JPL Selects 4 Companies for Design Studies for Asteroid Redirect Mission

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab was founded by the Caltech faculty. It is a leading center for robotic exploration of the solar system and has been instrumental in major projects such as Cassini-Huygens missions to Saturn, Curiosity missions to Mars, Opportunity  (Mars rover) and the Juno spacecraft which is heading for Jupiter right now.

The faculty traces its roots to a California Institute of Technology experiment conducted to gather data about an alcohol-fueled motor in 1936. The project eventually got funding from the United States Army and The first functional rockets were demonstrated to the army in 1941. The project was renamed Jet propulsion Lab in 1943 and has operated as an Army facility under contract from the university till it was eventually transferred to NASA in December 1958.

Engineers who worked at the facility were working on ways to send rockets to space and deploy robots on celestial bodies. They started with Ranger and Surveyor missions to the moon before the Apollo program took off. They also helped pave the way for rockets and rovers on other planets such as Venus, Mars and Mercury. The website features a Mars Atlas.

The facility has been on the lookout for near Earth objects since the late-1990’s. In 1998 the department opened its Near-Earth Object program and has managed to find more than 95% of all asteroids that cross our planet’s orbit around the sun. This observation facility has spotted over 1,000 such objects, although there could be many smaller ones that are harder to find and have not been spotted by the telescopes yet.

Since these asteroids are more than a kilometer long and have the potential to come in close contact with or even collide with Earth, it is essential that we understand them. NASA has recently launched an Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) to help send robotic missions to these near-Earth objects and push them into a stable orbit around the moon instead.

The mission intends to send robotic missions to the asteroid to collect samples of its surface and study its properties. This stage of the mission will be carried out in the 2020’s. Throughout the decade the facility will collect data to try and understand what these asteroids are made of, their speed and velocity as well as their potential for orbit manipulation to see how we can redirect them most effectively.

NASA claims the redirection is necessary not just to prevent a collision with Earth, but also to clear the way for human space missions to planets like Mars in the 2030’s and beyond.

Asteroids are leftover materials that were formed as early as the solar system itself. they have not been assimilated into any of the large bodies in the solar system, which is why they orbit around other objects. Studying these asteroids will help us understand the early formation of the solar system we live in as well as the origins of life on our own planet.

To reduce the costs and risks of this dangerous mission, NASA and the JPL have agreed to collaborate with private companies. Four companies have been chosen to assist with the early stage design work involved in the project.  The aerospace companies selected for the initial studies include: Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Littleton, Colorado; Boeing Phantom Works, Huntington Beach, California; Orbital ATK, Dulles, Virginia; and Space Systems/Loral, Palo Alto, California.

The design stage is where these companies will work alongside JPL to formulate the mission and design the ARRM spacecraft bus. The first stage involves planning and designing while the second stage involves manufacture or procurement of the spacebus.

The second stage will also involve implementation of the spacecraft bus. A competition will be held to help select the collaborator for the second phase of development, but at this stage the four companies are working with JPL to design a new breed of spacecraft. This new spacecraft is expected to move 20-times faster with the help of solar-electric propulsion in deep space, carry much larger payloads and retrieve a boulder that could potentially weigh 20 tons from an asteroid in near-Earth orbit.

The areas in focus are deep space travel and asteroid manipulation. Many private companies are looking for ways to capture and mine near-earth asteroids for the rare minerals that could be trapped just below their surface. NASA, on the other hand, wants to improve the way deep space missions are carried out and sees this mission as a chance to showcase and test the technological breakthroughs in space travel over the past few decades.

Either ways, these missions offer a new hope for our species to travel, explore and understand the solar system we live in.


Rockwell Collins Uses 3-D Technology For Distance Learning

Imagine using a 3D app on your tablet to learn more about mapping and aviation while you fly across the world in a commercial jet. That’s exactly what Rockwell Collins wants you to experience. An atlas of the world is presented in an app set for release on the Google Play store on Android devices around the world.

The app lets passengers in air flights view the world around them in a fun, engaging and educational way. The app is called Airshow 3D and it includes a moving map simulation that the team has used for distance learning in the past.

There is also a Venue Cabin Remote app that lets business passengers see where they are flying over in stunning 3D detail.

The general manager and vice president for the Flight Controls and Information Systems for Rockwell Collins, Greg Irmen, said the team was delivering an app they believed had immense demand in the marketplace. Business jet passengers were expected to take up the app enthusiastically. Both the new Airshow and Venue Android apps have real time information and are graphically enhanced.

