Tank upgrade

World-leading thermal imaging technology is being offered to the British Army as part of Team Challenger 2’s bid to upgrade the Army’s Main Battle Tank.

Team Challenger 2 offers world-leading, thermal imaging technology for Challenger 2 tank upgrade
Team Challenger 2 offers world-leading, thermal imaging technology for Challenger 2 tank upgrade

The technology, developed by Leonardo in the UK, forms part of the BAE Systems led bid to upgrade the tank and would for the first time bring independent night vision for both the gunner and the commander.

Also known as «electro-optic technology», the thermal imaging system will help British troops identify potential threats and move undetected in hostile situations, while also shaving valuable seconds off reaction times, which can make the difference between mission success and failure.

Instead of sensing light like a standard digital camera, Leonardo’s infrared camera senses heat emitted by all objects with temperatures greater than absolute zero (-273°C). The hundreds-of-thousands of individual pixels in the camera, each one-twelfth the thickness of a human hair, can detect temperature differences as small as one-fiftieth of a centigrade, allowing for extremely sharp images.

Simon Jackson, Campaign leader for Team Challenger 2 at BAE Systems said: «Leonardo’s sight brings to Team Challenger 2 the most capable night vision available. Combined with our engineering skills and knowledge of Challenger 2 – which we designed and built – we will work together to integrate Leonardo’s technology seamlessly into the tank, sharing data across crew stations and with battle management computers. Sighting is a vital element of a battle tank’s role and Leonardo’s sight will provide our troops with unparalleled 24-hour night-and-day visibility, giving them a long-range threat identification system that really makes the most of the tank’s firepower».

Mike Gilbert, SVP Optronics Systems UK at Leonardo, said: «Our thermal cameras – designed and built in the UK – can «see» in total darkness as far as the horizon, and the applications for this technology are endless – from helping improve our understanding of the natural world to improving the operational capabilities of the British Army’s Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank. Our infra-red technology plays a crucial role in supporting British troops in the most challenging environments and we’re pleased to be working alongside BAE Systems to offer this technology for Challenger 2, helping extend its life to 2035 and beyond».

The technology is already proven on other military platforms – such as the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier and the Royal Air Force’s Chinook fleet – but has wider applications, including being used by leading broadcasters to capture some of the most difficult shots possible for television.

In David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II documentary, cameras equipped with Leonardo’s technology allowed the filmmakers to capture the most detailed film ever seen of a leopard’s nocturnal hunt, down to the movement of individual hairs on its body. While in the fast-paced world of sport, the Hot Spot system used in international cricket incorporates Leonardo’s thermal imaging technology, helping umpires see whether a ball has struck the batsman, pad or ball, by looking for a temperature change caused by the friction of impact.

From a military standpoint, the thermal imaging system was previously used in Afghanistan to allow Chinook Helicopters to fly undetected through mountain valleys, even in poor weather conditions. It also brought the ability to detect, recognise and identify coalition troops or vehicles at a safe standoff range prior to entry into drop or landing zones.

Armored Truck

With its latest generation of tactical military trucks, CNH Industrial subsidiary Iveco Defence Vehicles is reconfirmed as a privileged supplier for the German Armed Forces.

Iveco Defence Vehicles delivers the hundredth Trakker GTF 8×8 to the Bundeswehr
Iveco Defence Vehicles delivers the hundredth Trakker GTF 8×8 to the Bundeswehr

The 100th Trakker of a total order of some 133 tactical military trucks has been delivered by Iveco Defence Vehicles to the German Bundeswehr, the German Armed Forces – represented by BAAINBw (Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support). The handover ceremony was held at the Iveco Defence Vehicles’ site in Germany, Ulm, attended by military and Ministry of Defence representatives as well as industrial partners.

The 133 tactical military trucks, which are renowned for their high mobility capabilities and outstanding protection level, belong to a contract signed in 2015 as part of the German Army GTF (Geschützte Transportfahrzeuge) procurement programme, with delivery over four years.

