Friday, January 20, 2023

NTSB report shows pilot and passenger were in plane “not to be flown”

A preliminary report released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) shows a pilot and passenger were riding in a plane that was “not to be flown.” Both were killed when the plane experienced trouble and crashed in Suffolk, Va.

On Jan. 7, a single-engine Piper PA-28-140 (registration N592FL), was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Suffolk, Va. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured.

The NTSB report states the pilot had just received his private pilot certificate on Nov. 29. He owned the airplane and based it at Northeast Regional Airport in Edenton, N.C.

According to a mechanic at Northeast Regional, the pilot contacted him on New Year's Day, to inform him that the engine's rpm drop was excessive during a magneto check and that he had parked the airplane in front of the mechanic’s hangar for further evaluation. The mechanic looked at the airplane on Jan. 4. He removed the spark plugs, cleaned them, and checked for resistance. He found that two spark plugs had very high resistance and one spark plug fired a little weak. The mechanic replaced those three spark plugs and reinstalled the five other spark plugs in the engine.

The pilot arrived later that day before the mechanic had a chance to perform a ground engine run as he was busy working on another airplane. The pilot asked if he could perform a ground run of the engine and the mechanic said yes because he could listen to the engine from his hangar. As soon as the pilot ran the engine, the mechanic knew “right away” that the new spark plugs did not correct the problem as the engine was “skipping,” the NTSB report says. “The pilot shut down the engine and the mechanic informed the pilot that the airplane was not to be flown until he could investigate further, and he would most likely be able to do so on Jan. 9. At the time of the accident, the airplane had not been released from maintenance as the mechanic had not had an opportunity to further investigate the engine anomaly.”

According to family members, the accident flight was a short 40 miles cross-country flight to get lunch at a restaurant at Suffolk Executive Airport in Suffolk, Va.

According to preliminary flight track information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), shortly before the accident, the airplane approached Suffolk Executive Airport at an altitude of about 1,000 feet, and about five miles south of the airport. The airplane then descended rapidly and impacted terrain. A witness reported that she was a front-seat passenger in a car and first observed the airplane in a nosedive. At that time, there were two spiral trails of black smoke, about five to 10 ft behind the airplane; however, she did not observe any fire from the airplane.

The airplane impacted nose-down in a marshy field and no debris path was observed. The wreckage came to rest upright and was oriented south. A section of engine cowling was located about 50 ft south of the main wreckage. A postcrash fire consumed the majority of the wreckage, with the exception of the wings and engine. The engine was buried in approximately three feet of mud and further examination of the wreckage was planned following its recovery from the field.

The plane was manufactured in 1971 and registered to Grey Rose Air LLC of Edenton, NC, according to FAA records.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

US Space Force GPS III SV06 navigation satellite launched, GPS IIIF production underway

The sixth Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite, designed and built by Lockheed Martin, was launched Wednesday morning and is on its way to orbit approximately 12,550 miles above Earth. The system will join the U.S. Space Force's constellation of GPS satellites.

Known as GPS III Space Vehicle 06 (GPS III SV06), the satellite was launched (video) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 7:24 a.m. EST.

About 83 minutes after liftoff, U.S. Space Force and Lockheed Martin engineers at the company's Denver Launch & Checkout Operations Center confirmed the signal acquisition of GPS III SV06 and now have the vehicle under their control.

GPS III SV06 is the 25th Military-Code satellite introduced to the constellation. The satellite will aid Space Force operators by providing positioning, navigation, and timing data to military and civil users worldwide.

"With the last GPS III satellite complete and ready to launch, production of the first GPS IIIF vehicle is underway,” said Andre Trotter, Lockheed Martin vice president for Navigation Systems.

GPS, or Global Positioning System, is a satellite-based radio navigation system that delivers standard positioning, navigation, and timing data to America's military, U.S. allies, and civil users. The satellites serve as a crucial technological foundation for internet, financial, transportation, and agricultural operations, with more than four billion users depending on the signals.

GPS III vehicles provide three times greater accuracy and eight times greater anti-jamming capability over existing satellites in the constellation.

GPS III SV06 will soon join SV01-05 in orbit. GPS III SV07-10 are completed and in storage at the company's facility waiting for the U.S. Space Force to call them up for launch.