The Airshow 3D Moving Map app offers touch enabled interaction much like other apps on tablets and smartphones. The maps can be interacted with using a swipe, pinch and zoom feature. Satellite images have been used to create a world with immense graphical quality and stunning details. All this is expected to make the app as fun to use as possible. The app also offers Unique, interactive panoramic and pilot head-up display views

On the other hand, the Venue CabinRemote app creates a wireless access point onboard the plane and allow pilots to communicate. There is also cabin control features that have been integrated with the seats of the pilots.

Airshow 4000, Airshow 500 and Venue systems with Airshow can take advantage of the new Airshow app for Android. The Android cabin remote app is a simple system upgrade from a Rockwell Collins authorized dealer.

The Airshow 3D moving map and Venue CabinRemote are also currently available via the Apple iTunes® App Store.

Rockwell collins is a pioneer in the marketplace. It is a leader in communications devices and technologies for the aviation industry and this new innovative app has been well received. The company has years of experience providing information management, flight deck avionics, simulation for training pilots and cabin electronics. The engineers working on these products and services come from across the world and the company has operations and services in over 150 different countries.

The company is headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Arthur Collins founded the company back in 1933 as a radio equipment manufacturer. The company was then called Collins Radio Company. It acquired a reputation for fine quality over the years as the AM radio market expanded in the US. Larger radio stations started coming up around World War Two and the equipment needed by the military pushed Collins to manufacture specialized parts for the army.

Industry feedback from the battlefield helped Collins make many innovative improvements to the speech equipment used by the soldiers on foot. These improvements were also passed onto consumers and soon the company’s profit margins started to expand.

Rockwell international bought the company in 1973 and the combined company has been called Rockwell Collins ever since. The company acquired Sony’s trans communications unit in 2000 and started to manufacture aviation equipment at the time.

Now, the company employs over twenty thousand people from all parts of the world. The turnover is said to be in excess of $4.67 billion and Kelly Ortberg was appointed CEO in August 2013.

The most surprising thing about the company is the community that has developed around their older radios. When Collins company was at the height of its fame, many collectors started buying the radios to keep them as collectibles. The radio enthusiasts now have clubs and websites dedicated to members who like to discuss the radios and share tips on how to acquire more.

Groups of Collins users also organize meetings, gatherings at Hamfest and regularly scheduled on-air discussions called “nets”.

AerCap has doubts on Airbus plans to expand production

AerCap is the world’s largest company involved in leasing aircrafts and has a customer base of approximately 90 countries with 1,730 aircrafts that are managed owned or ordered from on its impressive portfolio. It also leases out engines via its sister company AeroTurbine. Listed in the New York Stock Exchange AerCap has sealed its position as the global leader in terms of leasing aircraft and its parts to provide comprehensive fleet solutions to over 200 countries. Its doubts on the plans of Airbus expanding its production capacity have raised several legitimate questions in the minds of every company concerned.

As Airbus plans to ramp up its single aisle production to the sixties, AerCap was hesitant to support this decision. Aengus Kelly, CEO of AerCap said that Airbus should be prudent with its plans and can always scale back production without risking bankruptcy of their carriers by enforcing deliveries. After Airbus’ rise in production rate from 42 to 60 per month, Boeing has followed suit and increased its own rate to that of 52 per month tentatively, liable to increase more with time.

Aircraft lessors such as AerCap are usually in favor of a shortage in demand and supply since this is where they feature- they fill the crunch faced by companies while production is on the line. This move by Airbus will definitely have a significant change in AerCap’s market position. This planned output has also raised questions from other lessors and they all seem confident that Airbus will soon realize that sixty is too high a number to aim for each month.

With competition rising as steadily as the temperature, Boeing will not allow Airbus to dominate the narrow-body aircraft market for too long, which in itself should be a warning sign for Airbus to slow down its production lest it falls flat on its face. The A320Neo did help Airbus to establish its monopoly in the early stages but the situation is in a flux and will change sooner than later. Companies are not shedding off old aircraft much to AerCap’s liking and leasing out 17-20 year old bodies and extending their leases for 3-4 more years. This, coupled with a threatened additional supply might spell doom for AerCap’s market. The one production line that doesn’t worry AerCap is that of the A330. They say that since there is a vast user base for that model, the increased production will be a welcome inflow of machinery. The situation is different for the 777s since the initial market space for that size and utility has already been taken over by the 777x. There are so many variations in that series, including alterations in engine capacity, which AerCap is finding it difficult to maintain leasing them out.