The vehicles are equipped with a protected cab, which currently offers the highest levels of ballistic, mine and IED protection in five different configurations, including various types of ISO-containertransport body work, some with hydraulic crane and winch systems.

«This 100th vehicle seals the already strong relationship between Iveco Defence Vehicles and the German MoD, one of our most important customers», commented Vincenzo Giannelli, President & CEO of Iveco Defence Vehicles. «We are proud to continue providing best-in-class solutions to current and future requirements of the German Armed Forces, on the basis of a solid mutual trust and satisfaction built over the years through our German branch, which continues to stand out for the quality of services rendered to the customer».

Over the last decade, the company has delivered nearly 1,000 vehicles to the German Army from its wide product range, which have already been extensively fielded in operational areas such as Afghanistan and Mali. Recent contract awards with the Bundeswehr also include 280 Eurocargo 4×4 trucks to be delivered in 2018.

Latvian Carl Gustav

To strengthen the combat capabilities and ensure sufficient ammunition stock in the National Armed Forces, including the National Guard, Ministry of Defence ordered EUR 16.2 million worth of 84-mm calibre ammunition for Carl Gustav rocket launchers on 29 August.

Ministry of Defence orders Carl Gustav anti-tank recoilless rifle ammunition
Ministry of Defence orders Carl Gustav anti-tank recoilless rifle ammunition

First batches of ammunition will arrive in 2019.

According to an agreement signed by Ministry of Defence and Swedish Defence Procurement Agency (Swedish Defence Materiel Administration) earlier this year, Latvia has become a part of joint procurement of Carl Gustav anti-tank ammunition from SAAB Dynamics AB.

The agreement on Joint Carl Gustav anti-tank ammunition purchase is signed between Sweden, Estonia and Latvia for 7 years. The agreement enables National Armed Forces to purchase different Carl Gustav ammunition for its 84-mm anti-tank weapons. According to plans, additional procurements of ammunition will be implemented in future to improve combat capabilities and training efficiency of land force.

This procurement is the first cooperation initiative of defence procurement cooperation agreement concluded by Swedish and Latvian ministries of defence in January of 2017. Agreement forms the basis for joint defence procurements and other activities.

Until now, National Armed Forces procured necessary articles in scope of a five-year agreement, with optional two-year extension, concluded between SAAB Dynamics AB, European Defence Agency, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Poland in 2014. According to the agreement, European Defence Agency coordinated procurement activities and acted as the lead partner in procurement projects.

Carl Gustav anti-tank recoilless rifle, or grenade launcher, is a crucial asset of land forces. It is a vital element of anti-tank and anti-infantry defence, widely used by a number of NATO member states, including the USA and the Baltic States.

Oldest F-22 Raptor

In Greek mythology, a phoenix is an extraordinary bird that is born again, rising from the ashes of its predecessor.

Raptor #4006 takes off for the first time in nearly six years with Steve Rainey, Lockheed Martin F-22 chief test pilot, behind the controls, July 17. The test jet recently completed an extensive refurbishment to get it back in the air. It will now be used as a flight sciences aircraft for the 411th Flight Test Squadron and F-22 Combined Test Force (Courtesy photo by Chad Bellay/Lockheed Martin)
Raptor #4006 takes off for the first time in nearly six years with Steve Rainey, Lockheed Martin F-22 chief test pilot, behind the controls, July 17. The test jet recently completed an extensive refurbishment to get it back in the air. It will now be used as a flight sciences aircraft for the 411th Flight Test Squadron and F-22 Combined Test Force (Courtesy photo by Chad Bellay/Lockheed Martin)

A video aptly titled, «The Phoenix Rises», played at a ceremony held August 27 in Hangar 1635 to celebrate the rebirth of one of the original F-22 Raptors ever built.

Base leadership joined the 411th Flight Test Squadron and F-22 Combined Test Force, along with Lockheed Martin and Boeing representatives, to welcome back to life Raptor #91-4006, which has been on the ground for almost six years.

