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A CAP Aerospace Education Moment

WING TIPS: The Aerospace Education Newsletter of New York Wing                                              April 2016

Did you know?


During World War II, the Germans built and used an unmanned aerial vehicle which they called the V-1 “Vengeance weapon 1” and sent them against London and other sites in England and against Antwerp, Liege, and Brussels in Belgian.  They were generally called “buzz bombs” because of their noise or “doodle bugs” by their victims.  This pilotless aircraft was a mid-wing monoplane without ailerons.  Its engine, a pulsejet, was mounted above the aircraft aft of the wing and extended beyond the tail.  The engine, itself, was about 11 feet in length while the whole aircraft was approximately 29 feet long with a wingspan of a little over 17 ½ feet and weighed over 3600 pounds.  It was launched from an inclined ramp by a steam catapult.


The pulsejet engine was a simple steel tube, wide at the intake and tapering to a long narrow tube behind.  The intake had a grid of valves that were like shutters or little doors.  Air entered, drew in fuel (Bernoulli’s principle like the venturi in a carburetor), which when ignited slammed the little doors shut and provided thrust through the tailpipe.  The length of the tailpipe compared to its diameter was a key part of the design because the exiting gases were still hot enough to ignite the incoming fuel-air mixture which repeated the cycle.  For initial starting, an ordinary automobile spark plug was used.  Any grade of gasoline could serve as the fuel.


The guidance system was pre-set.  It had a magnetic compass linked to an auto pilot consisting of three gyroscopes which provided input to the flight controls.  A pendulum provided pitch stability.  Two spheres, filled with compressed air, armed the bomb, powered the gyroscopes, and provided the power to activate flight controls.  Altitude was controlled by an aneroid barometer pre-set in atmospheric pressure.  A small propeller on the nose, turned by the oncoming relative wind, drove a counter that would determine when the chosen destination was reached based on the number of turns of the little propeller.  On reaching its destination, the flight controls would be locked, and spoilers deployed causing the unmanned aircraft, or cruise missile as some choose to call it, to dive.


The British gave V-1’s that crashed without exploding to the United States and the Soviet Union.  Both countries reverse engineered the V-1.  In America, it was accomplished at Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson AFB).  Airframes were built by Republic Aviation and power plants by Ford Motor Company.  The V-1’s, seen in most museums today, are these reverse-engineered ones.  However, the Smithsonian is certain that its V-1 is an original because, when they were restoring it, they found German inscriptions on parts implying that it was not an American copy.


After a long layover in Hawaii. The Swiss team that flew a solar-powered aircraft from California to New York in 2013 will attempt to do it again as part of their Round the World Trip in their newer bigger and better solar powered aircraft.  Last time, they brought their aircraft, Solar Impulse 1 to California in a Boing 747 cargo plane.  This time pilot Bertrand Piccard flew solo from Hawaii in 62 hours. They started this epic journey in March 2015 from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and expect to return there to complete the trip.

     They had experienced difficulties that caused delays. The major one involved the solar-charged batteries that ran their engines which were overheated and destroyed. New ones had to be built and installed.

Current events in Aerospace Education: September 2016
Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace


1.  FAA approves SpaceShipTwo:  The FAA gets into the space business now by approving Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo for commercial operations.  (SpaceShipTwo will take passengers on a sub-orbital trip for a cool $250,000.)  It’s unknown when Virgin will actually commence paying operations, as it still hasn’t begun testing.

2.  Autonomous Uber aircraft:  Airbus Industrie is developing Vahana, an unpiloted air taxi that would use electric propulsion and ducted propellers.  It would be a VTOL aircraft; initially it would be piloted, but would transition to fully autonomous.  It may be ready for test flights by late next year.

3.  Privatized travel to the Moon:  Moon Express, a private company working with NASA and the FAA, has been approved to send an unmanned lander to the Moon.  Moon Express is competing for the X prize (worth $20,000,000) for first company to land a robot on the Moon and transmit video.  If you’re interested, the company has openings for engineers at Cape Canaveral.

4.  Curiosity rover sings “Happy Birthday” to itself:  In a scenario that could only be dreamt up by nerdy NASA scientists, those at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center decided that the Mars Curiosity rover was “born” on 5 Aug 2012, since that’s when it landed on Mars.  Furthermore, the SAM (Sample Analysis on Mars) experiment on Curiosity involves vibrating the soil to get it to enter the experiment, so the scientists set up a vibration pattern each year on 5 Aug to sing “Happy Birthday.”  Oh, and if you want to try to simulate driving around Mars, you can download NASA’s free game called “Mars Rover.”

5.  Amazon starting its own fleet of cargo aircraft:  Rather than relying on UPS and FedEx for all its deliveries, Amazon is leasing 40 cargo planes.  One of the new planes has a tail number of N1997A; 1997 is a prime number, a nod to “Amazon Prime.”  The aircraft have “operated by Atlas Air” painted under “Amazon One” on the fuselage.

6.  SOME Olympic athletes fly first class:  229 horses had to be flown to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics for the various equestrian events.  They were flown “first class” on board B767 and B777 cargo aircraft along with their groomers and veterinarians.  They were required to go through security, and even have passports!  Their “first-class meals” included 14,000 pounds of hay (for 34 horses/flight), and lots of water.  Cost was definitely first-class, too:  about $20,000 per horse!

7.  Planet found orbiting closest start to Earth:  Scientists have discovered a planet circling one of the stars of Alpha Centauri (a triple-star system about 4 light-years away).  This planet appears to have a mass that implies it’s rocky (like the Earth), but it’s only about 5 million miles from this star (Earth is 93 million miles from the Sun), and it only takes 11 days to orbit the star.

8.  ET phone home?  Astronomers detected a strong radio signal emanating from a star 94 light years away from Earth.  The scientists state that this signal may be a “strong candidate” for extraterrestrial life.  The star, HD164595 is similar to our Sun.  The next step is to determine whether the signal is artificial.  If so, the strength of the signal is so large it indicates that such a civilization transmitting the signal has capabilities far beyond ours.

Current events in Aerospace Education: August 2016
Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1.  One better than Tatooine:  Astronomers discovered a gas giant planet in a TRIPLE-star system.  This planet is orbiting the brightest star in the system (about 10 times brighter than our Sun) about 7 billion miles away from that star.  Another pair of stars circle the brightest one, about 30 billion miles away.  (This is as opposed to Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine, which circles a binary star system.)

2.  Hybrid-electric plane  successfully completes first test flight:  The Extra 300, usually found as a staple on the airshow circuit, is the test platform for a hybrid-electric plane powered by a Siemens 260 kW electric motor.  The hope is that this type of motor could power a four-seat General Aviation aircraft soon.


3.  New dwarf planet found outside Pluto’s orbit:  Another astronomical discovery – this time RR245, a small (~400 miles in diameter) dwarf planet far beyond Pluto in the “Kuiper Belt” region.  It has a very elliptical orbit, varying from 3 billion to 11 billion miles from the Sun, taking 700 years to orbit once.  By comparison, Pluto is about 1400 miles in diameter, and orbits the Sun every 248 years.  Although astronomers have discovered other KBO (Kuiper Belt Objects), this is the first one large enough to be classified as a dwarf planet (massive enough to be crushed into a sphere by its own gravity; but unlike “regular” planets, it has not cleared and coalesced its orbital path of other debris) since the designator was created.  Of course, Pluto was recently downgraded from a regular planet to a dwarf planet in 2006.