The story is different for the A350, which has a significantly lower user base, in turn, reducing its leasing ability. Kelly feels that the demand for this version will not exceed over a thousand- further strengthening his belief that Airbus will have to scale down their ambitions of increasing production.

The biennial Paris Air Show was witness to this landmark decision made by Airbus and Boeing but received severe pushbacks from the supporting companies such as engine manufacturers like General Electric (partnered by Saffron). These companies claimed that to support Airbus’ decision to scale up production, their company would have to make a significant rise in manufacturing rates as well, which may still be insufficient to meet up with Airbus’ requirements. Airbus will also have to determine how they would deal with the smaller players- suppliers of smaller parts. Many of such suppliers will have to double their production while facing a huge cash crunch. Airbus will have to ‘pay to play’ and this might just turn out to be the game-changer.

Airbus went one step ahead and claimed that it is already at a better production position than its competitor Boeing, because it has the backing of two engine suppliers. They even went on to say that it would be unfortunate if one of the suppliers chose to not grow with them. This hinted at a possible discourse but nothing can be claimed as finality until an official release is made.

AerCap can only hypothesize while Airbus has much to prove in terms of the ability to keep up their word to meet production rates; and ensure maintenance of the demand- supply chain. Their top position in the aircraft manufacturing industry could be in question. Even though Airbus raked up the orders at the Air Show, the move to ramp up production has many stress tests to endure before the critics can rest assured about the correctness of their plans. If everything lines up and all suppliers agree to the conditions that Airbus will list, the plan can proceed without hiccups, but we must watch and wait.

MRO growth in 2016 and beyond


Recent estimates suggest the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) market is growing and will continue to do so in 2016.

Much of this growth in the next few years could be due to the narrow body engines and the expected growth in the Asia-Pacific region. Currently the MRO market is valued at close to $56 billion. The market is huge but is also highly fragmented. There are over a hundred different players who have all carved out their own niche in the market and gathered their share of the pie.

Some of the players include The Atlas Group, Abu Dhabi Aircraft Tech (ADAT) and Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance Components China. All players in this sector of the aerospace industry have benefitted by the growing outsourcing of aircraft maintenance and repair work. Currently, over half the repair and maintenance work on aircrafts operated in North America are outsourced to some of these players. That number rises to almost 100% in the case of regional jets and business airlines.

The North American aircraft market is huge and currently accounts for 41% of the global market share but experts in the field expect Asian economic growth will increase the share in these regions over the coming years.

All things considered, the industry itself is expected to grow at an average annual compound rate of 3.1%. That means the market will expand from the $56 billion currently to over $76 billion in 2023, as per Team SAI, a consultancy firm. The firm also believes the market is far from saturated and has the potential to grow tremendously. Key factors are the growing acceptance of the outsourcing model and the rising demand from airlines over the years.

Some of the fastest growth in the segment has come in the engine MRO services. Growth in this part of the sector has been close to an average of seven percent a year. The helicopter business is also experiencing high rates of growth. Demand for these services on helicopters is remarkably strong.

With the price of oil dropping drastically over the past few years, it seems airlines and operators will have more money to invest and the air traffic is likely to spike in the coming years. But terror threats and supply consolidation continue to remain negatives for the industry as a whole.

Low-cost carriers and the demand for cheaper flights in different parts of the world is another major positive for the industry. Low-cost carriers have to keep their overhead down in order to pass on savings to the customer and to do so they need to outsource a lot of their activities. This means outsourcing growth and growth in demand for cheap travel is highly correlated. Other aspects of the growth outlook are the rising levels of aircraft in the backlog. The backlog of aircrafts is at record highs. To deal with this backlog will require a massive boost in aircraft carrier numbers.

Air cargo, which is another key indicator of future growth for MRO, is showing positive signs of recovery. The business fleet throughout the world will increase from 31,000 at the start of 2016 to close to 38,000 towards the end of the decade. That means the growth rate of this segment is also higher than 2 percent. Overall, many experts believe the demand for the services offered by the MRO industry to total close to $121 billion over the same decade.

North America is still a major portion of the market, but Western Europe and China in particular are also catching up. North America will see more than eight thousand aircrafts delivered while 3,400 will be retired over this period. Western Europe is considered to be the second biggest market for these services and Latin America comes in at third, despite its economic problems over the past few years.

Meanwhile, KING AIR 300/350, PILATUS PC-12, GULFSTREAM G650, CHALLENGER 300/350 and PHENOM 300. are all expected to be the most frequently delivered aircrafts.

