Saturday, March 14, 2015

Snecma to supply plasma thrusters for Eurostar satellite

Snecma will supply a flight set of PPS5000 plasma (electric) thrusters to Airbus Defence and Space for the company’s Eurostar E3000 Electric Orbit Raising satellite platform. The contract was signed Thursday by Arnaud de Rosnay, head of telecommunications satellites at Airbus Defence and Space, and Jacques Pasquier, Snecma Vice President, Space Engines division. The PPS5000 thrusters will be delivered to Airbus Defence and Space in the fourth quarter of 2016.

This new contract is in continuation of the collaboration agreement signed by the two companies in March 2014.

Snecma offers a range of Hall effect plasma thrusters and propulsion systems, with power ratings of 300W to 20kW. This technology reduces the launch weight of an all-electric geostationary satellite by 40 percent for a given payload, or allows the satellite to carry a larger payload.

Video: A graphic look at Arlington National Cemetery expansion

Artist rendering of the proposed Millennium Expansion Project at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Space station crew lands safely in Kazakhstan

Three crew members returned to Earth Wednesday after a 167-day mission on the International Space Station that included hundreds of scientific experiments and several spacewalks to prepare the orbiting laboratory for future arrivals by U.S. commercial crew spacecraft.

Known as Expedition 42, commander Barry Wilmore of NASA and flight engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) touched down at approximately 10:07 p.m. EDT southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

During their time in space, the crew participated in a variety of research focusing on the effects of microgravity on cells, Earth observation, physical science and biological and molecular science. One of several key research focus areas during Expedition 42 was human health management for long-duration space travel, as NASA and Roscosmos prepare for two crew members to spend one year aboard the space station.

The space station also serves as a test bed to demonstrate new technology. The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System arrived and was installed during Expedition 42, and already is providing data to improve scientists' understanding of the structure and evolution of Earth's atmosphere. This may lead to enhancements to spacecraft launches, landings and communications systems; help guide future atmospheric investigations of Mars, Jupiter or other worlds; and help researchers model and predict climate changes on Earth.

The newly installed Electromagnetic Levitator will allow scientists to observe fundamental physical processes as liquid metals cool, potentially leading to lighter, higher-performing alloy, mixtures of two or more metals or a metal and another material, for use on Earth and in space.

During his time on the orbital complex, Wilmore ventured outside the space station with NASA astronaut Terry Virts on three spacewalks to prepare for new international docking adapters and future U.S. commercial crew spacecraft. Wilmore also completed a spacewalk in October with fellow NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman to replace a failed voltage regulator. Samokutyaev conducted one spacewalk during his time in space.

Having completed his second space station mission, Samokutyaev now has spent 331 days in space. Wilmore, having previously flown as a shuttle pilot on STS-129, has spent 178 days in space. Serova spent 167 days in space on her first flight.

UTC explores spinoff for Sikorsky Aircraft business

United Technologies Corp. (UTC) announced Wednesday that its Board of Directors has authorized a review of strategic alternatives for the corporation's Sikorsky Aircraft business, including a potential tax-free spinoff.

"We are exploring strategic options for Sikorsky to determine the best way to enhance its long-term success and create improved long-term value for UTC's customers and shareholders," said UTC President & Chief Executive Officer Gregory Hayes.

Sikorsky is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of military and commercial helicopter platforms.

"Looking to the future, we are evaluating whether Sikorsky's unique business as a rotorcraft OEM with a predominately military customer base is best positioned as a stand-alone company, and whether a separation would allow United Technologies to better focus on providing high-technology systems and services to the aerospace and building industries,” Hayes said.

UTC expects to conclude its strategic review before the end of the year. However, no specific timetable has been set, and there can be no assurance that a spinoff or any other transaction will take place. Likewise, no decision has been made on the timing or terms of any such transaction if one were to occur.

United Technologies is based in Hartford, Conn.