Monthly Archives: July 2011

SpaceX Breaks Ground on Vandenberg Launch Site for Falcon Heavy – The World’s Most Powerful Rocket

SpaceX took another major step toward the first launch of the Falcon Heavy. This will be the world’s most powerful rocket, with more than twice the payload-to-orbit capacity of the space shuttle, but at only one third the cost of the Boeing/Lockheed Delta IV Heavy. The Falcon Heavy will be the first ever rocket to break the $1,000-per-pound-to-orbit barrier, less than a tenth as much as the Shuttle.

SpaceX CEO and chief rocket designer Elon Musk was joined by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, 30th Space Wing Commander Colonel Richard W. Boltz and Lompoc Mayor John Linn to break ground on a new launch site for the Falcon Heavy—Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Falcon Heavy, along with SpaceX’s medium-lift Falcon 9, offers the next generation of launch capability to the US Air Force, NASA, and commercial satellite companies at revolutionary costs. With a launch site at Vandenberg and the world’s largest rocket, SpaceX will be ready to compete for the full range of US government business, provided competition is allowed. Currently, United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed, has a sole-source monopoly contract for Defense Department business.

“These are difficult fiscal times for our federal government and the Falcon vehicles can save the Department of Defense almost $2 billion per year in launch costs, while increasing reliability and capability,” said Musk. “This presents a great opportunity for the DoD to avoid cancelling other programs and minimize reductions in personnel as budgets contract.”

Falcon Heavy is to arrive at Vandenberg by the end of 2012, and its inaugural flight will follow soon after. It will be the most powerful rocket in the world since the Saturn V, which launched the Apollo spacecraft to the moon. The SpaceX launch vehicle boasts 3.8 million pounds of thrust from its 27 engines—equivalent to fifteen 747s at full power.

The first flight from SLC-4E (previously known as PALC2-4—Point Arguello Launch Complex) was Aug. 14, 1964, when a National Reconnaissance Office KH-7 satellite launched atop an Atlas-Agena D. The last vehicle to launch from this site was a Titan IV carrying a NRO B-26 payload on Oct. 19, 2005.

Vandenberg AFB has been the proving ground for US defense vehicles for more than half a century, from the critical Intercontinental Ballistic Missile testing that helped win the Cold War to mighty launch vehicles like the aforementioned Titan. The Falcon family of launch vehicles will continue this rich tradition, with its wide range of capabilities for the NRO and other Department of Defense agencies, NASA and other civil customers, as well as commercial customers.

Navigation Summit in September

Aviation leaders from airlines, regulatory agencies, air navigation service providers and airports will gather for two-days of educational sessions and networking events at the Global Performance-based Navigation (PBN) Summit in Seattle, Sept. 27-28, presented by GE Aviation. Now in its fifth year, the Summit has earned a reputation as a “must attend” event for anyone involved or interested in PBN implementation as a means to reduce fuel burn, emissions and operating costs while improving schedule reliability and access.

Keynote speakers include:
Graham Lake, CANSO Director General
Greg Russell, Airservices Australia CEO
Carl Burleson, FAA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Policy, International Affairs and Environment
Rob Eagles, Director, Infrastructure Implementation, IATA
Representatives from the EUROCONTROL, CAAC, FAA, NATCA, CASA, Air New Zealand, Southwest, Alaska and LAN Airlines

The 2011 Summit program focuses on best practices and lessons learned when implementing a PBN program, including the panel “Global Community Engagement Efforts,” “Lessons Learned in Deploying Australia’s RNP Network,” and an air traffic control panel “How Controllers Integrate PBN Every Day.” The educational sessions concentrate on real-world topics necessary for successful PBN deployment, including “Integrating PBN into the Airspace.”

Steve Fulton, GE Aviation’s Technical Fellow kicks off the event by outlining PBN’s role in streamlining air traffic management. Wrapping up the conference is a thought-provoking panel discussion between pilots, controllers, airport officials and community activists about the essentials of working together to deploy PBN.

The 2011 Global PBN Summit will be held September 27-28 at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center on the Seattle waterfront. The early bird registration rate of $450 is available until August 1; afterwards the rate is $600.

Sub-Killer Completes First Flight

The first production version of Boeing’s 1st P-8A Poseidon took off and completed a flight yesterday.

The plane flew from Renton Field, in which it’s assembled, to Boeing Field in Seattle, where mission methods is going to be installed. It is actually the first of six production aircraft for the Navy, part of a $1.6 billion contract awarded in January.