Around the world, China along with Eastern Europe will gain fleet share while Africa and Latin America lose some share. 12.5% of the world’s fleet is expected to be part of Western Europe and in-fleet service share will be dominated by North America that commands over 63% at the moment.

While North America is the largest market, it is expected to grow the slowest. At barely 2.3%, the growth rate is not nearly close enough to the 9% expected in China. This could be because of the relatively small base fleet in the country. Finally, very light jets will grow to over 1,500 aircrafts and Ultra Long Range jets will grow the fastest of any other category, closing 2025 with an estimated 3,200 jets.

Commercial Airlines Could Save Millions with NASA Aviation Research

NASA ERA Program

The entire aviation industry works on a simple profit: loss ratio that is heavily dependent on the fuel prices. The higher the prices of fuel, the lower the profit and thus, more expensive will the travelling expenditure be for the consumers. Initially, research focused on making more fuel-efficient planes to increase profits, however that can only take the aviation industry so far. Ultimately, profits are limited by the amount of fuel required and therefore, still remain weighed down by fuel prices. So, now, this industry is concentrating on NASA’s idea of building fleets of aeroplanes that are not reliant on fuel at all. Currently, there are planes available that have a fifty percent lower fuel requirement as compared to the models that are being used now.

If the aviation industry actually partakes of NASA’s research, then the impact of this industry on the environment will reduce significantly. Not only will it reduce air pollution to acceptable limits, it will also cut noise levels to one-eighth its current levels. Besides these benefits, there will be a surge of growth in the industry of aviation that will comprise mainly of vehicles that are less dependent on fuel than their predecessors. Such a development will be a welcome change since fuel efficiency has almost reached its peak. Aircrafts now need to be built so that they are not dependent on fuel rather than utilize the fuel that they are provided with, ultimately creating a positive change in the aviation industry.

If the aviation industry adapts its fleets in accordance to NASA’s models, then the economic impact will go into staggering amounts of savings, ranging from 200 to 250 billion dollars between 2025 to 2050. This period of saving billions of dollars will not begin until 2025 for a simple reason that these models that have been hypothesized by NASA, are just on computers. There are some prototypes, which will have to be adapted to the civil aviation planes and extensively studied, tweaked and further adapted to real world situations. Only then, will the research lead to tangible alterations in the commercial airlines industry.

All this research is under NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project (ERA) and the funding goes into millions, with NASA pooling in around 400 million dollars and other groups lending about 250 million dollars. The project that started in 2009 finally saw its completion in 2015. In the time-bound approach, NASA had to do good on its promise to create a more sustainable environment-aviation balance.

Some of the important changes devised by ERA are:

  1. Smaller tails in aeroplane models would reduce drag and air resistance. This would be possible with the help of embedded nozzles, which would blow a continuous stream of air over the vertical air-fin.
  2. Changing the shape of aircraft carriers as we know it, NASA came up with an ingenious method to stitch together the light weight composite parts of a plane, reducing its weight by almost twenty percent.
  3. Reducing drag required further assistance, thus NASA designed a morphed wing technology that would help aircrafts to change wing direction without creating additional resistance or noise. This has already been accepted by the commercial aviation industry and will be in production soon.
  4. Aerodynamics of turbine engines has also been worked on, refining efficiency and design thus enabling a savings of approximately 2.5 percent in fuel burn.
  5. With a goal to reduce emission on nitrogen oxides by 75 percent, NASA went ahead with modifying the jet engine combustor and ended up achieving results close to that of 80 percent. This also has an added benefit of reducing noise pollution.
  6. Future aeroplane designs will have a large influence of the ERA project, since NASA has deduced the possible outcomes of wing flap alterations and improvements in landing and takeoff gears. Computer simulated models have helped research the pros and cons of different design models, helping plane designs mature faster and morph into better versions of themselves.
  7. One radical concept proposed by NASA as a part of this revolutionary project is to inculcate hybrid wings in the design where the wings would be an extension of the body and the engine would be placed on top, at the rear end.
  8. The optimum speed for aircrafts to maximize fuel utilization has also been studied via computer models and will soon be implemented practically once the results are tried and tested.

