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Aerospace Blog

The Aerospace Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about aeronautics, astronautics, fixed-wing aircraft, future space travel, satellites, NASA, and much more.

Satellites Measure Earth Movement Down to the Millimeter

Posted December 27, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

The satellites, launched by the European Space Agency (ESA), take successive radar images of the same location, which are then combined to reveal the tiniest of shifts. The new automatic radar service monitoring Europe's seismic regions covers an area of three million square kilometers in 200-meter blocks.

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1 comments; last comment on 12/31/2016
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Mouser to Develop Fleet of Drones for Autonomous Search and Rescue

Posted December 18, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Mouser says the key to using drones (see video) in the field, specifically in the event of a natural disaster or large forest fire, is coordinating them with police, firefighters, and rescue operations simultaneously.

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1 comments; last comment on 12/18/2016
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Flying Above the Controversy: Boeing’s Latest Tech

Posted December 16, 2016 5:00 PM by MaggieMc

Even with Boeing in the news these days, the planes involved in their new $16.6 billion deal with Iran Air, the first of which are scheduled for delivery in 2018, have gotten less attention. Today, let’s take a look at those planes.

According to Boeing’s press release, each of the models involved in the contract have featured improvements, including the 737 MAX 8’s Advanced Technology winglets and the 777-9X’s composite high-span wings and flight area touch screens.

Boeing’s 737 MAX 8, which is scheduled to enter service in 2017, features what Boeing calls Advanced Technology (AT) winglets, or “the most efficient winglet on any airplane.” Boeing devotes a page of its website to convince buyers of this (you should check it out). The bottom line is that “in addition to the inward, upward, and slightly forward lift components of the upper aerofoil,” which is relatively common on planes these days, “the new lower aerofoil generates a vertical lift component that is vectored away from the fuselage, and also slightly forward” to perfectly balance the winglet. These winglets also reportedly reduce the fuel consumption of the 737 MAX by 1.8%.

The composite high-span wings, a key feature in Boeing’s new line of 777X planes (which includes the 777-9X), will be fabricated at Boeing’s brand-new 1.3 million sq ft Composite Wing Center (CWC) in Everett, WA. These wings, crafted from “a super light and strong carbon fiber composite material” were called “the most phenomenal wings in the world” by Boeing’s CEO Ray Conner, but they’re also the longest wings Boeing has ever built. As of December 6, the CWC was not fully complete, but preproduction for the 777X was underway. This video shows you the first prototype wing panel for the 777X, which is 105 ft long!

In comparison, adding touch screens in the flight area may seem slightly less impressive, but Mike Carriker, Chief Pilot for Airplane Development with Boeing Test & Evaluation, says adding these touch screens makes the equipment “easier for the flight crew to use” because “everyone knows how to use a touch screen.” Boeing’s primary goal with this introduction is to decrease the time spent on retraining pilots to use the 777X when it debuts. In addition, “it makes data selection easier, and it removes parts from the airplane.”

How do you feel about these updates? Are you excited to see these planes take off in the next few years?

10 comments; last comment on 12/22/2016
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Helping Man Land on the Moon

Posted December 09, 2016 4:41 PM by IronWoman

Happy birthday, Margaret Hamilton! Albeit belated, the 80th birthday of Ms. Hamilton is a day that should be celebrated worldwide. Earning her undergraduate degree in mathematics from Earlham College and participating in postgraduate work in meteorology at MIT, Margaret moved to Lincoln Laboratory as part of the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment Air Defense System (SAGE) project (creating the first air defense system for the country). A young lady at the time—age 33—when she led in the successful landing of Apollo 11, Margaret not only popularized the concept of software engineering but helped to pave the way for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

In 1961, Hamilton and her team began to work alongside NASA in hopes of developing a guidance system for the anticipated moon landing of 1969. In this well-known photograph pictured above, Margaret is standing alongside all of the guidance codes used to land Apollo 11’s astronauts safely to the moon without having to abort their mission.

“Approximately three minutes before Eagle's touchdown on the moon,” recalls NASA, “the software [created by Hamilton and company] overrode a command to switch the flight computer's priority processing to a radar system whose 'on' switch had been manually activated due to a faulty written operations script provided to the crew. The action by the software permitted the mission to safely continue.” Hamilton helped to, according to Time, “…enable the computer to figure out which of the multiple processes it had to do was more important,” weeding out the lesser priority jobs containing irrelevant data. Aside from the alarms sounding due to the brief software malfunction, the trip went off without a hitch.

Margaret Hamilton’s contribution to man’s moon landing earned her the Exceptional Space Act Award, and most recently the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award, pioneering the way for women’s scientific and technical contributions while laying the building blocks for future software engineering. After her work on the Apollo software, Hamilton consulted on NASA's space shuttle and Skylab programs before moving to the private sector. In 1986, she opened a school titled Hamilton Technologies, Inc., guiding students and helping them uncover a more universal systems language. With this academy, Hamilton helped to ensure future exploration of the universe by creating cost-efficient, reliable software. In response to her influence in STEM over the past half-century, Margaret only has this to say: “I hope we continue with exploration.” So the next time you land yourself in a conversation about the Apollo 11 moon landing, amidst the chatter of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, I hope you reference the woman who made it all possible—Ms. Margaret Hamilton.


Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal:

MIT News:

TIME Magazine:


1 comments; last comment on 12/12/2016
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Robot Flies Cessna Caravan

Posted December 05, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

In recent demos, a robot functions as a second pilot in a two-crew aircraft, enabling reduced crew operations. Aurora Flight Sciences' robot is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA's) Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program (video).

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3 comments; last comment on 12/06/2016
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