The Navy plans to get 117 with the 737-based aircraft. The P-8 is created to hunt submarines along with surface ships. On top rated of that, it is actually created to replace the prop-driven P-3 and serve as a single from the Navy’s main intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

“This is the first P-8 that will go directly to the fleet in Jacksonville, Fla., so the aircraft’s first flight is an important milestone for the Boeing team and our Navy customer,” said Chuck Dabundo, Boeing vice president and P-8 program manager.

This plane must be delivered towards the Navy following year. The Indian Navy plans to purchase P-8I long-range aircraft.

B/E Aerospace Wins Super First Class Program Awards from Three Major Middle Eastern Airlines

B/E Aerospace announced that the Company has been selected by three major Middle Eastern airlines to outfit their new-buy wide-body aircraft with B/E Aerospace next generation super first class suites. The awards are initially valued in excess of $125 million.

B/E Aerospace will provide these three airlines with individually and jointly developed customized private suites for their first class international passengers. Each of the airlines has chosen luxurious amenities, extraordinary comfort and private personal space designed to maximize the passenger experience.

“International passenger travel to and from the Middle East has been, and is expected to remain, among the fastest growing routes in the world. We are honored to have been selected to partner with these leading international airlines. These awards further solidify our position as the market leader in the Middle East, and further strengthen our position as the global market leader for premium class aircraft cabin interior products,” commented Amin J. Khoury, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of B/E Aerospace.

The company also announced that it has achieved record second quarter bookings of approximately $800 million which were approximately 45 percent greater than the same quarter of the prior year.

Alion Awarded Contract to Manage Former Air Force Research Lab in Mesa

Alion has won a five-year contract with the city of Mesa, Arizona to manage and promote the former Air Force Research Lab facility as a city-owned Technology Center of Excellence.

Alion will provide facility management and business attraction services to the city of Mesa in order to preserve, promote and expand aerospace, defense and homeland security research and development. The 80,000-square-foot facility includes an adjacent airstrip plus laboratory and office space to accommodate more than 200 scientists, engineers and technicians.

“This award gives Alion a substantial presence in a geographically strategic area where we can advance the needs of the Mesa government, work closely with Arizona State University and be recognized as the provider of choice for integration, modeling and simulation, test and evaluation services and lab operations,” said Rear Adm. Richard E. Brooks (USN, Ret.), Alion Senior Vice President and Manager of the Distributed Simulation Group.

“From the U.S. Customs and the Border Patrol to the Department of Defense, technology demands are rapidly increasing in the Southwest. It’s a vibrant region with expanding needs for capabilities and facilities that can foster innovation,” Brooks added. “Alion is proud that we can be the cornerstone of this next wave of ingenuity for national and homeland defense.”

“The award represents the first steps in developing a true national center of excellence for aerospace technologies, including unmanned aerial vehicles,” Brooks explained.

Zero Power Ballast Control

The Naval Research Laboratory is at present working on a Zero Power Ballast Control off the coast of Thailand, presumably searching for treasures dropped from the speedboat of one “Alan Garner.” Purportedly, the newfangled hydrogen fuel cell relies on bacteria to deliver variable buoyancy, which will allow an autonomous ocean sensor to move up and down water columns with tiny to no effort. Moreover, it is able to get its power from microbial metabolism (yeah, we’re talking about hot air), and although it is largely being utilized to measure things like temperature and pressure, it may be repurposed for more critical tasks — like mine detection. There’s no clear word nevertheless on when America’s Navy could have access to this stuff, but if we had to guess, they’ve possibly be using it behind our backs for the far better part of a score.

Mobile Laser Canon Delivery Expected in 2017

Officials from the Army and from Boeing presented to the press what appeared to be a working version of a mobile laser cannon. Parked in front of an American flag was an eight-wheel, 19-ton heavy truck. Affixed for the leading of that truck was a laser beam controller, applied to aim and fire lethal rays of coherent light. There was only 1 point missing from this $38 million High Power Laser Technology Demonstrator: the laser itself.

The actual ray gun is getting built below an entirely separate Army plan – one that will not be complete for yet another five years. Integrating the truck and also the laser together could take yet another year or two on best of that. In other words, do not anticipate a functioning laser cannon right up until a minimum of 2017.