Lowering pollution has remained one of the key objectives of this project, while lowering fuel dependence is a bonus that they would achieve simultaneously. The project focuses on three aspects to achieve their goals, the airframe and technology behind its construction, propulsion, and vehicle system integration. Until now, this pilot project has yielded favorable results and eight “demonstrations” have been built and sent to the civil aviation research laboratories to enable the integration of their findings into tangible results. NASA will also be giving them the research findings along with the prototypes in order to hasten the process of expanding ERA’s reach into the commercial world. Theoretical knowledge has to be extended into practical applications in terms of wing shape, body designs and propulsion improvement technologies.

Boeing 737 Max Enters the Final Stage of Testing

The Boeing 737 is the newest addition to the fleet of airplanes that this giant plans to roll out. It already has 58 interested clients who have placed orders of approximately 2,869. The first 737 Max 8 was launched in 2015 and the lack of public announcements mainly reflects on the fact that Boeing plans to keep this introduction limited to an internal audience. They have kept themselves busy with technical developments leading up to the unveiling of a piece of machinery that is considered to be one of the finest developments in commercial aviation ever since the airbus A320.

The 737 Max has features such as:

  1. An updated EEC software and upgraded fuel and air-borne pneumatic systems.
  2. An approximately 70 inches long CFM LEAP-1B fan and a custom core with a reduction in fuel burn by 11-12% leading to a drop in operation cost by 7%.
  3. A higher engine ground clearance due to a nose gear extension ranging from 15-20 cm.
  4. Nose wheel alterations will help to accommodate a longer nose gear strut.
  5. The hydraulic system redundancy resembles the 757.
  6. A design modification in the tail cone was made to reduce the drag given to air flow lending a 1% drop in fuel burn.
  7. Composite air foils with upward and downward directed winglets.
  8. Structural strengthening making the aircraft more fuel efficient.
  9. 1-inch LCD cockpit screens to display necessary details in landscape mode.
  10. Techniques to optimize cabin pressure and ice protection systems, in turn reducing fuel burn and improving fuel efficiency in the long run.
  11. A fly-by-wire system that reduces fuel burn and improves stopping distances.
  12. The model is also more environmentally friendly and has a higher sustainability than its predecessors. The design modifications that led to it being eco-friendlier are mini split flap, fan nozzle variations, trailing edges that are adaptive, optimization of flight trajectory, and finally, using regenerative fuel cells.

The Max series will therefore be classified under the 737 family rather than being christened with a new identity. The fact that the 737 has reached its production and assembly phase is an achievement for the teams involved in the process and cause for celebration. The next challenge in its production will be to meet the high number of orders placed, on time. Most deliveries have been promised to be in 2017, but to meet that deadline, the teams will have to keep up the good work and strive to reach the goal in a timely fashion.

The first group of test aircrafts was recently assembled part by part after each component was manufactured by suppliers. This marked a change in the four-year tradition in Boeing manufacturing. Out of the four aircrafts that have already arrived in parts, the first prototype was named 1A001 and is ready for its test flights. The other three are in the process of being assembled. The 1A002 is in its final stages of being out together and is revving to go for its own flight check. Partially completed test stations are present within the cockpit of this model and the water ballast tanks were not visible indicating that this second model of the 737 Max series would be dedicated to test its new avionics systems. The 1A004 will be the most spectacular of all since it will be the first of the Max series to be fully furnished and available with completed interiors, lavatories and passenger seats. Dubbed as one of the most massive passenger planes to date, it will be able to carry 200 people at a time, along with crewmembers.

The testing of the Max series is different since it will also be testing things, which would only be done with an airline. The test would perform test step-climbs to gauge the functionality of the engine. With the Boeing mammoth entering into its final stages of testing, customers are looking forward to introducing this giant to their fleets. Due to its high passenger carrying capability and improved fuel efficiency, it will mean a lucrative investment for interested parties. The profits that companies aim to gain via this investment is far more than what they might have received in the past. The pilot program to introduce the Max series and launch it in air is one worth charting on the aviation industry. The success of this series will largely depend up on how well they can satisfy their claims of efficiency and superiority

Spirit Airlines Names New CEO to Change Strategy

Spirit Airlines

Running an airline is hard. The airline industry has a reputation for being one of the most cut throat businesses out there. It’s so tough to do well in the sector that Richard Branson once said the easiest way to become a millionaire was to start off as a billionaire and then launch a new airline.

Perhaps Spirit Airlines can empathize with that statement right now. Spirit launched as an ultra-low cost airline based in Miramar, Florida. In 1964 the company was initially called Clipper Trucking Co. It launched an airline in 1980, quickly turning itself into a provider of cheap transport to entertainment destinations such as Las Vegas, Atlantic City and even the Bahamas. The name was changed to Spirit in 1992 and the airline has had its fair share of trouble ever since.