The fifth-generation fighter was one of the first F-22 Raptors to have avionics installed for testing and has been at the 411th FLTS since it arrived in May 2001.

However, in November 2012, Raptor 4006 needed costly upgrades and the decision was made to put it into storage, possibly never to fly again due to the budget sequestration at the time, according to Lieutenant Colonel Lee Bryant, 411th FLTS commander and F-22 CTF director.

«This was a gainfully employed airplane when she was working», said Steve Rainey, Lockheed Martin F-22 chief test pilot and member of the F-22 CTF. Rainey also emceed the ceremony.

After eventually getting approval and funding from the Air Force to overhaul the Raptor, a «purple» team of Air Force, Lockheed and Boeing personnel worked for 27 months here at Edwards to restore the jet back to flying status. This included 25,000 man-hours and almost 11,000 individual fixes/parts. The completed refurbishment extends the Raptor’s life from 2,000 flight hours to 4,000 FH and gives it newer avionics systems for testing.

Rainey was the first military F-22 Raptor pilot while in the Air Force and has worked on the Raptor program almost since its beginning. It was only fitting that the rise of the new phoenix was completed July 17 when Rainey took the newly refurbished Raptor to the sky for its «second first flight».

Raptor 4006 is currently the oldest flying F-22. It will now be used as a flight sciences aircraft, which will be an integral part of F-22 fleet modernization.

«It increases our test fleet from three to four giving us another flight sciences jet», said Bryant. «This will help us tackle the expanding F-22 modernization program».

Brigadier General E. John Teichert, 412th Test Wing commander, said he has flown 4006 numerous times when was assigned to the 411th FLTS as a project pilot and later as a squadron commander.

«Our warfighter needs her back flying again», said Teichert.

Today, the Air Force has 183 Raptors in its inventory and boasts that the F-22 cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft.

The F-22 Raptor’s combination of stealth, supercruise capability, maneuverability and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities from previous generations of fighters. The Raptor performs both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions allowing full realization of operational concepts vital to the 21st century Air Force.

https://www.edwards.af.mil/News/Video/videoid/622051/
The Phoenix Rises

Navy takes Charleston

The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of the future USS Charleston (LCS-18) during a ceremony at the Austal USA shipyard August 31.

Navy takes delivery of future USS Charleston (LCS-18)
Navy takes delivery of future USS Charleston (LCS-18)

The delivery marks the official transfer of LCS-18 from the Austal USA-led shipbuilding team to the U.S. Navy. It is the final milestone before commissioning, which is yet to be finalized.

«Today marks a significant milestone in the life of the future USS Charleston (LCS-18), as transfer occurs to the Navy and she enters service», said Captain Mike Taylor, Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program manager. «I look forward to celebrating the commissioning of this fine ship alongside the crew later this year».

Charleston is the 16th LCS to be delivered to the Navy and the eighth of the Independence variant. The Independence variant is noted for its unique trimaran hull and its large flight deck.

«The crew has done a tremendous job getting the future USS Charleston (LCS-18) ready for commissioning, at which time our newest LCS will join the fleet», said Captain Matthew McGonigle, commander, LCS Squadron One (COMLCSRON ONE). «We are excited to see our newest LCS in San Diego soon and welcome the ship into the LCS community».

COMLCSRON ONE supports the operational commanders with warships ready for tasking by manning, training, equipping and maintaining littoral combat ships on the West Coast.

Following commissioning, Charleston will be homeported in San Diego with her sister ships USS Freedom (LCS-1), USS Independence (LCS-2), USS Fort Worth (LCS-3), USS Coronado (LCS-4), USS Jackson (LCS-6), USS Montgomery (LCS-8), USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10), USS Omaha (LCS-12), USS Manchester (LCS-14) and the future USS Tulsa (LCS-16), which was delivered in April.

