. As a SpaceShip III class of vehicle, Imagine is not just beautiful to look at, but represents Virgin Galactic’s growing fleet of spaceships. All great achievements, creations and changes start with an idea. Our hope is for all those who travel to space to return with fresh perspectives and new ideas that will bring positive change to our planet.”

www.virgingalactic.com

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/virgin-galactic-unveils-new-spaceship-for-its-growing-fleet/

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Hexcel joins ASCEND project

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Hexcel joins ASCEND project

Hexcel has announced its role within the recently launched UK-based project called ASCEND (Aerospace and Automotive Supply Chain Enabled Development) that will focus on developing high-rate manufacturing and processing technologies that will accelerate the development of new, lightweight advanced composite materials.

The composites company will join lead partner GKN Aerospace and 13 other project stakeholders in a collaboration across the UK supply chain to develop the technologies and automation equipment required to manufacture lightweight, more fuel-efficient structures for sustainable air mobility, aerospace, and automotive industries.

Hexcel will contribute to the ASCEND project framework, developing a new HexPly fast cure prepreg system that will significantly reduce component processing times compared to existing aerospace prepregs.

In addition to its new fast curing prepreg technology, Hexcel’s range of Liquid Composite Moulding (LCM) products will be incorporated into the ASCEND project work packages. The project will use both HiTape advanced unidirectional dry carbon reinforcements and HiMax multiaxial non-crimp fabrics reinforcements.

The ASCEND project will allow Hexcel to collaborate with Tier 1 companies, engineers, tooling specialists, and production equipment OEMs to deliver both prepreg and liquid composite moulding solutions that meet both the performance targets and satisfy the processing requirements for high-rate automated manufacture.

The technical integration enabled by the ASCEND project partnerships will ensure a complete understanding of customer performance and processing needs, coupled with the opportunity to industrialize new technologies utilizing the extensive capabilities of GKN’s Global Technology Centre in Bristol.

Paul Mackenzie, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Hexcel, said “We are  proud to be part of the ASCEND program, and we look forward to working with other leading companies as we develop processes and materials that help to make the next generation of sustainable air mobility, aerospace, and automotive vehicles possible. This project offers the perfect platform for Hexcel to collaborate and further develop our HexPly, HiMax, and HiTape technologies.”

The ASCEND partners working alongside Hexcel include Assyst Bulmer, Airborne, Cobham Mission Systems Wimborne, Cygnet Texkimp, DES Composites, FAR-UK, Hive Composites, LMAT, Loop Technology, McLaren Automotive, The National Composites Centre, Solvay Composite Technologies, Rafinex, and Sigmatex (UK).

Together, the group looks forward to delivering the material and automation innovations that will power more sustainable mobility solutions of the future.

www.hexcel.com

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/hexcel-joins-ascend-project/

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes extends landing gear kits contract with Magellan

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes division has extended its component supply contract with Canada-based supplier Magellan Aerospace.

Under this long-term contract, Magellan will continue to supply landing gear kits and structural components for Boeing platforms such as the 737, 767, and 777.

The contract extension also shows that Magellan meets Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ cost, quality and performance requirements.

Magellan business development, marketing and contract vice-president Haydn Martin said: “Securing this major business extension for key Boeing platforms is foundational for our New York and Kitchener facilities as the aerospace industry works to recover from the impact of the global pandemic.

“The confidence that Boeing has placed in Magellan is significant and demonstrates our ability to offer our customers comprehensive and reliable solutions.”

For Boeing, the company is using a vertical integration strategy that leverages global resources in Ontario, New York City, and India.

It has also made significant investments across all its facilities regarding manufacturing technology and the workforce to enhance its competitiveness worldwide.

Magellan will deliver these kits and hardware from its facilities in Kitchener, Ontario and New York City, New York. The company will also produce an extra supply of kits to reduce production risk.

Deliveries will be made directly to Boeing’s assembly facilities in Renton and Everett, Washington, US.

Last month, Magellan signed a five-year renewal agreement with Avio Aero to supply magnesium and aluminium castings.

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Source: https://www.aerospace-technology.com/news/boeing-commercial-aircraft-magellan/

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ZeroAvia raises new funding for hydrogen-electric engine development

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Zero-emission aviation firm ZeroAvia has raised $24.3m in new funding to support the development of a 2MW hydrogen-electric engine.

Hong Kong-based venture capital firm Horizons Ventures, an existing investor, led the latest funding round and was joined by new investor British Airways.

Other investors, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Summa Equity, Shell Ventures, and SYSTEMIQ, also joined the financing.

The financing takes the company’s total private investment to more than $53m while the total funding raised is close to $74m since its formation.

ZeroAvia’s funding comes a few months after the UK Government, through the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), and Innovate UK, announced a $16.3m (£12.3m) grant to deliver a 19-seat hydrogen-electric powered aircraft in the market by 2023.

The new funding will accelerate the hydrogen-electric powertrain development for a ten to 20-seater regional aircraft.

ZeroAvia aims to commercialise the engine as early as 2024. The company aims to enter the more than 50-seater commercial aircraft segment by 2026.

The funding will also de-risk the company ambition to power a 100-seat single-aisle aircraft by 2030.

ZeroAvia CEO and founder Val Miftakhov said: “This new funding, in conjunction with our other recent milestones, will significantly accelerate our path to zero-emission solutions for larger regional aircraft at a commercial scale.

“With many airlines lining up and ready to make the shift to zero-emissions, we expect to see wide-scale adoption of this technology.”

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Source: https://www.aerospace-technology.com/news/zeroavia-electric-raising-funds/

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