Let’s start by mentioning the fact that Spirit Airline is the only Airline to have a two-star rating on Skytrax, which means its level of service is below the industry’s standard.

In 2006, the airline hired Ben Baldanza as the CEO of the company. He was hired to help with a transition from low cost to ultra-low cost. After a decade of running the company, Ben Baldanza shocked investors by announcing his retirement in January 2016.

This transition comes at a crucial time for the company, which makes it even more of a shock for investors. Under Baldanza, the airline added many planes and routes. The fleet of airplanes under the airline’s brand was doubled, while the market capitalization hit $2.8 billion.

However, the stock surge ended around the start of 2015. The market capitalization of the company is now down by 50%. Declining revenue per available seat mile, a common metric for the industry, has been down for the past year. The main reason for this is the rise of competition in the industry. American Airlines in particular has cut ticket pricing drastically, pushing Spirit to do the same.

Investors now fear the decline in RASM will continue further with no end in sight. They are also worried about the rise of customer complaints that have followed the airline’s transition to ultra-low cost over the past decade.

The company has selected Robert Fornaro as the new CEO. Robert Fornaro is sixty-three years old, which makes him a whole decade older than the outgoing CEO Baldanza. This goes to show that the CEO is not retiring to allow a younger leader to take the company forward.

It helps to study Fornaro’s history to make better sense of the sudden change in leadership at Spirit. Fornaro was the CEO of AirTran Airways for many years before this and over the course of his tenure there he helped set the company up for an acquisition by Southwest Airline. Ever since completing that sale, he has been a board member at Spirit and has intimate knowledge of the business.

His experience with mergers in the airline industry has led many to believe he may have been appointed to do the same for Spirit. There were no hints of Baldanza leaving the company until he actually announced it. The stock returns over the past year have been abysmal, but the analysts on the street still expect EPS to grow by over 25% to 30%. Many say that the move to name a new CEO was in order to arrange a merger to Frontier Airlines.

Both Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines have a very similar business model. The companies would be a natural fit and the former marketing leader at Spirit Airlines, Barry Biffle, is now the president of Frontier Airlines. Barry is only 43 years old and has developed Spirit’s marketing strategy for the past nine years. He is seen as a more natural successor to the outgoing CEO.

The airline industry, as we’ve mentioned before, is extremely difficult to navigate. Passenger numbers are very cyclical and commonly run at 2X the GDP growth rate. Keeping pricing and capacity at stable levels is often an issue for most airlines and many have struggled to meet supply with demand at a sweet spot. The rising competition means the pricing scenario is unlikely to improve for the airline any time soon.

But there are positives. The merger with Frontier may or may not go through, but the stock has fallen from a high of $83.45 to a low of $32.74 per share. That means the stock trades at a mere 10x of EPS for this year. Perhaps investors are catching onto this as the company rose close to 6% when the announcement for a new CEO was made.

India Space Missions: Plans for 10 trips in 2016

India’s premier space research organization ISRO shot into limelight after the success of the Mars Orbiter Mission. It is now looking at another launch to mars, followed by missions to Venus and even an asteroid. In order to create a roadmap for the future, ISRO will be charting out projects focusing on specific missions and decide their further course of action. As of now, they aim to reach a target of at least ten launches in 2016. India, after its success in both cost effective and scientific domains of space travels, is looking at partnerships with stalwarts in the field- USA and UK being the forerunners.

India is looking at building vehicles to support manned missions to outer space. Initially, a budget of Rs. 12.4 billion was sanctioned for this crew vehicle. The government allotted Rs. 95 crores for the preliminary research and data gathering once the mission was approved. However, after two successive failures, ISRO dropped the idea and instead focused on capability building. The Human Space Flight Program although, is still not defunct. Under a pilot program, this idea has been rekindled and ISRO is trying to reach solutions for three of the most major challenges they faced the previous times- ECLS (Environment control and life support) system, crew escape system and flight suite.

Manned space missions require strong launch vessels, which are yet to be built by India. Some predictions delay this dream of a manned mission by a decade due to technological reasons. India is modeling her Spaceflight mission based on Russia’s model- the Soyuz. The modified version of Soyuz is hypothesized to have the capacity to carry humans into outer space with launchers that are available in India. The capsule is being designed to last for as long as a seven day mission, following which it would fall back into the atmosphere, and ultimately splash into the Arabian sea or Bay of Bengal. According to the latest illustrations revealed by ISRO, it seems appropriate to assume that the India organization has settled on a two-man Crew Module. If one compares the previously released drawings to the more recent ones, the evolution in the concept and ideas is evident, while the basic structure has remained the same, albeit increased in size.