4.  USAF may build “Super Warthog”:  The Air Force is studying requirements for a new Close-Air Support (CAS) aircraft.  This would take the place of the A-10 Warthog, which will be retired soon.  The new Super Warthog would include the capability to use laser-guided and precision bombs, and would upgrade the engine.  It may be based upon the Raytheon T-X or the A-29 Embraer EMB Super Tucano aircraft.

5.  Mars 2020 Rover to proceed with final design:  NASA stated that they will complete design and begin constructing the Mars 2020 Rover, a space probe that will be launched sometime in the summer of 2020.  This rover will be looking for signs of life (both past signs, as well as current), and will return Martian rock and soil samples to Earth.  Additionally, it will have a set of microphones, so for the first time we can hear the sounds from the red planet.  There’s a possibility that the rover would also contain “helicopter drones” which would make short flights away from the rover base.


6.  EPA says aircraft emissions dangerous:  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it plans to reduce aircraft carbon emissions, which it says account for about 2% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.  Any regulation would depend on the result of the Presidential election (since the regulation wouldn’t be implemented until January, and would have to be coordinated with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

7.  “Parachutist” jumps out of plane without ‘chute:  Luke Aikens, a skydiver with more than 18,000 jumps under his belt tried something different:  he jumped out of a plane over Simi Valley (CA) at 25,000’ without a parachute, landing successfully in a 100’ x 100’ net.  Well, okay, he was WEARING a parachute (since this was being broadcast live, the Screen Actors’ Guild required him to wear it), but he didn’t use it.  Aikens was the backup to Felix Baumgartner (who set the record for highest skydive in 2012).

8.  Forget about Amazon, 7-11 makes first commercial drone delivery:  A 7-11 convenience store in Reno, NV did a trial run of a delivery from their store to a customer’s home a mile away.  The drone delivered a chicken sandwich, donuts, coffee, candy and Slurpees in about 5 minutes.  The customer reported that the coffee was still hot, and the Slurpees still frozen.

9.  Is the end in sight for the B747?  The Boeing-747, the first wide-body jumbo jet (first flown in 1970) may be approaching the end of its production run.  Boeing will be reducing production from 12 per year to six, as airlines look to save costs by using twin-engine aircraft (the 747 has four engines).

Current events in Aerospace Education: June 2016

Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1.  Plug-in electric…VTOL jet:  A German company working with the European Space Agency is creating a two-passenger electric jet that’s capable of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL).  The company states it will have a top speed of about 250 mph, and will be available to the public in two years.  No mention was made of the price, or the range of the electric jet engines.

2.  Successful test flight for Perlan 2 glider:  The Perlan 2 glider, built by Airbus, successfully flew up to 7,000’ while testing stability, speed, and efficiency.  This test program is in preparation for the goal of setting the record for highest glider flight (90,000’).  It’s believed that this glider is a testbed for gliders to operate on Mars.

3.  UAV doing cloud seeding:  A UAV in Nevada flew a test flight at an altitude of 400’ and successfully deployed silver iodide flares to demonstrate it could “seed” clouds to increase rainfall.  The “Drone America Savant” has a wingspan of nearly 12’, yet weighs less than 55 pounds.

4.  Make way for Yet Another VTOL jet:  Aurora Flight Sciences is developing a VTOL jet called the LightningStrike X-plane.  It will be unmanned, and the size of a business jet, and will be faster than the VTOL Osprey, and be able to fly higher.

5.  Not a wingMAN, but a wingIT:  The USAF is looking into using all kinds of autonomous systems in the future.  One thing they’re studying is the use of a UAV that would fly alongside of a manned aircraft as the wingman.  Other items include a Fit-Bit type of device, computers that learn from cyber attacks, and weapons systems that would recognize if their navigation is being jammed and automatically switch to other means.

6.  Beam me up, Scotty:  NASA has allocated seed money toward developing new propulsion systems.  Some of the ideas which will be investigated include antimatter-catalyzed fusion, an interstellar ramjet, matter-antimatter annihilation reactions (how the starship Enterprise ostensibly works), etc.  This is part of a House bill that also will provide funding for a Mars helicopter, a probe to land on the Jovian moon of Europa (which may be a site where extraterrestrial life exists), and a “starshade” to detect planets (and determine their atmospheres) revolving around other stars.

7.  SpaceX successfully launches satellite, and successfully lands the booster on platform…again:  For the third time in 7 weeks, SpaceX landed its booster successfully on its “autonomous spaceport droneship” off the coast of Florida.  This was after placing the Thaicom 8 satellite into geostationary transfer orbit.

8.  Thunderbirds pilot, MA native, crashes; ejects successfully:  Maj Alex Turner of Chelmsford, MA, who was flying the #6 jet (“opposing solo”) in the Thunderbirds, crashed his F-16 after a flyover performance at the US Air Force Academy graduation.  Maj Turner successfully ejected and appeared to be unhurt, but was taken to a hospital for evaluation.  The jet appeared to be intact where it crashed. 

Current events in Aerospace Education: May 2016
Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1.  We don’t have to worry about space aliens attacking Earth:  An astronomer from Columbia University in NY has come up with a way to use laser beams to either hide or change the image of Earth that space aliens may view.  However, it does require that those on Earth know where the aliens are.

2.  Dogs can fly:  An animal trainer from New Zealand trained three dogs (all of whom were rescue dogs) to fly a plane.  The dogs learned to turn left if a blue light on the glare shield came on, right for a red light, and straight ahead for a white light.  After a certificated pilot took off and climbed to altitude, the dogs took over, and successfully flew the plane through a figure-8.

3.  SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stage lands on floating platform:  SpaceX launched a supply ship to the International Space Station.  After the first stage exhausted its fuel and dropped away, it landed successfully on a floating platform in the Atlantic, paving the way for a reusable launch system.  The Dragon spacecraft launched by the Falcon 9 then successfully docked with the ISS, unloading 7000 pounds of supplies, including a soft expandable habitat built by Bigelow Industries.

4.  “The Martian,” for real:  SpaceX announced that it plans to send its Dragon unmanned capsule to Mars, perhaps as soon as 2018.  This is a step in the company’s goal to set up a colony of Mars.  This unmanned flight is intended to demonstrate the ability to send large payloads of supplies needed in place on Mars for an eventual manned mission.

5.  Russia launches three satellites:  A Russian Soyuz rocket carried three satellites into orbit, including an astrophysics observatory that will look for gamma-ray bursts, cosmic rays, and near-Earth asteroids.

6.  Japan gives up on its x-ray-observing satellite:  Japan’s Hitomi satellite, which was launched in February and lost communications in March, has been officially written off by JAXA, the Japanese space agency.  Apparently, although the satellite wasn’t moving, the Attitude Control System (ACS) thought it was, so it gave a command to counter the movement (causing the satellite to actually start moving).  Because the ACS wasn’t working properly, it caused the momentum to increase greatly, eventually shedding the solar-cell panels and parts of the satellite.