LCS is a modular, reconfigurable ship designed to meet validated fleet requirements for surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasures missions in the littoral region. An interchangeable mission package is embarked on each LCS and provides the primary mission systems in one of these warfare areas. Using an open architecture design, modular weapons, sensor systems and a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles to gain, sustain and exploit littoral maritime supremacy, LCS provides U.S. joint force access to critical theaters.

The Program Executive Office (PEO) for Unmanned and Small Combatants is responsible for delivering and sustaining littoral mission capabilities to the fleet.

 

The Independence Variant of the LCS Class

PRINCIPAL DIMENSIONS
Construction Hull and superstructure – aluminium alloy
Length overall 421 feet/128.3 m
Beam overall 103 feet/31.4 m
Hull draft (maximum) 14.8 feet/4.5 m
PAYLOAD AND CAPACITIES
Complement Core Crew – 40
Mission crew – 36
Berthing 76 in a mix of single, double & quad berthing compartments
Maximum mission load 210 tonnes
Mission Bay Volume 118,403 feet3/11,000 m3
Mission packages Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
Surface Warfare (SUW)
Mine Warfare (MIW)
PROPULSION
Main engines 2 × GE LM2500
2 × MTU 20V 8000
Waterjets 4 × Wartsila steerable
Bow thruster Retractable azimuthing
PERFORMANCE
Speed 40 knots/46 mph/74 km/h
Range 3,500 NM/4,028 miles/6,482 km
Operational limitation Survival in Sea State 8
MISSION/LOGISTICS DECK
Deck area >21,527.8 feet2/2,000 m2
Launch and recovery Twin boom extending crane
Loading Side ramp
Internal elevator to hanger
Launch/Recover Watercraft Sea State 4
FLIGHT DECK AND HANGER
Flight deck dimensions 2 × SH-60 or 1 × CH-53 or multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/Vertical Take-off and Land Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs/VTUAVs)
Hanger Aircraft stowage & maintenance for 2 × SH-60
Launch/Recover Aircraft Sea State 5
WEAPONS AND SENSORS
Standard 1 × 57-mm gun
4 × 12.7-mm/.50 caliber guns
1 × Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) launcher
3 × weapons modules

 

Independence-class

Ship Laid down Launched Commissioned Homeport
USS Independence (LCS-2) 01-19-2006 04-26-2008 01-16-2010 San Diego, California
USS Coronado (LCS-4) 12-17-2009 01-14-2012 04-05-2014 San Diego, California
USS Jackson (LCS-6) 08-01-2011 12-14-2013 12-05-2015 San Diego, California
USS Montgomery (LCS-8) 06-25-2013 08-06-2014 09-10-2016 San Diego, California
USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) 04-16-2014 02-25-2015 06-10-2017 San Diego, California
USS Omaha (LCS-12) 02-18-2015 11-20-2015 02-03-2018 San Diego, California
USS Manchester (LCS-14) 06-29-2015 05-12-2016 05-26-2018 San Diego, California
USS Tulsa (LCS-16) 01-11-2016 03-16-2017 San Diego, California
USS Charleston (LCS-18) 06-28-2016 09-14-2017
USS Cincinnati (LCS-20) 04-10-2017 05-22-2018
USS Kansas City (LCS-22) 11-15-2017
USS Oakland (LCS-24) 07-20-2018
USS Mobile (LCS-26)
USS Savannah (LCS-28)
USS Canberra (LCS-30)

 

50 Percent of Kennedy

Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding division reached the midpoint in the construction of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) following the installation of one of the largest units on the ship.

USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) Aft Section Superlift
USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) Aft Section Superlift

Weighing approximately 905 metric tons, the unit is one of the heaviest of the planned steel structures, known as superlifts, that will be joined together to make up the second ship in the Gerald R. Ford class. The superlift of the aft section of the ship between the hangar bay and flight deck is 80 feet/24.4 m long, about 110 feet/33.5 m wide and four decks in height.