With a stronger launcher such as the GSLV Mk-III, it might even be possible to send three astronauts into a 270 to 400 km orbit. But, for now, ISRO is leaning towards the slightly less powerful GLSV launcher that is capable of placing 8 tones into Low Earth Orbit (LEO)

India plans to start her own astronaut training center in the outskirts of Bangalore, which will feature state of the art facilities such as a centrifuge and a swimming pool where trainees will wear zero-buoyancy suites to simulate the weightless of space. The Mission Control Center and pre-project developments are as critical to this project as any other requirement. ISRO officials state that they are currently in the unmanned phase of vehicle development which is, according to them, the most important and difficult part of a manned space mission. Once they resolve all the glitches, they will go into the next phase of the project.

In order to realize their other dream of reaching the target of ten launches per year, ISRO needs to make full use of the estimated allocation of Rs 6000- 7000 crore. In the next fiscal year, there are already four scheduled launches of Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System. There is even talk of building a third launch pad at Sri Harikotta.

With a definite shift in gears, India is looking to delve into heavier equipment and more challenging launches. There is talk of launching one or two commercial PSLV launches, which would be meant for use by foreign satellites only. This means that India is becoming a force to reckon with in global terms. Last year is considered to be a good one in all domains of space research and travel, but ISRO is determined to make this year count in terms of more powerful launches.

In order to do this, there are some non-technical challenges that ISRO will have to overcome. With the government not cooperating to increase manpower on-ground, the space research organization is looking at possible outsourcing solutions to reach their goal on time and within budget. They are also focusing on the Re-usable launch vehicle, scheduled for a launch in October this year.

With Japan joining the race for scientific missions to planets other than Mars, India is not going down without a fight. Venus is similar to our planet in many ways, but it poses several challenge which have already stumped a few countries more advanced in space research than India, but as history has been witness, that has never failed to stop them from realizing their goal. 2016 is going to be an interesting an eventful year for India in terms of Space travel and Research. Keeping their eyes skyward and brains ticking, they wish ISRO a triumph yet again, in placing India’s name firmly adhered to the atlas of space travel’s success stories.

Aerospace Industry and Defense Trends in 2016

Boeing 787 Boeing 787

The aerospace industry and defense sector are part of the same group but they seem to be moving in the opposite direction these days. While the commercial aerospace business is developing rapidly, the defense companies are coming face to face with customers who are fiscally under pressure. This is due to the bouncing back act of the global economies and the growth of regions which were invisible in the past. It is expected that the global aerospace and defense industry will make its mark once again in 2016 with an estimation of the total gross revenue at 3.0 percent as stated by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (Deloitte Global) Consumer and Industrial Products Industry group’s 2016 Global aerospace and Defense sector outlook. This is an optimistic sign because in the past few years the revenue had decreased up to 3.2 percent in 2013, 1.9 percent in 2014, and an expected but by no means welcome reduction of revenues at minus 0.5 percent in 2015.

In the last three years, shrinking profits in the United States (US) defense subsector largely influenced the global A&D industry profit. We can see that the return on investment in 2016 is expected to take place because of the rise in the US defense budget, a revival of worldwide security threats, and expansion of defense budgets of important nations all around the world. Additionally, solid and stable growth in global gross domestic product (GDP), prices of crude oil and other products, and constant rise in the demand of passenger travel are causing the growth for future commercial aircrafts.

In both West and East (Middle Eastern countries), the defense budgets are growing at a time when national security is under immense threat. It is predicted that worldwide return on investment will take place in 2016, as soon as the governments of different nations provide their armed unit with present-day defense weapons and technologies which are modern and up to date with intelligence gathering, cyber, defense electronics, etc.

The A&D industry is well known for its capability to achieve remarkable technical accomplishments and also permitting distinct companies to indulge in a cut-throat competition in a quickly advancing market. Innovations like Global Positioning System (GPS) and Space X’s Falcon 1 have changed the entire industry function wise. Several developing trends have the similar potential to achieve that kind of effect once again.