7.  Solar Impulse 2 successfully lands in California:  The solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 flew non-stop from Hawaii to Mountain View, CA, landing just before midnight.  Solar Impulse had been grounded in Hawaii for several months after a flight from Japan caused problems with the battery system.  This is part of their around-the-world solar-powered flight.

8.  Earth-like planets circling a star in the “habitable zone”:  Astronomers found three planets that are about the same size as the Earth that are orbiting a brown-dwarf star that’s 40 light-years away.  All three planets are within the “habitable zone,” or the distance from a star in which the amount of radiation the planet receives is such that water would be in a liquid form.  The scientists are already working on detecting water or methane molecules on these planets.

Current events in Aerospace Education: Apr 2016

Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1.  Need…coffee…in…space:  Until recently astronauts have had to make do with freeze-dried type of coffee (and drank it through a straw from a plastic bag).  But now astronauts on the ISS have a Keurig-type of device, brewing coffee in a bizarre-looking coffee cup (that allows liquids to stay in the cup in zero gravity, but still allows the fresh-brewed coffee smell to reach the java drinker’s nose).

2.  Very first B-727 flies again (for the last time):  The first Boeing 727 (which was flown first in 1963, and delivered to United Airlines in 1964, with tail # N7001U) was donated to Seattle’s Museum of Flight in 1991.  It spent the last 25 years being restored at the Museum’s Restoration Center in Everett, WA.  Restoration now completed, the B-727 took its last flight ever, a small hop of 15 minutes to Boeing Field, where the museum is located.

3.  A galaxy far, far away:  The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a galaxy that was formed about 400-million years after the Big Bang.  (As astronomer Edwin Hubble himself discovered, the older an object in the universe is, the further away from us it is.)  Astronomers believe this equates to a distance of 32-billion light years from Earth.

4.  Regulations needed to govern space tourism:  So says ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), which says that the regs will bolster space tourism and transportation.  Why will regulations help improve this industry?  Without a global initiative and agreement on the safety and security protocols, there will likely be a hodgepodge of regulations from each country, making it difficult for companies to comply for each country.

5.  Drones to the rescue:  A Kansas company has developed a UAV helicopter that could carry emergency supplies with almost no (ground-based) pilot input, useful on the battlefield or out over the ocean.  The Vapor 55, about 5’ long and within the FAA’s 55-pound weight limit, can carry payloads up to 10 pounds.

6.  Astronaut Scott Kelly retires from NASA:  Scott Kelly, who first became an astronaut in 1996 (at the same time as his twin brother, Mark Kelly), retired from NASA a few weeks after returning from a nearly one-year space mission aboard the International Space Station.  On four space flights, Scott spent 520 days in space.  But although he’s retired from NASA, he’s still being debriefed on his “year in space” mission, and doctors are comparing him with his brother Mark to determine the effects of long-term space flight on the body and genetics.

7.  Blue Origin spacecraft successfully launches, lands:  The private Blue Origin launch vehicle, built by a company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, launched in a suborbital flight up to about 65 miles high, at which point the New Shepard capsule atop the booster separated and parachuted safely back to Earth while the booster softly touched down back at the original Texas launch pad.

Current events in Aerospace Education: Mar 2016
Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1.  Could fungi survive on Mars?  Astronauts brought two species of fungi from Antarctica to the International Space Station.  There, the fungi were exposed to Mars-like conditions (like an atmosphere that’s predominantly CO2, very low atmospheric pressure, and lots of UV radiation) for 18 months.  Researchers examining the fungi found that 60% of the fungi survived, although only 10% were able to proliferate.

2.  (Water) ice on Pluto:  Scientists reviewing data from last July’s New Horizons flyby of Pluto have discovered that water ice (as well as methane, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide ice) is visible on the planet.  This is believed to be Pluto’s bedrock material showing through.

3.  Finally – a science-fiction movie filmed in space:  Colin Trevorrow, the director for Star Wars 9 (yes, that’s the one after the next Star Wars) said that he’d like to film some of the IMAX film in space.  He pointed out that NASA has filmed IMAX in space since the 1990s.  (In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for ILM-generated space scenes in Star Wars 8, not due out for another two years or so.)

4.  Elon Musk’s next project:  Elon Musk, who’s the CEO of both SpaceX and the electric-car company Tesla, told engineering students that he’s mulling over building a VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) jet that runs on electricity.  It might even be able to go supersonic.  No word on when (or even whether) he’ll actually start work on that.

5.  The Milky Way has damage history:  Relatively recently (a few hundred-million years ago), a dwarf galaxy (about 1% of our galaxy’s mass) brushed up against the Milky Way.  About 15 years ago, astronomers found that the spiral “arms” of the Milky Way didn’t all line up in the same plane – some arms were higher, some lower.  The theory is that this was due to a small galaxy passing through the Milky Way’s disk.  Now, scientists believe they’ve found the culprit.

6.  Einstein was right!  Physicists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) announced that they have in fact detected gravitational waves, the first time this has been done since Einstein predicted them about 100 years ago.  The scientists believe these waves were due to an event which occurred about a billion years ago when two black holes merged.  Many think this discovery is worthy of the Nobel Prize.

7.  Drone take-downs:  In the Feb 2016 AE current events, we learned that Airbus is developing a means to jam signals to drones in order to disable them.  Now, a professor at Michigan Technological University is developing a way to actually capture drones that stray into restricted airspace (or even ones that “go rogue”).  The system involves sending another drone after the errant one, and shooting a net to “haul it in.”

8.  Low-tech approach to controlling birds at airports:  At some airports, operators have taken to setting off loud explosives to clear birds away from the runways – birds that can cause collisions with aircraft in the area.  At Traverse City, MI, Piper (a border collie) works 10-hour shifts four days a week chasing birds away…and acts as a good-will ambassador the rest of the time.  He even wears goggles to keep debris out of his eyes as he runs around the field.

9.  New stealth bomber announced:  The USAF showed the first artist rendering of the new B-21 stealth long-range bomber, which will be built by Northrup-Grumman.  Looking much like the B-2 Spirit bomber (i.e., a flying wing), the B-21 is scheduled to be fielded by the mid 2020s.  The $80-billion contract is for 100 bombers.

Current events in Aerospace Education: Feb 2016
Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

  1. Meet George Jetson:  A Chinese drone manufacturer has created a drone that would fly one human autonomously.  The 184 (1 passenger, 8 props, 4 arms) requires the passenger to only enter the destination, then press the “take-off” button; approaching the destination, the passenger would press the “land” button.”  The 184 would be able to fly for 23 minutes, up to 11,000’ high, and up to 62 MPH.

2.  NASA working on green aircraft technology:  For the last seven years, NASA has been working on several research projects that would reduce fuel requirements, pollution and noise from aircraft.    NASA now says that these technologies could save U.S. airlines more than $250-billion.

3.  Not your father’s drone:  PowerUp Toys, an Israeli company displayed a paper-plane version of a drone.  Users make their own paper plane, then add various technologies (e.g., power supply, propulsion).  The plane can be controlled by a smartphone app.  PowerUp also is providing capability for FPV (First-Person View) flight.  Cost will be about $150.

4.  Set phasers on stun:  Airbus has developed a jamming device to prevent pesky drones from bothering piloted aircraft.  Not only will the device jam the signals from the operator to the drone, but it can even track the operator’s position, allowing law enforcement to pay a visit to the errant operator.  The system should be available sometime this year; no word on the price.

