Saturday, May 9, 2020

The mighty RS-25 rocket engine

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center intends to buy 18 additional RS-25 rocket engines from Aerojet Rocketdyne in Canoga Park, Calif., to support the agency's new Space Launch System (SLS). The estimated value of this proposed action is $2.2 billion with an estimated period of performance from date of execution through July 15, 2028.

“RS-25” is the generic designation for the staged combustion, liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen rocket engine system previously known as the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) and it is the established core stage engine for the new SLS rocket. This proposed effort will be based on a previously existing production line for an engine system with thirty years of human spaceflight history. It is not a new engine development effort. The purchase of 18 additional RS-25s will fullfill the SLS Program engine requirements that are beyond the scope and the period of performance of the current contract, which provides six RS-25 flights engines with a period of performance through Sept. 30, 2024.

The new SLS vehicle uses a “stage-and-a-half” configuration that ignites the four core stage engines seconds before liftoff and then ignites the solid motors (boosters) at liftoff. The boosters burn out approximately two minutes into the flight while the core stage engines continue to burn until the desired cutoff point is achieved. This basic configuration is flexible for both early demonstration flights and for ultimately evolving the SLS vehicle to a configuration with a capability to lift 130 metric tons to low-earth orbit in support of future exploration missions.

NASA's strategy for minimizing the cost for development of the new SLS vehicle is to leverage the assets, capabilities and experience of the Space Shuttle Program. Early SLS flights will utilize 16 RS-25 engines from the Space Shuttle Program with necessary refurbishment and adaptations for SLS. The availability of 16 flights assets was one factor in selecting the RS-25 for the SLS architecture along with the demonstrated performance and extensive experience with this engine. These 16 assests can be used for the first four flights of SLS, with four engines per stage.

In addition to the 16 engines, six new engines were previously procured under the current contract to provide engines for the fifth SLS flight and two risk mitigation spare engines.

For the additional 18 RS-25 engines, it is estimated that each unit will take five years to fabricate and assemble. While it will be the goal of this procurement action to reduce this cycle time, the timeline of five years matches the documents Aerojet Rocketdyne historical norm for this engine.

Aerojet Rocketdyne designed, developed, and matured the RS-25 engine system as the SSME over the past forty-plus years, and has been the only source utilized for the design, development, manufacture, refurbishment, recycle, testing, and flight operations of the RS-25 for the life of the Space Shuttle Program. Further, Aerojet Rocketdyne is the contractor currently responsible for adapting the residual Space Shuttle RS-25 hardware for use as part of the SLS Program. No other contractor has this accumulated knowledge with respect to hands-on technical experience and programmatic history of this engine.

Aerojet Rocketdyne manufacturing is performed at three facilities; machining, welding, assembly and test of subassemblies at the Canoga Park California Strategic Fabrication Center, turbopump assembly operations at the West Palm Beach, Florida facility, and final assembly and test at the NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. While the NASA Stennis Space Center is a Government-owned facility, the other two facilities are Aerojet Rocketdyne facilities.

Aerojet Rocketdyne (and its predecessor companies) is the only contractor in this country to design and build large liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen rocket engines for human spaceflight. They designed and built the first liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engines to ever fly, the RL10, first launched in 1963. They designed and built the J-2 engine used for the second stage of the Saturn IB vehicle and the second and third stage of the Saturn V vehicle. Furthermore, they designed and built the world's largest liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen production engine, the RS-68, for the Delta IV vehicle in support of the Department of Defense. And most recently, they restarted production of six new RS-25 flight engines for the SLS Program.

For the past forty-plus years the RS-25 was, and remains today, the highest performing large staged combustion liquid hydrogen engine in the world. It is a unique engine with unique capabilities that took substantial and prolonged effort to develop and certify for human spaceflight. An attempt to develop a new engine with a new contractor (or the RS-25 engine with a new contractor) would require significantly more engine hot fire testing to certify for flight.

The RS-25 engine design carries with it four decades of development and production activity and three decades of flight experience. As a staged-combustion liquid hydrogen engine, the RS-25 engine design is also the most advanced and complex engine ever built and flown. With over one million seconds of accumulated hot-fire test time and the equivalent of over four hundred human spaceflights, the RS-25 design, production processes, and operational procedures have incorporated within them thousands of lessons learned.