  1. Globalization: With a fixed multinational customer support, the sector is well equipped to conquer deep-rooted globalization issues and obtain benefits from the flourishing profit-oriented markets of the Asia Pacific and defense markets in Asia and Middle East. Moreover, A&D markets are unfolding themselves in India, Brazil, Turkey, Mexico and China too for commercial aerospace. The production, research, development and customer base in many companies have reached a global scale; and now we see that their MROs are also becoming international in nature. Apart form the US, some nations which are appealing for MRO allied investments are China, UAE and Brazil. These investments are shaping the general environment of the aerospace maintenance infrastructure and one can be hopeful that it will keep on altering the dynamics in the future.
  2. Alternate Fuels: The industry is looking into the probability of alternative fuels to diminish the revelation of variations in oil price and lowering the dependence on crude oil. Lufthansa, Ryanair and easy Jet are all airline companies who have made a deal with Solena; an American group which manufactures aviation bio fuels, thus taking a step forward to carry on with this trend. The reason for the sudden demand of bio fuels is the modern technological progress of acquiring biofuels from waste. Tests have already been carried out by airlines like Qatar Airways, Japan Airlines, Air New Zealand, Continental and United with immediate success.
  3. Optimized Usage of Turboprops and Jets: The design of an aircraft and its engine plays a vital role in calculating the size of the airline fleet for making the best and effective use of networks and at the same time lessening the fuel bills. Airlines have started reusing turboprops as a means to save cost; these not only diminish the fuel burning but also play a physical role in reducing emissions. Airlie and passenger choices are proportional to environmental considerations and thus the benefits of turboprops are many.
  4. Increasing Usage of Composites: The main reason for composite materials’ appeal to the aviation industry is their outstanding longevity and also their stiffness-to-density ratios; which are higher. Using composite materials is profitable in this business because composites are known to shrink the weight of the airframe as a result of which better fuel efficiency is activated. Composites can save the airlines 20 percent not only in terms of weight but also contributes to lower production time and better damage tolerance. The A380 has utilized 20-22 percent of composites by weight and they have also extensively used GLARE (glass-fiber-reinforced aluminum alloy). Other airlines need to exploit the advantage of using composites since traditional metallic materials and their descendants are being pursued still to increase performance.

Boeing Starts Assembly of First 737 MAX

Just over 10 years ago in 2005 Boeing began work on the first 737, which was project-named “Yellowstone”. The idea behind the project was to offer a replacement aircraft that would be capable of producing as much as 20-25% improvements on operating costs by utilizing 787 technologies. But the project was unfortunately abandoned three years later in 2008 because the improvements were less than half of what was expected.

In 3 years after this we then saw a re-engined version of the 737 NG, a move from Boeing that was possibly speeded up because of the announcement that came from Airbus about the LEAP-X re-engined A320 NEO.

The First 737 MAX Begins its Assembly

A few years ago in 2014 Boeing decided to announce the launch of the 737 MAX 200 (the 200 standing for the amount of seating capacity that would be available on the aircraft). The MAX 200 is said to be the same kind of aircraft as the MAX 8 just with that increased capacity and an extra pair of Type II doors.

So far the company has received close to 3,000 orders for the new debutant. Some of the new features on this 737 family airliner include an 11% reduction in fuel burn as well as a 7% reduction in operating costs. Add to that the new engine, advanced technology and structural strengthening and you have yourself a new aircraft with many eco-improvements.

From a passenger point of view there is said to be better leg room when seated, and for the cockpit there will be four 15.1-inch LCD display screens that are set in landscape orientation.

At the moment the 737 MAX is under assembly, but predicted dates have already been circulating for its maiden flight which is expected to be sometime in the year 2019, after the final testing phase has been completed.

The Testing Phase of the 737 MAX 200                                                        

Boeing tends to have a standard flight-testing procedure for all new aircraft, which encompasses a low and slow flight path. This allows the engineers to spot any problems in relation to the engines, structure and handling of the plane. Once this flight path has been completed and the team is satisfied with the flight, other tests on the aircraft will commence before it is ready to roll off the production line and take its first 200 customers to the skies around the Atlas.

Other testing includes landing and take-off, the IT systems on-board the plane, and that the plane can handle higher altitudes at much faster speeds without any major concerns. This is basically everything that they look for when the plane is put through the initial tests of the wind tunnel on the ground.

The production line itself is based in Renton, WA and images have already surfaced of the new winglet design which sports advanced technology split wingtips. The only thing that hasn’t been addressed yet is the tail, which is said to be coming to the assembly line soon.

Overall, Boeing is pushing hard on the production line in order to make sure that the first airliner rolls out completed by the end of the year, with Southwest Airlines expecting to be the first customers to take delivery of the MAX 200 sometime in the third quarter of 2017.