Combining 19 smaller units into one superlift allowed Newport News to install a majority of the outfitting equipment – grating, pumps, valves, pipe, electrical panels, mounting studs, lighting, ventilation and other components – before the structure was hoisted into the dry dock using the shipyard’s 1,050-metric ton gantry crane. This approach resulted in this work being completed 14 months earlier than it was on Ford, said Lucas Hicks, Newport News’ vice president, CVN-79 program.

«This was a game changer for us», Hicks said. «Performing higher levels of pre-outfitting represents a significant improvement in aircraft carrier construction, allowing us to build larger structures than ever before and providing greater cost savings».

«This superlift represents the future build strategy for Ford-class carriers», said Mike Butler, program director of CVN-79. «Not only did we build this superlift larger and with significantly more pre-outfitting, we managed much of the work on the deckplate with new digital project management tools as part of our Integrated Digital Shipbuilding initiative. The lessons we learned from this successful superlift will allow us to build even more similar superlifts on future ships in the Ford class».

Kennedy is scheduled to move from the dry dock to an outfitting berth in the fourth quarter of 2019, three months ahead of schedule.

 

General Characteristics

Builder Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia
Propulsion 2 A1B* nuclear reactors, 4 shafts
Length 1,092 feet/333 m
Beam 134 feet/41 m
Flight Deck Width 256 feet/78 m
Flight Deck Square 217,796 feet2/20,234 m2
Displacement approximately 100,000 long tons full load
Speed 30+ knots/34.5+ mph/55.5+ km/h
Crew 4,539 (ship, air wing and staff)
Armament ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile), RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile), Mk-15 Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapon System)
Aircraft 75+

* – Bechtel Plant Machinery, Inc. serves the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program

 

Ships

Ship Laid down Launched Commissioned Homeport
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) 11-13-2009 11-09-2013 07-22-2017 Norfolk, Virginia
USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) 08-22-2015
USS Enterprise (CVN-80)

 

Operational Test-1

F-35C Lightning II aircraft from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 are conducting their Operational Test-1 (OT-1) with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 and Carrier Strike Group 12 aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).

An F-35C Lightning II assigned to the Rough Raiders of Strike Fighter Squadron 125 lands on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). Abraham Lincoln is currently underway conducting carrier qualifications (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Maxwell Anderson/Released)
An F-35C Lightning II assigned to the Rough Raiders of Strike Fighter Squadron 125 lands on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). Abraham Lincoln is currently underway conducting carrier qualifications (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Maxwell Anderson/Released)

OT-1 evaluates the full spectrum of the F-35C’s suitability for operation within a carrier air wing and mission effectiveness to the maximum extent possible.

«The F-35C Lightning II brings stealth, enhanced electronic capabilities and a different sustainment model», said Rear Admiral Dale Horan, director, Joint Strike Fighter Fleet Integration Office. «Operating this new generation of aircraft out on the aircraft carrier brings a different set of tools, techniques and procedures, and we’re learning how to integrate them into the battle group».

The F-35C Lightning II has the ability to pass on the information it collects not only to other F-35s in the air, but to legacy aircraft, carrier air wings, strike groups and troops on ground, enhancing the warfighting potential of the fleet.

Evaluators have been assessing the suitability of the F-35C Lightning II aboard carriers by defining how well it performs with other aircraft and incorporates into an air plan, monitoring maintenance and identifying its logistics footprint.

«We hope to see how it integrates onboard the ship», said Horan. «Can we maintain it? Can we get the parts? Can we get it airborne? Can we repair it if it has a problem? Those are the kinds of things we are looking for».

In addition to assessing the suitability of the F-35C Lightning II on a Nimitz-class class aircraft carrier, OT-1 evaluators observed the effectiveness of the F-35C Lightning II in real-world scenarios.

«The effectiveness piece is what we’re doing when we’re airborne and executing missions», said Captain Matt Norris, from the Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team. «We’ve been integrating with the strike group and accomplishing many missions like defensive counter air and anti-submarine warfare, for instance».