The overall period of performance for the proposed activity in support of the current SLS Program flight manifest is approximately nine years. To support an August 2025 launch of a fifth mission, the first four engines must be delivered no later than July 2025. Based on historical data it takes a lead-time of approximately five years to fabricate and assemble the engine. Based on an ATP of July 2019, the first of four engines would need to be delivered in July 2024. Assuming the engines are delivered every three months, the fourth engine would be delivered in April 2025, with about three months contingency in the schedule. The last of the 18 engines would deliver in the first quarter of fiscal year 2028.

Friday, May 8, 2020

FBI plans to lease 'ultra-long-range aircraft' to support counterterrorism operations

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) requires an ultra-long-range aircraft to provide a rapid response to transport Department of Justice (DOJ) personnel world-wide in support of counterterrorism and other sensitive investigations. The FBI announced the requirement in contract documents released last month. In addition, the aircraft will provide transportation support for the FBI’s Director and Department of Justice’s Attorney General.

“The proposed aircraft shall be delivered with all required modifications to assume the FBI mission by Aug. 20,” the agency said in contract documents. Currently, all FBI aircrew maintain a Gulfstream 5 type rating and flight training currency through Flight Safety International. The aircraft shall have the standard package as equipped by the manufacturer for a Gulfstream G-550 or Gulfstream G-650. The FBI anticipate flying 500 hours per year.

The aircraft can be either new or pre-owned (manufactured no earlier than 2012), and equipped with new or pre-owned engines manufactured no earlier than 2012. The aircraft must be able to transport no less than 14, and up to 19, passengers with a range of 6,750 nautical miles at Mach 0.80 or greater.

“It is preferred, but not required, that the G-550 or G650 have the military’s C-37B communications system installed at the time the aircraft is delivered to the FBI to begin the lease term,” the FBI said. In addition, the FBI will provide an Iridium antenna compatible with an Iridium Portable Telephone if such antenna is not already installed.

Companies that can meet the aircraft requirement must submit a proposal to the FBI no later than May 29.

Primoco unmanned aerial vehicle shatters flight record

Primoco UAV, a leading global manufacturer of unmanned aircraft, recently demonstrated the successful completion of a 15 hour and three-minute continuous unmanned flight. Utilizing Sagetech Avionics' transponders integrated with UAV Navigation's Vector autopilot, the Primoco Model One 150 shattered the previous company record of 12 hours, eight minutes.

The ADS-B out feature of Sagetech Avionics' XPS transponder allowed for the aircraft to be seen by Air Traffic Control as well as other aircraft in the area, providing an essential safety aspect for unmanned systems interacting with manned aviation. The unmanned aircraft flew 1,650 kilometers at an average fuel consumption of 2.2 liters per hour of flight.

The flight was tracked online using a commercial website displaying real-time flight path data from the aircraft's ADS-B transmissions.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

A return to the radio scanning hobby during a pandemic

Its been a little over a month now since Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a statewide Stay at Home order to protect the health and safety of Virginians and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. With all non-essential businesses closed, public gatherings of more than 10 people prohibited and schools closed for the rest of the year, it leaves everyone looking for things to do at home.

Being a new resident to Greene County, Va., I came across my old handheld radio scanner while unpacking at my new location. Its been several years since I turned on the scanner and listened to any fire & rescue, police or aircraft communications. With plenty of time on my hands I figured I would bring my Radio Shack PRO-26 scanner out of retirement and see what I could hear from my new surroundings.

On Monday night the scanner stopped on 443.900 megahertz with a group of amateur radio operators conducting a net (an on-the-air gathering). An amateur radio operator, also known as a Ham, is someone who uses radio equipment to engage in two-way personal communications. In addition to just talking with other Hams, they can provide communications during emergency situations (serve thunderstorms, winter storms or major disasters).

After listening to the group this week, it became clear this was the Greene County Virginia Amateur Radio Club conducting their “Wellness Network.” Club member Bill Steo, 73, of Stanardsville has been reaching out through this network nightly at 7 p.m. since March 15, according to an article published in the Greene County Record.

The club operates a repeater station located on Flattop Mountain in Greene County. The repeater picks up radio transmissions from amateur radio operators and repeats their signal from its location giving Hams the ability to be heard for several miles.

“If somebody needed food or supplies, we’d make sure they got that help,” Steo told the Greene County Record.

The club will operate the net until the Virginia governor gives the all clear order for normal travels to resume.

Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Greene County Virginia Amateur Radio Club can mail a letter to the club at P.O. Box 463, Ruckersville VA 22968.

For me, the Stay at Home order has caused me to get back into a hobby I once loved.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Boeing selects audio management system for new T-7A aircraft

Orbit Communication Systems Inc., a leading provider of airborne communications systems, announced Tuesday that Boeing selected its Orion Audio Management System (AMS) for the U.S. Air Force's new T-7A Red Hawk advanced pilot training system.

The Boeing T-7A is a purpose-built jet trainer specifically designed to provide advanced pilot training for future fighter and bomber pilots.

Orion is an innovative and highly resilient IP-based airborne audio management system designed to support diverse network-based communication products and applications. It is easily adapted across a broad range of airborne platforms, including helicopters, commercial airliners, mission aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and fighters.

Boeing selected the Orion AMS in the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase of the project before the T-7A enters production. The initial program will include approximately 350 aircraft.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Video: The first unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft

A Boeing-led Australian industry team has presented the first unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force.

The aircraft, which uses artificial intelligence to extend the capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms, is the first to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years. More than 35 members of Australian industry are supporting prototype work across four Australian states. It is Boeing’s largest investment in an unmanned aircraft outside of the United States.

As the first of three prototypes for Australia’s Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program, the aircraft also serves as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS) being developed for the global defense market.

The Boeing ATS will provide a disruptive advantage for allied forces’ manned and unmanned missions. It will:
  • Provide fighter-like performance, measuring 38 feet long (11.7m) and able to fly more than 2,000 nautical miles.
  • Integrate sensor packages onboard to support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, tactical early warning missions and more.
  • Use artificial intelligence to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft.
The Loyal Wingman prototype now moves into ground testing, followed by taxi and first flight later this year.

Monday, May 4, 2020

De Havilland Aircraft starts phased return to work of employees

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited announced Monday that the company has started a phased return to work of employees and a measured resumption of activities. In the first phase, approximately 100 employees have returned to work focused on resuming pre-flight activities and delivery of Dash 8-400 aircraft. The phased return to work follows the temporary suspension of manufacturing operations on March 20 to support international efforts to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

"The global aviation industry continues to face unprecedented uncertainty as a result COVID-19 and we are all watching for signs of economic recovery,” said Todd Young, Chief Operating Officer, De Havilland Canada. “As we move forward, we are adjusting the business to reflect the current market demand, as well as for the foreseeable future, and we will proactively manage costs and streamline our operations in all areas of the business.”

During the pause in production and delivery of new Dash 8-400 aircraft, De Havilland Canada continued to provide customer support and technical services to owners and operators of Dash 8 Series aircraft around the world, with most teams working remotely. The teams are responding to numerous requests relating to the reconfiguration of Dash 8 aircraft to support aerial transport services and the delivery of essential cargo during the pandemic. As announced by De Havilland Canada on April 23, Transport's Canada's approval of a new Simplified Package Freighter configuration that can quickly transform the Dash 8-400 aircraft passenger cabin to carry light freight provides a sound solution for operators to redeploy aircraft.

Most popular posts April 2020

1.) Coulson's Boeing 737 goes into firefighting service this year - Coulson Aviation USA has been awarded a multi-year contract with the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service for Next Generation Large Air Tanker Services throughout the United States. [Full story

2.) Boeing's first COVID-19 mission lands in New Hampshire - Boeing completed its first COVID-19 transport mission on Saturday, using a 737-700 aircraft from its corporate fleet to bring personal protective equipment from China to the United States. [Full story

3.) Video: Blue Angels and Thunderbirds aim for flyover of Baltimore, Atlanta and DC this weekend - The U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds performed a very rare joint flyover above New York City, Trenton, Newark, and Philadelphia on Tuesday to honor health care and essential workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. [Full story]

4.) Air Canada reconfigures three Boeing 777s to transport COVID-19 supplies - Air Canada is reconfiguring the cabins of three of its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to give them additional cargo capacity to combat the COVID-19 crisis, the company announced on Saturday. [Full story]

5.) Marines first operational flight of MQ-9A Reaper in Middle East - On March 20, U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) pilots and sensor operators from Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) conducted their first operational flight of an MQ-9A Reaper Unmanned Aircraft System in the Middle East. [Full story]