Lockheed Martin is also designing and building the GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) for the Space Force, which will feature even more innovative capabilities than its predecessors.

GPS IIIF satellites will feature an accuracy-enhancing laser retroreflector array, a new search and rescue payload, a fully digital navigation payload, and more next-generation technology.

In November 2022, Space Systems Command announced it exercised the third production option valued at approximately $744 million for the procurement of three additional GPS IIIF satellites from Lockheed Martin, meaning the company is now contracted to build SV11-20.

Past GPS post:

Delta Air Lines orders a dozen more A220 aircraft

Delta Air Lines has firmed up an order for a dozen more A220-300 aircraft, bringing the airline’s total firm order for A220s to 119 aircraft. The breakdown is 45 A220-100s and 74 A220-300s.

Throughout the years, Delta has reordered the A220 four times and is now the largest A220 customer and operator.

Delta Air Lines was the U.S. launch customer for the A220 and this fourth reorder in just four years by a leading carrier as Delta is a most gratifying endorsement,” said Christian Scherer, Airbus chief commercial officer and head of International. “The aircraft is currently connecting Delta passengers on more than 100 routes.” The A220 was built for the 100-150 seat market.

Delta took delivery of its first Airbus A220 in October 2018, and was the first U.S. carrier to operate the aircraft. Delta currently owns a fleet of 415 Airbus aircraft, 59 A220s, 266 A320 Family aircraft, 62 A330s and 28 A350-900s.

With 246 A220s delivered to 16 airlines, the aircraft is operating from four continents.

To date, more than 70 million passengers have enjoyed the A220. The fleet is currently flying on over 825 routes and 325 destinations worldwide. As of the end of December, nearly 30 customers have ordered close to 800 A220 aircraft.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Third military satellite for the LDPE program reaches orbit

Northrop Grumman Corp's Long Duration Propulsive ESPA (LDPE)-3A spacecraft reached orbit on Sunday as part of the U.S. Space Force's USSF-67 mission. This marks the third successful launch in the LDPE program.

The LDPE-3A was built using Northrop Grumman’s ESPAStar. The ESPAStar system provides a modular, cost-effective way of carrying multiple experiments into space and deploying small satellites. Also known as a bus, ESPAStar carries hardware so five independent missions can be loaded aboard the satellite. This eliminates the need for each mission to wait for a future launch opportunity.

Northrop Grumman also designed, developed, and implemented the command and control, and mission execution software system for the LDPE program. The software system uses a common baseline across multiple programs, putting more capability in the hands of customer operators at a lower cost.

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle delivered LDPE-3A to near-geosynchronous Earth orbit for a one-year mission. The Falcon Heavy also carried the second Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM satellite into orbit with LDPE-3A.

USSF-67 is the third mission for the LDPE program. The Northrop Grumman-built LDPE-1 launched aboard the STP-3 mission in December 2021 and LDPE-2 aboard the USSF-44 mission in November 2022. Northrop Grumman will continue to deliver future ESPAStar spacecraft for future USSF missions.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Arianespace appoints Rutgers chief commercial officer

European launch service provider Arianespace has appointed Steven Rutgers to serve as its next chief commercial officer.

Rutgers began his career in the space industry over two decades ago, working his way progressively through the ranks – initially as the international market and account manager with Inmarsat distributor Xantic in the Netherlands. He subsequently worked in Hong Kong, Dubai, and Singapore with Stratos and Inmarsat, negotiating complex bids and supporting commercial development. His career has spanned the globe, from Europe to the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas, where he has conducted business with multiple sectors – including satellite operators and the government, telecommunications, oil and gas, mining, logistics, and fisheries industries.

Before joining Arianespace, Rutgers was the vice president of sales with the IoT (Internet of Things) company Hiber, where he successfully executed deals with large customers served by the satellite industry.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from the International School of Economics and Management, Rotterdam.

Rutgers is succeeding Emmanuel Franc, after a record year in 2022 in terms of order intake.

Arianespace has orbited over 1,100 satellites since 1980. The company provides satellite launch services with its family of three launchers, Ariane, Soyuz, and Vega. These rockets are launched from sites in French Guiana (South America) and Russian cosmodromes in Baikonur and Vostochny.

The company is headquartered in Evry, near Paris, France.