Friday, October 16, 2015

Navy orders Bell 407 helicopters to support production of Fire Scout

Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., intends to issue a definitive, commercial contract on a sole source basis to Bell Helicopter of Hurst, Texas, for the production and delivery of two Bell 407 analog helicopters with an option to buy three Bell 407 digital (GX) and/or analog helicopters as available. “This Bell 407 helicopter procurement will support production of the MQ-8C Fire Scout Endurance Upgrade Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS),” the Navy said in contract documents released Friday.

The Bell 407 helicopter was selected by Northrop Grumman Corp. for inclusion in the MQ-8C Fire Scout UAS design. “It is the only known system configuration that meets the minimum requirements for production of the MQ-8C Fire Scout,” the Navy said. “Bell Helicopter is the Original Equipment Manufacturer of the commercial Bell 407 helicopter and the only known supplier of the air vehicle.”

Video: Second F-35C developmental test phase complete

The F-35 Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force completed its second F-35C developmental test (DT-II) phase Saturday. DT-II was conducted aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). During the tests, the team completed 66 catapults and 66 arrestments across 17 flights, logged 26.5 flight hours and achieved a total of 280 flight test points and 17 logistics test and evaluation test points. The testing was completed six days ahead of schedule.

Pennsylvania gambling tables revenue up 11 percent in September

Gross revenue from gambling at table games in Pennsylvania casinos during September was 11.34 percent higher than last year, according to figures released Friday by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

The board's report shows that September gross table games revenue was $65,917,113 compared to $59,203,617 in revenue produced by the 12 casinos during September 2014.

Total tax revenue from table games play during September was $9,466,444 with an average of 1,140 tables in operation statewide on a daily basis.

The uptick in table games revenue along with a four percent increase in slots for September reported early this month resulted in an overall gaming revenue increase for the month of 5.85 percent.

Avcorp awarded Lockheed Martin F-35 contract

Avcorp Industries Inc. announced Thursday it has been awarded its first purchase contract from Lockheed Martin. The scope of this agreement will complement Avcorp's existing manufacturing of the F-35 Carrier Variant (CV) Outboard Wing (OBW) integrated assembly.  Avcorp has been manufacturing OBW assemblies under a long-term contract with BAE Systems since 2011. The additional Lockheed Martin purchase contract will begin with production in the second quarter 2016 and first deliveries in the third quarter.

Avcorp is currently a single-source supplier to BAE Systems for the manufacture and assembly of the CV OBW main structure, The OBW structure is comprised of titanium, aluminum and composite structure sub-assemblies as well as numerous components for a variety of hydraulic and avionic sub-systems. The Lockheed Martin new scope includes paint preparation work as well as the installation of control surfaces and systems such as the outboard leading edge flaps, ailerons, fairings and sub-systems. The OBW will continue to be delivered directly to Lockheed Martin's Final Assembly and Check Out facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The Joint Strike Fighter Program is forecasting the additional production of over 300 F-35 CV aircraft over the next 20-25 years.

Potential habitability of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has begun returning its best-ever views of the northern extremes of Saturn's icy, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus. The spacecraft obtained the images during its Wednesday flyby, passing 1,142 miles (1,839 kilometers) above the moon's surface. Mission controllers say the spacecraft will continue transmitting images and other data from the encounter for the next several days.

Scientists expected the north polar region of Enceladus to be heavily cratered, based on low-resolution images from the Voyager mission, but the new high-resolution Cassini images show a landscape of stark contrasts. "The northern regions are crisscrossed by a spidery network of gossamer-thin cracks that slice through the craters," said Paul Helfenstein, a member of the Cassini imaging team at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. "These thin cracks are ubiquitous on Enceladus, and now we see that they extend across the northern terrains as well."

Cassini's next encounter with Enceladus is planned for Oct. 28, when the spacecraft will come within 30 miles (49 km) of the moon's south polar region. During the encounter, Cassini will make its deepest-ever dive through the moon's plume of icy spray, sampling the chemistry of the extraterrestrial ocean beneath the ice. Mission scientists are hopeful data from that flyby will provide evidence of how much hydrothermal activity is occurring in the moon's ocean, along with more detailed insights about the ocean's chemistry -- both of which relate to the potential habitability of Enceladus.

Cassini's final close Enceladus flyby will take place on Dec. 19, when the spacecraft will measure the amount of heat coming from the moon's interior. The flyby will be at an altitude of 3,106 miles (4,999 km).

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the mission for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The Cassini imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Norsat awarded $2.7 million VSAT terminals order

Norsat International Inc. announced Thursday that it was awarded a $2.7 million contract from a major U.S. military contractor for its Ku-Band and Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS)-certified X-Band marine VSAT terminals.

Amiee Chan, president and chief executive officer of Norsat, commented, "The reliability of our products in remote and challenging environments, such as maritime operations, continues to be a significant market opportunity for Norsat. This contract complements our expanding backlog of satellite orders and improves upon our long-term visibility. We believe there are additional opportunities that lie ahead for us in this market."

Under the agreement, Norsat will supply its MarineLink COM12 1.2m and MarineLink COM15X 1.5m dual antenna maritime VSAT terminals to support sea-borne communications. Norsat's newest generation of MarineLink COM terminals provide the most reliable high throughput satellite communications available in the market today for maritime vessels, including naval ships. Additionally, Norsat's proprietary Low Noise Block downconverters (LNB) and class-leading efficient ATOM Block Upconverters (BUC) will be integrated into the MarineLink terminals.