Previously, F-35C Lightning II and F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots have only conducted carrier qualifications together, so OT-1 marks the first time the F-35Cs have joined a carrier air wing to perform in a cyclic operations environment.

During cyclic operations, aircraft simulate missions, practice aerial maneuvers and take off and land continuously with brief pauses to allow for maintenance, fuel and ordnance changes.

Aboard Abraham Lincoln, the F-35C Lightning II has been flying cyclic operations with F/A-18 Super Hornets, E-2D Hawkeyes and EA-18G Growlers, conducting missions it would execute in combat if required. The addition of the F-35C Lightning II brings advanced capabilities that transform the way an air wing conducts operations.

Operational Test-1 helps give the U.S. Navy an assessment of how the aircraft would perform on deployment. As adversaries advance and legacy aircraft age, the F-35C Lightning II is critical to maintaining air dominance.

«This is the first time we really see how the aircraft works on the aircraft carrier; how we do maintenance and sustain it while we’re at sea; how it integrates with the ship; how it interoperates with communications, datalinks, the other aircraft; and how we conduct missions and tie in to other aircraft when we conduct missions», said Horan.

And while pilots adapted to the new aircraft, the crew of Abraham Lincoln also adjusted to the F-35s. From Aviation Boatswain’s Mates to Air-traffic Controllers, each Sailor learned to manage the aircraft with its unique attributes and capabilities.

«The level of planning that is required to execute an evolution like we did for OT-1 is huge, so everyone aboard Abraham Lincoln should be proud of the level of effort that they put in and how well they executed», said Norris. «We can’t fly this aircraft without everything the ship does for us, and the Lincoln has been an impressive ship».

With the successful completion of OT-1, the fifth-generation aircraft is one step closer to becoming deployable in the U.S. Navy fleet.

«The aircraft looks like a naval aircraft on the flight deck. From that perspective, the big picture looks pretty good», said Horan.

Data and lessons learned during OT-1 will lay the groundwork for future F-35C Lightning II deployments aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers following the Navy’s F-35C Lightning II Initial Operating Capability (IOC) declaration.

 

F-35С Lightning II specifications

Length 51.5 feet/15.7 m
Height 14.7 feet/4.48 m
Wing span 43 feet/13.1 m
Wing area 668 feet2/62.1 m2
Horizontal tail span 26.3 feet/8.02 m
Weight empty 34,800 lbs/15,785 kg
Internal fuel capacity 19,750 lbs/8,960 kg
Weapons payload 18,000 lbs/8,160 kg
Maximum weight 70,000 lbs class/31,751 kg
Standard internal weapons load Two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles
Two 2,000-pound (907 kg) GBU-31 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guided bombs
Propulsion (uninstalled thrust ratings) F135-PW-400
Maximum Power (with afterburner) 43,000 lbs/191,3 kN/19,507 kgf
Military Power (without afterburner) 28,000 lbs/128,1 kN/13,063 kgf
Propulsion Length 220 inch/5.59 m
Propulsion Inlet Diameter 46 inch/1.17 m
Propulsion Maximum Diameter 51 inch/1.30 m
Propulsion Bypass Ratio 0.57
Propulsion Overall Pressure Ratio 28
Speed (full internal weapons load) Mach 1.6/1,043 knots/1,200 mph/1,931 km/h
Combat radius (internal fuel) >600 NM/683.5 miles/1,100 km
Range (internal fuel) >1,200 NM/1,367 miles/2,200 km
Max g-rating 7.5

 

Planned Quantities

U.S. Navy 260
U.S. Marine Corps 80
In total 340

 

Orion Spaceship

Technicians have completed construction on the spacecraft capsule structure that will return astronauts to the Moon, and have successfully shipped the capsule to Florida for final assembly into a full spacecraft. The capsule structure, or pressure vessel, for NASA’s Orion Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) spacecraft was welded together over the last seven months by Lockheed Martin technicians and engineers at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans.