5.  Move over, Pluto – welcome “Planet Nine”:  Scientists at CalTech University have found what may be a REAL ninth planet of the Solar System (since Pluto was demoted to “dwarf planet” a few years ago).  They have not actually seen this planet with a telescope; rather, through mathematical modeling, they’ve inferred that it exists.  They estimate that it has a mass about 10 times Earth’s mass, and orbits the Sun in a highly elongated orbit, somewhere around 20 times farther out from the Sun than Neptune.

6.  Call an Uber ‘copter:  Uber, the ride-sharing “taxi” company, conducted a test project with Airbus Group to provide helicopter  taxi service at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT.  This is not the first such partnership:  a few years ago, Uber worked with Liberty Helicopters for flights between New York City and Long Island.


7.  First penguins, now beetles may help to design better wings:  In the Dec 2015 AE current events, we learned that penguins’ hydrophobic feathers may help engineers to create wings less susceptible to icing.  Now, scientists are studying the Namib Desert Beetle, whose patterned shell may controls the spread of water.  This may also produce anti-icing surfaces for wings, but may also be extensible to car windshields.

8.  NASA not the only one pursuing privatized space travel:  ESA (the European Space Agency) is considering contracting with Sierra Nevada Corp., the manufacturer of the Dream Chaser (which looks kinda like the Space Shuttle).  Anticipated uses include transportation (both cargo and personnel) to and from the International Space Station, placing satellites in orbit, and retrieving broken satellites from High-Earth Orbit (HEO).  This would require some changes, resulting in a “Europeanized” Dream Chaser.

9.  A new way to de-ice wings and rotor blades:  Scientists at Rice University in Houston have developed a coating of graphene to apply to wing (and rotor-blade) surfaces; this causes ice on the surface to melt by allowing a current to pass through the graphene.  This system requires a relatively small voltage to heat the graphene layer to over 200°F, which could melt away a ½” layer of ice.

Current events in Aerospace Education: Dec 2015
Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1. Engineers developing “solar sail” spacecraft technology:  At a conference for future space propulsion, researchers showed how an electric sail (or e-sail) could harness the solar wind.  This wind, which is a stream of charged particles from the sun, travels outward from the sun at about a million miles/hour, so a spacecraft using an e-sail could accelerate within a few months to several hundred-thousand MPH.  The researchers are hoping that a robotic spacecraft could use this technology within 10 years.

2.  Solar wind blew away Mars’ atmosphere:  NASA’s Mars orbiter MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution ) has observed evidence that Mars once had a significant atmosphere, but the solar wind’s charged particles blew it away.  The Earth doesn’t face this problem because our planet’s magnetic field curves the solar wind away from the atmosphere.

3.  Pluto has ice volcanoes:  Scientists are still sifting through the massive amount of data returned when the NASA New Horizons probe flew past Pluto this past July.  They’ve found evidence for what might be volcanoes on Pluto – two peaks (one ~15,000’ high, the other ~9000’ high) with a central depression.  This means that Pluto’s interior was warm (and may in fact still be warm) longer than previously thought.

4.  The end is near for Rosetta:  The European Space Agency’s Rosetta space probe (from which the Philae lander deployed and successfully landed on Comet 67P) has been in orbit around 67P for the past two years, but it has been functioning since 2004 and is nearing the end of its life.  Now the mission managers are planning on a “controlled crash landing” on 67P in September 2016; they hope to get significant data until just before the crash.

 5.  Dubai to use jetpacks for firefighting:  In what seems to be something from the movie, “The Rocketeer,” Dubai (in the UAE) has ordered 20 jetpack for rescuers from the US Martin Aircraft Company (at $150,000 apiece).  These would be used for rescuers to reach victims in the many high-rise buildings in that city.  At a top speed of 45 mph, the jetpacks could reach the top of the tallest tower in less than a minute.

6.  Airbus creates vision of the future – literally:  Airbus is predicting that airliners of the future will have transparent walls (squeamish passengers nervous about the view from 35,000’ can place an opaque hologram around their seat), seats that adjust to each passenger and themed zones (e.g., playing games, relaxing, interacting with other passengers) would replace first-class, business, and economy.  They believe this airliner of the future would be available by 2050.

7.  Penguins can’t fly, but might help airplanes:  UCLA and UMass researchers are examining penguins to see if their “hydrophobic” (i.e., water repellant) feathers can create anti-icing surfaces for aircraft.  Aircraft icing, which adversely affects the airflow over the wings (and hence lift), is a factor in about 8% of all fatal airline accidents.

8.  Paris to San Francisco in an hour:  That’s what a German engineering team is hoping to do with their “space liner.”  The hypersonic 50-passenger craft would be launched by a booster, then fly at Mach 25 (and about 250,000’, or nearly 50 miles up) before gliding to its destination.  It would use liquid O2 and liquid H2 propellants, which when combined would produce water vapor.  All would not be fun for the passengers, as during the first 10 minutes of flight they would experience 2.5Gs.  The researchers feel this could become a reality within the next 30 years or so.

9.  Airline passengers are treated like luggage, might as well board them on aircraft that way:  Yet another Patent from Airbus shows passengers “boarding” a vessel similar to the cargo containers used on wide-body jets, then placing the containers on the aircraft.  Although this would (per Airbus, anyway) take less time than current boarding conditions, it’s uncertain how the flying public would take to this.

Current events in Aerospace Education: Nov 2015
Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1.  Next-gen flight simulator:  NASA has created a flight simulator/virtual reality/actual aircraft for training.  This augmented, or “fused” reality product improves the fidelity of flight simulators which are fixed on the ground.  The system can be used for such complex maneuvers as aerial refueling, formation flight, etc.


2.  FAA and Walmart team for drone safety:  With the estimates of up to a million drones being sold this season for holiday presents, the FAA is understandably concerned with what might happen with many untrained people flying the drones and presenting a hazard to piloted aircraft.  Accordingly, they’re training Walmart employees to pass safety information on to those who buy drones.

3.  Airbus issued another patent on shoehorning passengers onto jets:  Topping the “bicycle seat” patent that Airbus was issued a few months ago, engineers have developed a stacking method of passenger seating.  It’s not all bad news, though:  one of the designs in the patent shows all the passengers able to recline.  No information is available as to how the top row of passengers would get into their seats (or, more importantly, how they’d get out, especially for an emergency evacuation).

4.  India launches astrophysics satellite:  India made its foray into astrophysics satellites when the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched Astrosat.  This satellite, placed in low-Earth orbit, is an observatory designed to monitor X-ray radiation as well as visible and UV radiation from across the Universe.



5.  Rosetta determines comet was once two:  Comet 67P, which is being orbited by the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta space probe (and onto which the Philae probe landed) is odd-shaped:  two large ends, connected by a thin middle.  Scientists weren’t sure whether this was due to the nucleus being two separate nuclei which merged, or whether somehow the middle was eroded away.  Now, from detailed Rosetta observations, investigators have determined 67P’s nucleus was once two separate nuclei.

6.  How to zap a drone:  With potentially a million drones anticipated being sold over the holidays this year, the FAA is mulling over new regulations for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).  In the meantime, the Batelle Memorial Institute has developed the “Drone Defender,” a radio transmitter that law enforcement or government officials can use to jam radio signals to drones, causing the UAVs to auto-land.