The Pentagon devotes about $550 million annually to a mind-bending myriad of researching and development projects, all created make lasers and other so-called “directed energy weapons” a reality. Some programs are for lasers tucked into bombers, like Darpa’s High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense Program. Some are for ships. Others are for trucks. But they all possess a widespread denominator: the blasters are nonetheless far from combat prepared.

For decades, military scientists promised that lasers have been the weapons of tomorrow, just across the corner. However the vats of toxic chemicals used to power the lasers created them all-but-useless inside a real-life war. So the Pentagon shifted its efforts about 5 years ago, to solid state, electric-powered lasers, which would be less complicated to carry into combat. In 2009, one particular of these lasers hit what’s believed to be battlefield strength, firing pulses of about 100 kilowatts. You could compare that to 1,000 lightbulbs, shining on specifically the identical spot and inside the similar wavelength.

It was an impressive laboratory feat. It wasn’t a thing you may to take Afghanistan, on the other hand. Nor was there a automobile that could carry the weapon to war. The laser was big, fragile, and needed giant cooling units and generators to keep it blasting. So the Army began last year a “Robust Electric Laser Initiative,” or RELI, to squeeze that laser into a thing that could match on a truck – and hold its cool and its power in combat.

The Flying Car (Roadable Aircraft) Arrives

The cry of we-want-the-future-now people has been “where’s my flying vehicle?” Well, a really simple version of one might be coming to a road and sky near you. The Terrafugia Transition “roadable aircraft” had been approved by the FAA for flight as a light sports aircraft (meaning you do not even need a complete pilots license). Nevertheless it apparently took another year for the Transition to get the essential “exemptions” from the National Highway Targeted traffic Safety Administration to let the thing go on the road.

Be warned, this isn’t actually the Jetsons-like vision people have been talking about for ages. In fact, it’s known as a “roadable aircraft” rather than a “flying car” because of the fact that the emphasis here is certainly on the aircraft part (you still have to take off and land at an airport). It’s just that you could drive to and from the airport in the very same automobile. And it’ll only set you back $250,000 (about $50,000 a lot more than what was reported last year). By the time it really hits the marketplace subsequent year, possibly it’ll price much more.

AIAA Statement on the Final Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis

On the last launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, Robert S. Dickman, executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics stated:

“The launch of Atlantis creates mixed feelings for everyone in the aerospace community. As we take this opportunity to reflect on our nation’s achievements in aerospace, it is certainly nostalgic to see the shuttle era end. However, we recognize the promise of a bright future in which industry and commerce will play a greater role as we work together to build on the shuttle’s legacy engineering and science achievements.

“In an ongoing partnership with industry and our universities, NASA will continue its vital mission of propelling our nation, and the global community, to a greater understanding of the universe we inhabit. AIAA looks forward to tomorrow, and the momentous discoveries that will be made.

“At the same time, we give thanks to the thousands of women and men who have brought us to this moment in history.”

View the AIAA Public Policy Committee statement on the end of the shuttle program at

VA Awards 14 Major Technology Contracts

Fourteen major contracts to transform information technology in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have been awarded for an estimated program ceiling of $12 billion. The Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology program, known as T4, will consist of 15 prime contracts, including seven awards reserved for service-disabled Veteran small businesses and Veteran-owned small businesses.

“This five-year program will help VA transform into a 21st century organization and enable us to deliver the high-quality health care, benefits, and services Veterans have earned,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “In addition, it opens an opportunity for Veterans in business to grow and claim a share of VA’s business.”

Calling the program T4, VA awarded 14 prime contracts together as a tool to close gaps in acquiring IT services to integrate systems, networks and software. A fifteenth contract is pending resolution of a protest filed with the Government Accountability Office. The companies selected will have a fair opportunity to compete for work under T4 over five years. Their services and products may cover the life cycle of a computer system, and include program planning and management, systems and software engineering, cyber security, operation and maintenance, and support to facilities.

One of VA’s main goals is to provide timely access to benefits and high-quality health care to Veterans over their lifetimes, from the day they enter military service until the day they are laid to rest. T4 will be a major tool enabling VA to meet those goals by closing gaps in transforming programs.

The combined contracts will allow the most efficient use of technology to reduce the backlog of benefit claims delivers real value to America’s taxpayers.

The T4 program will be a single focal point for managing the multiple contracts; give VA access to the best industry capabilities without the traditional long acquisition lead time; and help the department meet its Veteran small-business goals.

Unsuccessful competitors will be notified once the fifteenth, final award is made. They will be given the opportunity to receive a debriefing about their respective proposals and learn how they might improve their future submissions.