Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rocket launch from Virginia will light up mid-Atlantic coast

The morning skies along the mid-Atlantic coast will light up with luminescent clouds as NASA tests a new system that supports science studies of the ionosphere and aurora with a sounding rocket launch June 29 from the Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia.

During the flight of a two-stage Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket at 4:15 a.m. EDT, ten canisters about the size of a soft drink can will be deployed in the air.

The canisters will deploy between four and five minutes after launch. Blue-green and red vapor forming artificial clouds should be visible. These clouds or vapor tracers allow scientists on the ground to visually track particle motions in space.

The development of the multi-canister or ampule ejection system will allow scientists to gather information over a much larger area than previously allowed when deploying the vapor just from the main payload.

Ground cameras will be stationed at Wallops and in Duck, N.C., to view the vapor tracers. Clear skies are preferred, but not required, at both sites for the launch to occur.

The vapor tracers are formed through the interaction of barium, strontium and cupric-oxide. The tracers will be released at altitudes 96 to 124 miles high and pose absolutely no hazard to residents along the mid-Atlantic coast.

The vapor tracers could be visible from New York to North Carolina and westward to Charlottesville, Va.

The total flight time for the mission is expected to be about eight minutes. The payload will land in the Atlantic Ocean about 90 miles from Wallops Island and will not be recovered.

Video: New unmanned aircraft runway in Virginia

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe visited NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility May 18 for a ribbon-cutting on a new Unmanned Aerial Systems runway, a $5.8 million state-funded project officially known as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airfield.

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, McAuliffe boarded an Aurora Centaur, an optionally piloted aircraft that can be operated remotely from a ground control station, and flew in the plane over Wallops Island, Va.

“This new facility at Wallops provides government and commercial users with a runway under restricted airspace on a secure federal facility – discreetness that is of high interest for research and development,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said.

Additional details about the runway:
  • The runway is 3,000 feet long and 75 feet wide.
  • Its concrete pad measures 130 feet by 120 feet and is rated to 5,000 psi for Vertical Take Off and Landing operations.
  • The airfield is surrounded by 75 square nautical miles of restricted airspace that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to unlimited altitude.
  • The Virginia Department of Transportation managed construction of the $5.8 million, state-funded project.
  • A 90-foot-by-50-foot hangar with a 70-foot-tall rollup door, lab space, communications and broadband connectivity will be under construction this summer.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

SkyRanger drone supports disaster response efforts in Oklahoma

A team from Textron Systems Unmanned Systems provided its personnel and operations in support of disaster response efforts for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management last week. Textron's Civil & Commercial team provided full-motion video in real-time to the Emergency Operations Center in Oklahoma City and the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla. The video was used to rapidly and safely assess the tornado damage from an EF-2 tornado that took place in Elk City on May 16.

Textron Systems' operators, as well as representatives from Aeryon Labs, traveled 120 miles to the impact site and began operations within 20 minutes after the tornado's impact. Once on-site, the team operated an Aeryon SkyRanger small unmanned aerial system to collect more than one hour of high-definition video and georeferenced still imagery over the tornado damage.

With more than one million flight hours of unmanned systems experience, the Textron Systems Civil & Commercial team consists of highly experienced professionals who are armed with some of the most capable platforms in the world. In addition to this recent operation in support of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, Textron's team also provides aerial solutions in oil and gas pipeline inspection and security, precision agriculture, as well as other natural disaster efforts.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Seasonal flights begin from Philadelphia to Portland for Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines is inaugurating seasonal flights from Philadelphia to Portland, Oregon, starting Monday. The nonstop, daily flights will operate through Aug. 26.

"With this new flight, we now offer Rose City residents nonstop access to 58 destinations, more than any other carrier serving Portland International Airport,” said John Kirby, vice president of capacity planning at Alaska Airlines.

Flights will be operated with fuel-efficient Boeing 737 aircraft.

Alaska Airlines, together with Virgin America and its regional partners, flies 40 million guests a year to 119 destinations with an average of 1,200 daily flights across the United States and to Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and Cuba.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Saudi Arabia agrees to buy Chinook helicopters from US

Several defense and commercial agreements announced Saturday will further strengthen Boeing’s partnership with Saudi Arabia, create or sustain thousands of jobs in both the United States and Saudi Arabia, and enhance national security in the region.

President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were joined by King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif Al Saud and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud at a signing ceremony that included Boeing products and services. Among the announcements:

  • Agreements to purchase Chinook helicopters and associated support services as well as guided weapon systems.
  • Saudi Arabia’s intent to order P-8 maritime, patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, which are based on the Boeing 737 commercial airplane.
  • A joint venture with the Kingdom to provide sustainment services for a wide range of military platforms. The agreement also supports Saudi Arabia’s efforts to grow its indigenous aerospace industry and ecosystem through its Vision 2030 initiative.
  • A commercial registration certificate for the Saudi Rotorcraft Support Company, a newly formed joint venture between Boeing, Alsalam Aerospace Industries and Saudia Aerospace Engineering Industries with bases in both Riyadh and Jeddah that will provide support for both military and commercial helicopters.
  • An agreement between Boeing and SaudiGulf Airlines to negotiate the sale of up to 16 widebody airplanes.