7.  “Drunk” comet might have contributed to life on Earth:  Comet Lovejoy was discovered to be emitting ethyl alcohol, as well as sugars.  These sugars, or organic compounds, are believed to be the source of life as we know it.  So it’s a possibility that comets were the seed from which life began on Earth.

8.  Beam me up, Scotty:  Two British universities have developed a method of moving objects using sound waves.  This “tractor beam” was demonstrated by suspending a 4mm-wide polystyrene ball.  The scientists believe it could be used in medicine for surgery or targeted drug delivery, and even in space (where there is no sound…and no one can hear you scream).

9.  Hybrid engines – not just for cars anymore:  A professor at the University of New Mexico is working on creating a hybrid rocket engine, with both chemical and ion propulsion.  This hybrid combines the best of two worlds – having the chemical propulsion for the “oomph” to thrust a large mass, and ion propulsion to generate a continuous small amount of thrust (that eventually could get a spacecraft moving very fast).

Current events in Aerospace Education: Oct 2015
Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1.  Toyota jumps into flying-car arena:  Toyota filed a patent for a “stackable wing” for a flying car.  The patent application indicates a multi-wing system (think biplane or triplane) that would be above the roof of the car (which kinda looks like a Prius in the drawing), and would be stored on the roof when the car is not flying.  It’s not clear what other aspects of a flying car Toyota may be working on, and when we might see this is an actual car.

2.  B-29 fires up its engines:  “Doc,” a B-29 which ignominiously lay in the Mojave Desert for years after being used for Navy target practice, has been painstakingly restored by a group of dedicated volunteers.  “Doc’s Friends,” the restoration group, just fired up all four engines for the first time.  FYI, this B-29 was part of a squadron known as (and named after), “The Seven Dwarfs.”  It’s hoped that Doc will fly by the end of the year.

3.  Scott Kelly halfway through his one-year ISS mission:  Astronaut Scott Kelly, as well as Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, have completed six months of their one-year mission aboard ISS to determine the effects of long-duration space flight on the human body.  Kelly’s twin brother, former astronaut Mark Kelly, is also being studied as a “control” to compare him against Scott physiologically before and after the mission.

4.  Forget about solar power, how about noise power?  Boeing received a patent to convert noise (like those generated by jets built by Boeing) to energy.  The patent shows “acoustic collectors” lining a runway; the vibration hitting the collectors would cause air flow that would power a turbine.

5.  Airbus to try to break altitude record for glider; sets sights on Mars:  The Perlan 2 pressurized glider successfully flew its first test flight.  The Airbus-led consortium (including United Technologies) which built the glider hopes it will fly at 90,000’ by next year, shattering the previous record of 51,000’ (set in the Perlan 1).  But the long-term goal is for gliders to explore Mars.

 6.  NASA states there is evidence of liquid water on Mars:  The NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) found evidence of liquid water – at least periodically liquid – on Mars.  The water flows seem to be present when the temperature is above -10°F; as the temperatures decrease, so do the water flows.  This may indicate the possibility of life as we know it on Mars (think microbes, rather than intelligent life); at any rate, this may make it easier for future astronauts to establish colonies on Mars.  Food & Wine magazine then published a tongue-in-cheek article about uses for liquid Martian water, like “Bottled Mars Water,” “Mars Water Spa Treatment,” etc. and events in Aerospace Education: Sept 2015
Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1.  New images of Ceres:  New Horizons is not the only space probe visiting a Kuiper-Belt Object (KBO, a.k.a. “dwarf planet”).  NASA’s Dawn probe has been orbiting Ceres (in the asteroid belt; it’s about 600 miles wide) for the past four months or so, and has beamed back pictures of fascinating terrain.  Among the features it’s uncovered is a large crater that has white spots on its floor (unknown what the spots are, and there is a haze that may be associated with them), and a 3-mile-high pyramid-shaped mountain.


2.  “Like” this wi-fi drone?  Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is working on a solar-powered drone that will fly over 60,000’ above the Earth to bring wi-fi to the masses.  This solar-powered UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) will be the size of an airliner, but will weigh less than a car due to extensive use of carbon-fiber systems.  It’s envisioned this will be operational by 2017; Google is planning on its similar project “Loon” to be operational sometime this year.

Current events in Aerospace Education: Aug 2015
Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1.  Breathing on Mars possible?  Paragon Space Development Corporation did a study that it would be possible to create conditions on Mars that would allow astronauts to breathe normally.  The study was executed for Mars One, the company that wants to send humans on one-way missions to Mars.

2.  Solar Impulse breaks endurance record:  The solar-cell-powered Solar Impulse flew from Japan to Hawaii on its multi-leg quest for the first solar-powered flight around the world.  The flight to Hawaii was nearly five days long, and pilot Andre Borschberg shattered the previous record for longest solo flight (3 days).  However, damage caused by overheating batteries has caused the aircraft to be grounded for repairs.  Even if the aircraft can be fixed quickly, the shortening days in the northern hemisphere means less sunlight, so the earliest they will start up again is April 2016. and

3.  NASA to test “boomerang” Mars glider:  NASA has designed a boomerang-shaped glider that may turn out to be the first aircraft to fly on Mars.  Prandtl-m (Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars) is planned to be deployed from a CubeSat (miniature satellite) during a mission in the 2022-2024 timeframe.  NASA will be testing the Prandtl-m with a flight over the Earth at 100,000’ (which would simulate the thin atmosphere Prandtl-m would encounter on Mars).



4.  Snoopy about to take on the Red Baron – for real!  A former USAF test pilot has built a drone (he calls it a “quad device”) that looks like Snoopy “flying” on his doghouse – er, make that his Sopwith Camel.  Otto Dieffenbach, the creator of this “aircraft,” flew it for the attendees of ComicCon in San Diego.

5.  If you build it, the passengers will come:  Airbus Industrie has filed patent applications for what appears to be a “flying auditorium” – a jumbo jet that would seat 800 or 900 (!) passengers.  The patent application also specifies a “folding seat” that would allow whole rows to be collapsed, freeing up room in the aircraft (possibly for cargo?).  The drawings in the application show two versions:  one has tail-mounted engines with a low wing; the other wing-mounted engines with high wings.

 6.  New Horizons beams back close-ups on Pluto and its moons:  On 14 Jul, NASA’s New Horizons probe passed within 8000 miles of Pluto (after a mission of nearly 4 BILLION miles!).  It captured images of Pluto’s largest moon Charon (see photo on left), showing what appears to be a large impact basin, plus a large 600-mile long canyon.  Pluto has large mountains (see photo on right) that are over 2 miles in height (suggesting that it might be due to internal planetary tectonics), and also shows very few craters (which means Pluto is likely only about 100-million years old, compared with Earth’s 4-billion year old age).


7.  But is it as good as MREs?  Nestle Research created and provided meals to the pilots who have been flying Solar Impulse 2.  As you can imagine, there is limited space on board the aircraft, and the flight controllers wanted as much nutrition in as little weight as possible.  So for pilot’s Andre Borschberg’s record setting 118-hour trip across the Pacific, he had 66 meals and snacks with him, some of which had self-heating packages.  Total weight of the meals/snacks:  26.5 pounds, including packaging.