Both the COM12 and COM15X include Norsat's latest technical upgrades such as heavy-duty industrial grade motors, advanced high-speed acceleration and braking, high gain and low-loss antenna and RF filter chain, and conformance to military standards for high impact shock, vibration, and Electromagnetic Compatibility (MIL-STD-901D, MIL-STD-167, MIL-STD-461 for EMC). In addition, the COM15X will be officially going through ARSTRAT's WGS certification process. WGS certification gives the COM15X permission to operate on the high-capacity WGS satellite constellation controlled and operated by the U.S. government. Due to ARSTRAT's WGS certification timing requirements, Norsat expects to begin delivery on the MarineLink terminals in Q4 2016.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Video: U-2 Programmed Depot Maintenance

The U-2 Dragon Lady goes through Lockheed Martin Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM) every 4,800 flight hours or every seven years. PDM involves the complete disassembly, inspection, repair and reassembly of the entire aircraft; ensuring its longevity and ability to fly at today's record-high operational rates. This thorough maintenance allows Lockheed Martin to collect data on airframe integrity, confirming that nearly 80 percent lifespan remains on the aircraft.

The U-2 collects critical targets no other platform can, flying faster, deeper and with greater reliability compared to any high-altitude intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance aircraft since the SR-71.

University of Maryland flies high with 50th balloon launch

On Saturday, the University of Maryland (UMD) Maryland Space Grant Consortium Balloon Payload Team celebrated its 50th tracked high-altitude balloon launch. Since the program began in 2003, there have been 49 tracked balloon launches that took student-designed and built payloads to the edge of space.

The Maryland Space Grant Consortium Balloon Payload Program (BPP) provides easy access to "near-space" for students who cannot afford a launch vehicle.

Students use helium-filled weather balloons to lift small payloads--cargoes tethered below the balloon--to the edge of the atmosphere. The balloons reach up to 85,000-100,000 feet in altitude, and at that height, payloads experience space-like conditions in terms of pressure, temperature, and radiation environment.

Saturday's launch from the Claud E. Kitchens Outdoor School at Fairview in Clear Spring, Md., included six payloads engineered by University of Maryland and Capitol Technology University students. During the flight, the balloon reached an altitude of 94,000 feet and covered approximately 50 miles from the ascent location to the payload landing site.

The payloads performed experiments both on the way up and on the way down, and are designed to perform tasks such as collecting atmospheric data and visual imaging transmission to materials testing and telemetry and tracking.

Maryland is one of only a small number of universities nationwide to successfully launch and track so many balloons.

Developing the projects requires students to learn skills in a variety of different areas--such as electronic circuits, thermal design, structures, sensors and 3-D printing--as well as teamwork to pull off the final project.

50th Balloon Launch Payloads

Command Module
The Command Module (CMD) is the main tracking and telemetry system for the Balloon Payload Program. Redesigned into its 5th version for this launch, the module improves and enhances all three major payload subsystems: electronics, structure, and power.

Host Payload for B.A.D.A.S.S.
Host Payload is a testbed for the use of advanced materials and manufacturing processes in payload construction, provides high resolution video throughout the flight, and it is testing a new generation of electronics called Balloonduino. Host payload will be the first payload of the Balloon Attitude Determination and Stabilization System, slated to fly next semester and provide stabilization during the rigorous motion of balloon flight.

Bach's Box Weather Payload
Bach's Optic Box can sense temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, UV intensity and dust in the air. The box will measure ozone as it rises. The goal is to correlate changes in UV intensity and dust in the atmosphere as the balloon enters the stratosphere. The payload also experiments with a GoPro to take still images instead of video.

WhiteBox houses experimental technologies for the Balloon Payload Program. This marks its second flight, and includes 900 MHz radios tested for data transmission capabilities of images. One radio band will send periodic images during flight and the other will send XBee and telemetry data. Students review data received on the ground at tracking stations in the chase vans for further analysis.

SPECTREv.4 Solar Cell Module
The latest in the SPECTRE series, v.4 features a 3-D printed chassis with eight solar panels. The objective of this flight is to determine the in-flight recharge capabilities of these lightweight solar panels. Past flights studied the solar panels' voltage outputs with respect to altitude and yielded encouraging results. This version will begin testing the end-goal of SPECTRE: increasing battery life while reducing payload weight.

TrapSat from Capitol Tech University
This payload is a prototype of a CubeSat that uses a block of silica aerogel to capture microdebris in orbit. It is also testing an innovative hinged, Nichrome-activated lid that will protect the aerogel until the lid opens after reaching the desired altitude.

Number of teens killed in car crashes drops dramatically

An Erie Insurance analysis of teen driving data finds the number of teens killed in car crashes has dropped dramatically over the past several years. Erie reviewed data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on the number of teens who died in crashes when a teen was driving. The data showed that 4,216 teens died in such crashes in 2007 compared with 2,142 who died in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. The total number of fatalities includes both teen drivers and passengers.

Despite the drop, driving remains a dangerous activity for teens, with the teen driving death rate 15 percent higher than adults, Erie said in a company press release. Accidents remain the leading cause of death among teens.

A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concludes that graduated driver licensing laws, which phase in driving privileges over time as teens gain more experience, is one reason for the improved safety record, and that stronger GDL laws would lead to even more improvements.