8.  “Nearby” exoplanet found:  NASA’s Kepler space telescope has found an exoplanet “only” 1450 light-years away.  Further, this planet (dubbed Kepler-452b) is estimated to be about the same size as the Earth (about 1.5 times the Earth’s diameter), and orbiting a Sun-type star at a distance such that water could exist in a liquid form (dubbed the “Goldilocks distance – not too hot, not too cold).  The jury is still out whether 452b is rocky, or gaseous, or icy.

9.  Life may have started on a comet:  The European Space Agency’s Philae space probe, which landed on Comet 67P about a year ago, has discovered 16 complex organic compounds, which are considered the basis for life as we know it.  (Organic compounds form amino acids, which form proteins, all of which are necessary for life.)  Scientists think it may be possible that life on Earth started after a comet strike.

Current events in Aerospace Education: July 2015

Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1.  Life, the Universe, and Everything:  First, we had an astronaut take a selfie on ISS while wearing a Star Trek uniform.  Now, the ISS Expedition 42 (42:  the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything) crew members are apparently “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fans, as can be seen by the crew poster they created!


2.  Boeing patents drone capable of “plugging in” from the air:  Boeing was awarded a patent to allow a drone (which looks like a dirigible) to deploy a tether to connect to a ground-based (or air- or sea-based) “charging station” to allow it to have a virtually unlimited flight endurance.

3.  Yet Another Boeing Patent:  Boeing received another patent, this one for a “force field” a la Star Wars or Star Trek.  But it’s not perfect – it heats up and ionizes the air, so it can’t be deployed for an extended period of time.  And it deflects light rays, which means those on the inside would be essentially blind to everything outside the force field.

4.  Airbus unveils all-electric “plug-in” plane:  Airbus showed off its new “E-Fan 2.0” electric two-seat plane.  It cruises at about 120 knots using what appears to be ducted fan blades.  But don’t count on flying a long distance with this plane:  the lithium-ion polymer batteries only last about an hour.  Airbus is working on a four-seat (E-Fan 4.0) version by 2019, and is hoping to have an all-electric airliner by 2050.

5.  More reality imitating art:  A Maryland company is teaming with a U.K. company to develop a “hoverbike,” which looks something like the vehicles the stormtroopers used on the forest moon Endor in Star Wars – Return of the Jedi.  The “bike” is actually a quadcopter, and is being developed under contract with the Army Research Laboratory.  It also may be used in civilian tasks, such as search-and-rescue, film, and cattle mustering.

6.  Wing skins can “heal” the same way as human skins:  British scientists have created a way of using “micro spheres” –capsules a few micrometers across filled with a sealing agent – to fix cracks in aircraft wings.  The micro spheres crack on impact, causing the sealing agent to “glue” the crack together.

7.  Philae Probe – it’s alive!  Probe Philae bounced down onto the surface of a comet seven months ago, but although the probe initially transmitted scientific data, the probe was partially in shadow, greatly limiting the amount of sunlight reaching its solar panels.  As a result, after a few days Philae went into hibernation.  As the comet has been nearing the sun, apparently it’s moved enough so that Philae’s solar panels have been able to recharge its internal batteries, and it has begun transmitting data again.

8.  Science and nature meet:  Many people living near airports complain about the noise, but Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam (Netherlands) has done something unique.  They hired an artist who used as his canvas a park – and he created a series of ridges in a nearby park that approximated the wavelength of the noise from overhead jets.  They found the noise dropped by about 50%.

9.  SpaceX Falcon launch failure:  SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, on a resupply mission to the International Space Station, exploded less than three minutes into the flight.  CEO Elon Musk indicated there was an overpressure in the second-stage LOX (Liquid OXygen) tank, causing the explosion.  NASA indicates this will not adversely affect the astronauts on the ISS.

Current events in Aerospace Education: June 2015

Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1.  Bill Nye’s solar sail:  Bill Nye the Science Guy is building a spacecraft “powered” by a solar sail.  Solar sails work by using the force of the sun’s radiation and particle stream to accelerate it through space.  Although the force is rather small, the spacecraft would eventually reach high speeds, since the acceleration is continuous.  The “LightSail” successfully passed its first in-orbit test (to unfold and deploy the sail).  

2.  GE “builds” jet-engine parts using 3D printer:  GE has “built” fuel nozzles and parts for engines on Airbus A320neo jets using 3D printers.  As the printer uses ceramics technology, it is lighter and more fuel-efficient (up to 15% more efficient) than conventional engines.

3.  Going to work on the Starship Enterprise:  NetDragon, a high-tech Chinese company with a Trekker for a CEO built a new corporate headquarters in the shape (well, stylized shape, anyway) of Star Trek’s Enterprise.  (Comments on various websites debated which version of the Enterprise it was…many seem to feel it’s more like Star Trek:  Voyager.)    

4.  X-37B launches again:  The USAF unmanned X-37B launched into orbit for the fourth time.  The Air Force only stated that the drone, which looks like a small space shuttle, would be testing a new type of propulsion system.  They did not release the anticipated length of the mission, although past missions have lasted nearly two years before the space plane returned to Earth.

5.  United B737 “hacked”:  A computer-security expert accessed the flight controls of a Boeing-737 while he was a passenger, simply by going through the television system.  Although he did not do anything to the aircraft this time, he did briefly apply asymmetrical thrust to the engines of a flight he was on last year, causing the jet to yaw.  The FBI detained the expert (hacker?), and United Airlines has banned him for life.

6.  America runs on Dunkin, but what about space?  Two Swedish brothers launched a frosted donut on a helium balloon ride to about 100,000’.  After the balloon burst, the donut returned to Earth, splashing down in a lake.  Undeterred, the brothers recruited the Swedish Sea Rescue Society, which retrieved the donut.

7.  Hyundai writes “largest tire track message” to astronaut:  Hyundai used 11 cars to create a huge tire-track message (around 1.5 miles across) that says “Steph ♥s you.”  Steph apparently is Stephanie, the daughter of astronaut Terry Virts (current ISS commander).  Virts took a picture of the message from ISS.  Guiness Book of World Records verified this was the largest tire-track message (or is it the largest advertisement for a car company?).

8.  Not a Bat-Car, but a Bat-Plane:  Neuroscientists at three major universities are studying how bats (the animal, not Batman) fly.  They are interested not just in how they maneuver, but how they process the information in their nervous system.  By studying this, they hope to allow drones to fly better.

9.  Back to the Future:  No, Marty McFly isn’t using this, but Canadian inventor Catalin Alexandru Duru has created a hoverboard, and flew it nearly 1000’ to get into Guiness’ Book of World Records.  It works by having the operator shifting his or her weight.  Duru hopes to have it available for sale by Christmas, so start saving your money!

Current events in Aerospace Education: May 2015
Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace
Leader: May 31, 2015 - C/Amn Facteau

1.  Watch out, Google, here comes NASA:  Johnson Space Flight Center released video of a “car” that can drive itself, by remote-control, or with a driver.  The Modular Robotic Vehicle, or MRV, is about the size of a golf cart, and can reach speeds up to 40 mph.  Although developed for distant-planetary usage, NASA seems to be indicating its capabilities can be used here on Earth.  It does feature the ability to swivel each of its four wheels 180º, which would make parallel parking a snap!

2.  New Horizons sends back first color picture of Pluto:  Although New Horizons is still about 70-million miles away its closest pass to Pluto (around mid-July), it returned the first color pictures of the distant dwarf planet, along with its largest moon, Charon.  (It really looks more like a smudge!  But it does show a disk.)

3.  SpaceX launches to ISS:  SpaceX launched its Falcon rocket boosting the Dragon capsule containing supplies for the International Space Station, including a coffee maker called, “ISSpresso.”  Following the launch, Falcon then attempted to land on a floating platform in the Atlantic – this is part of owner Elon Musk’s plan on creating a reusable rocket.  This test went better than the last (which missed the platform entirely):  the rocket actually touched down on the platform.  Unfortunately, it apparently had “too much lateral velocity” and it tipped over and exploded.  SpaceX will try to land the Falcon again in June.

4.  U.S. companies to no longer need Russian rocket engines:  United Launch Alliance LLC (a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed-Martin), is creating a new rocket called, “Vulcan” that is more powerful than the Atlas rockets (which use the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines).  Understandably, the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as Congress, prefer this all-U.S. solution.

5.  A new cause for airline delays:  There are the weather delays, delays due to maintenance…and now there are delays due to software.  American Airlines, which has been using iPads in the cockpits of their planes for the pilots to access navigation and flight data, had to ground several dozen flights when a software glitch prevented pilots from accessing the flight data.  It’s not clear what the cause of the error is – American’s app, or the Apple iOS.

6.  NASA’s MESSENGER space probe crashes into Mercury:  MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging), which has been orbiting Mercury for the last four years (sometimes getting within 50 km), finally ran out of fuel and impacted the surface of Mercury.  MESSENGER was supposed to have a one-year mission, but that was extended as scientists determined the probe was able to accommodate that.  It has greatly added to our knowledge of the closest planet to the Sun.

7.  ANA shows off Star Wars jet:  All Nippon Airways now has a jet with a Star Wars theme – the front looks like R2-D2, and the back has the Star Wars logo.  According to ANA, this specially-painted will be in service soon, and will remain in service for around five years.

8.  Rocket launches:  one successful, one not:  Blue Origins, a company owned by’s Jeff Bezos, successfully conducted its first test flight of the (unmanned) New Shepard (named after first U.S. astronaut in space Alan Shepard) space vehicle, reaching about 55 miles on a sub-orbital mission.  Eventually, Blue Origins hopes to be launching paying customers every week or so.  But all was not well on the rocket-launch front, as an unmanned Russian Progress space probe carrying several tons of supplies for the International Space Station, had several failures and was spinning out of control.  It’s expected to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere in the next few days. and

Current events in Aerospace Education: April 2015
Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1.  Guess the seizure disorder IS a problem for this skydiver:  An Australian student skydiver apparently had a seizure shortly after jumping out of a plane from 12,000’.  His alert skydiving instructor managed to get to the student and pull the ripcord.  The student regained consciousness at about 3,000’, and landed safely.  The student skydiver’s physician had written a letter previously indicating that the student was “fit for skydiving.”

2.  This is not Firefox, this is DARPA in action:  a 55-year-old quadriplegic woman is participating in Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency experiment in which she can control an F-35 flight simulator using neurologic signaling from her brain.  Similar to the 1982 film, “Firefox,” she was able to control the aircraft – not by thinking about how to move a joystick, but rather flying the plane itself.

3.  Dawn rendezvous with Ceres:  NASA’s Dawn space probe has entered orbit around the 600-mile-wide dwarf planet Ceres, the largest in the asteroid belt, after a 7.5-year journey of about 3.1 billion miles.  Dawn will spend the next 16 months conducting scientific observations of Ceres, which astronomers believe is a remnant of the planetary formation of our solar system.  Dawn detected bright spots on the surface of Ceres, which may be due to ice. and


4.  Drone “talks” to Air Traffic Control:  Engineers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia have developed a drone that can talk to ATC.  This would allow drones to follow ATC clearances and provide information by using a voice-recognition/response technology.  If successful, this may allow more integration of drones into the National Airspace System.

5.  Solar Impulse 2 starts around-the-world-flight:  The solar-cell-powered Solar Impulse 2 took off from Abu Dhabi, UAE on the first leg of an around-the-world flight attempt without using any fossil fuels.  Flying at about 25 knots, the team hopes to complete the flights in around five months.  As the cockpit is only big enough for one pilot, the two pilots (Solar Impulse founder André Borschberg and co-founder and around-the-world-balloon-flight record holder Bertrand Piccard) will trade legs.

6.  NASA launches “twin” study:  Astronaut Scott Kelly blasted off in a Soyuz spacecraft for a nearly one-year-long mission aboard the International Space Station; cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov will likewise be on this extended mission to determine effects of long-duration space flight on the human body.  NASA will be conducting 10 experiments on Scott (covering human physiology, behavioral health, microbiology/microbiome, and molecular/omics), and compare the results against the same tests run on Scott’s identical twin, former astronaut Mark Kelly.

7.  Airline pilots become amateur astronomers:  Although the public could hitch rides aboard chartered aircraft to view the 20 Mar total solar eclipse, passengers aboard several Easy Jet flights got more than they bargained for when the pilots arranged for their flight paths to go through the path of totality, and circled several times so passengers on both sides of the plane could view the eclipse.  None of the passengers seemed to mind getting to their destinations late!  The French Air Force’s aerial demonstration team also flew in the path of totality.



8.  NASA tests flying saucer:  NASA tested its “Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator” (LDSD), shaped like a saucer, to see if it can spin without wobbling.  The LDSD is intended to bring large payloads to Mars, possibly over 5 tons.  NASA has indicated they’d need to handle 2 to 4 times that amount to provide for manned Mars exploration.

Current events in Aerospace Education: March 2015
Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1.  Send in the Drones:  A U.S. intelligence agency employee borrowed a friend’s “quadcopter” drone.  He was flying the drone (at 3 a.m.) when he lost contact with it.  Apparently, in the case of losing contact, the drone tries to get back to its “home location.”  Unfortunately, that meant the drone flew over the White House, and that’s when the batteries possibly died on the drone, causing it to crash on the White House lawn.  The company which makes the drone, DJI, has updated the software on the drone to prohibit flying within about 15 miles of Washington, DC. and  

2.  “It’s the Captain – open the door!”  A Delta Airlines MD-90 airliner flying from Minneapolis to Las Vegas had an unusual incident:  The captain, who had exited the cockpit during the flight, was unable to return.  The first officer landed the plane without incident.  The jammed door may have been due to a piece of string in the door. (!) 

 3.  Send in more drones:  A team from MIT created a “swarm” of drones that act like a swarm of dragonflies.  The swarm can communicate with each other and fly collaboratively.  They can land on water, which would enable efficient environmental sampling.  The team is entering this swarm in a contest sponsored by the United Arab Emirates, which is offering a $1-million prize.

4.  Pictures of Pluto and Charon:  The New Horizons space probe, about 110-million miles from Pluto as of mid-February), sent back some cool video of Pluto’s largest moon Charon orbiting Pluto.  Because Charon is comparable in mass to Pluto (it’s about 1/8 to 1/10 Pluto’s mass), the two bodies orbit around a center of mass that’s above Pluto’s surface.  New Horizons is expected to get to its closest to Pluto in mid-July.

5.  New proposed regs for drones:  The FAA released a 195-page document detailing how it’s proposing to regulate Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUASs), a.k.a. “drones.”  This reg deals with drones < 55 pounds; “pilots” operating them would have to pass a written test every two years, and the drones would have to be registered with the FAA (complete with “N” numbers).  The drones would only be allowed to fly in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace in daytime visual conditions, could not be flown over 500’ above the ground, and must be flown within sight of the operator.

6.  An alternative way to space:  If the thought of spending $250,000 on a flight to space with Virgin Galactic turns your stomach, you might consider flying on a balloon with World View.  Although you’d only be going to a “measly” 100,000’, that should be sufficient to see the curvature from the Earth, and besides, it’s less than a third the cost at $75,000.  World View just launched its parafoil balloon (unmanned) to 102,200’ in a successful test.  They hope to start launching paying customers sometime next year.


7.  Doolittle Raider dies:  Edward Saylor, the engineer-gunner on the 15th B-25 to take off from the USS Hornet to bomb Japan for the first time during WWII (in April 1942), died at the age of 94.  At the time of the raid, he was Sgt Saylor, and had the challenging task of fixing one of the B-25 engines shortly before take-off on a rolling carrier deck.  Sgt Saylor eventually retired as a Lt Col.  Only three Doolittle Raiders are still alive.

8.  Prince William working for a living:  Prince William, son of Prince Charles and of England, has passed 14 exams to become an Air Ambulance Pilot.  He will start working for a civilian company shortly.  (He has been an air-rescue pilot for several years with the RAF.) 

9. Rare WWII Glider Restored:

Current events in Aerospace Education: February 2015
Provided by MAJ Shelley Rosenbaum-Lipman
MAWG Director of Aerospace

1.  Trans-Pacific helium-balloon flight planned:  Two pilots departed Japan on 24 Jan to cross the Pacific in a helium balloon, destined for Albuquerque, NM.  If they’re successful, they’d break both the distance and duration records.

2.  Good thing the passengers had parachutes:  A New Zealand skydiving plane had an engine failure at 2000’ over Lake Taupo, NZ.  The six parachute instructors rapidly hooked into the passengers (who’d signed up for tandem jumps) and bailed out, followed by the pilot (also wearing a parachute).  All 13 landed successfully, with minor injuries at best.  The plane wound up in around 10’ of water, about 700’ from shore.

3.  “Doc” B-29 about to start flying:  A B-29 that a team has spent nearly 15 years restoring is about to start flying. However, the crew has to wait until temperatures get over 50ºF, since they don’t have portable oil heaters available (the restoration project is in Wichita, KS).  If successful, this will be only the second B-29 that will be flying now (“Fifi” is the other).  Plans are to have the two B-29s fly in formation at 2015 Oshkosh AirVenture (the first time in 60 years that two B-29s will fly in formation).

4. Futureaircraft may have “smart” skin:  BAE researcher Lydia Hyde has developed a method by which the skin of an aircraft can temperatures and stress on the skin, and change accordingly to minimize the effect.  She proposes using “motes,” which are computer devices contained in a cube about 1 mm on a side.  These motes have a sensor, wireless antenna, battery, and solar cell.  However, don’t look for this on aircraft anytime soon:  BAE says it will take at least a decade before it will become reality.

5.  Pilot sets “pole-to-pole” circumnavigation record in single-engine plane:  Bill Harrelson took 24 days to fly around the globe (by passing over both the North and South Poles) in a Lancair aircraft.  This time was about 25% of the time taken by Richard Norton in 1987.  The official record is pending confirmation by FédérationAéronautique Internationale (FAI), the official record-keeper. 

6.  NASA’s Mars orbiter finds missing British Mars lander:  In 2003, the British “Beagle 2” lander attempted to land on the Martian surface, but was never heard from.  Now, a decade later, the NASA “HiRISE” (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) orbiter has found evidence that Beagle appeared to have landed successfully, and even begun operating.  It’s unknown why Beagle never communicated after landing.

7.  Possible binary black holes found:  Astronomers found evidence of two black holes, apparently spiraling in toward each other.  The black holes may have been the black holes at the center of two galaxies which merged, and the astronomers believe they formed a few hundred million years ago.  When will the two black holes actually merge?  A long time from now…anywhere from a few hundred thousand to several million years.

8.  Planetary system found around very old star:  Astronomers announced they’ve found five planets circling an 11-billion-year-old star.  Since the universe is believed to be about 14-billion years old, this shows that planets form early in the universe.  All five planets are believed to be rocky, but they’re too close to the star (i.e., outside the “habitable zone” in which water would be in a liquid state).  The planets are all believed to be rocky in nature.

Current events in Aerospace Education: January 2015

1. The return of a supersonic airliner? Over 10 years after the Concorde last flew, both Boeing and Lockheed-Martin are working with NASA to develop an aircraft that can “quietly” break the sound barrier, allowing commercial flights to travel faster than Mach 1 over the Continental U.S. These planes could fly about 90 passengers at Mach 1.6, or about twice the speed of current jets. Other companies have been working on developing supersonic business jets, too.

2. Next stop – Mars: NASA successfully launched the Orion spacecraft for the first time on its Exploration Flight Test 1 from the Kennedy Space Center. This was a three-orbit flight that saw Orion get to a 3600-mile-high orbit before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere at around 20,000 mph. After splashdown in the Pacific near California, Orion was processed at the Lockheed-Martin facility, and will be returned to Cape Kennedy before the end of the year. Eventually, Orion may be used for manned flights (this one was unmanned) to an asteroid or to Mars.

3. JAXA launches probe to asteroid: Not to be outdone by the European Space Agency, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) launched Hayabusa 2 to land on asteroid 1999 JU3. After landing (anticipated in 2018), it will scoop up samples and return to Earth by the year 2020.

4. Major finding from Rosetta: The Rosetta spacecraft (which launched the comet-landing Philae probe) has analyzed the water in comet 67P, determining that the ratio of hydrogen to deuterium (a heavier isotope of hydrogen) in the water was quite different than on Earth. Scientists had thought that when the Earth formed, the water was lost, and had gained it back by comet impacts. This finding casts doubts on that hypothesis.

5. New Horizons gets ready for Pluto rendezvous: NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft, launched in 2006 for Pluto, has been “awakened” from its electronic hibernation to prepare for its Pluto observations. After undergoing health checks and software updates, it will begin observations of Pluto and its satellites on 15 Jan, and will make its closest approach on 14 July. New Horizons is currently about 3 billion miles from Earth, and 160 million miles from Pluto.

6. Curiosity discovers organic material on Mars: The NASA Curiosity Rover, which has been exploring Mars for over two years, discovered methane and other organic matter on Mars. Although organic materials can signal the presence of life, it’s unknown whether that’s the case on Mars: various chemical reactions may also create these molecules.

7. SpaceX’s Falcon rocket to land on ocean platform: The private Dragon spacecraft, powered by the SpaceX Falcon booster, is scheduled to launch on 6 Jan to bring supplies to the International Space Station. But after the Falcon rocket detaches from Dragon, it will attempt to land on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean. If this proves successful, it will allow reuse of the Falcon rocket for multiple launches.