Lockheed Martin Begins Final Assembly on NASA's Orion Spaceship That Will Take Astronauts Further Than Ever Before
Lockheed Martin Begins Final Assembly on NASA’s Orion Spaceship That Will Take Astronauts Further Than Ever Before

Orion is the world’s only exploration-class spaceship, and the EM-2 mission will be its first flight with astronauts on board, taking them farther into the solar system than ever before.

«It’s great to see the EM-2 capsule arrive just as we are completing the final assembly of the EM-1 crew module», said Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin vice president and program manager for Orion. «We’ve learned a lot building the previous pressure vessels and spacecraft and the EM-2 spacecraft will be the most capable, cost-effective and efficient one we’ve built».

Orion’s pressure vessel is made from seven large, machined aluminum alloy pieces that are welded together to produce a strong, light-weight, air-tight capsule. It was designed specifically to withstand the harsh and demanding environment of deep space travel while keeping the crew safe and productive.

«We’re all taking extra care with this build and assembly, knowing that this spaceship is going to take astronauts back to the Moon for the first time in four decades», said Matt Wallo, senior manager of Lockheed Martin Orion Production at Michoud. «It’s amazing to think that, one day soon, the crew will watch the sun rise over the lunar horizon through the windows of this pressure vessel. We’re all humbled and proud to be doing our part for the future of exploration».

The capsule was shipped over the road from New Orleans to the Kennedy Space Center, arriving on Friday, August 24. Now in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, Lockheed Martin technicians will immediately start assembly and integration on the EM-2 crew module.

MQ-25 Stingray

Boeing will build the U.S. Navy’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft, the MQ-25 Stingray aerial refueler, through an $805 million contract awarded on August 30, 2018.

Boeing’s MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueler, known as T1, is currently being tested at Boeing’s St. Louis site. T1 has completed engine runs and deck handling demonstrations designed to prove the agility and ability of the aircraft to move around within the tight confines of a carrier deck (Photo: Eric Shindelbower, Boeing)
Boeing’s MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueler, known as T1, is currently being tested at Boeing’s St. Louis site. T1 has completed engine runs and deck handling demonstrations designed to prove the agility and ability of the aircraft to move around within the tight confines of a carrier deck (Photo: Eric Shindelbower, Boeing)

Boeing was awarded the engineering and manufacturing development contract to provide four aircraft. Boeing plans to perform the MQ-25 Stingray work in St. Louis.

«As a company, we made an investment in both our team and in an unmanned aircraft system that meets the U.S. Navy’s refueling requirements», said Leanne Caret, president and CEO, Boeing Defense, Space & Security. «The fact that we’re already preparing for first flight is thanks to an outstanding team who understands the Navy and their need to have this important asset on carrier decks around the world».

MQ-25 Stingray is designed to provide the U.S. Navy with a much-needed refueling capability. According to the U.S. Navy, the MQ-25 Stingray will allow for better use of combat strike fighters by extending the range of deployed Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II aircraft. MQ-25 Stingray will also seamlessly integrate with a carrier’s catapult and launch and recovery systems.

«MQ-25A is a hallmark acquisition program», said Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James F. Geurts. «This program is a great example of how the acquisition and requirements communities work hand in hand to rapidly deliver capabilities to our Sailors and Marines in the fleet».

When operational, MQ-25 Stingray will improve the performance, efficiency, and safety of the carrier air wing and provide longer range and greater persistence tanking capability to execute missions that otherwise could not be performed.

«This is an historic day», said Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. «We will look back on this day and recognize that this event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements, work with industry, integrate unmanned and manned aircraft, and improve the lethality of the airwing – all at relevant speed. Everyone who helped achieve this milestone should be proud we’re here. But we have a lot more to do. It’s not the time to take our foot off the gas. Let’s keep charging».

The award is the culmination of a competitive source selection process supported by personnel from Naval Air Systems Command and the Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office (PMA-268) at Patuxent River.

MQ-25 is an accelerated acquisition program that expedites decisions that will enable rapid actions with less overhead. The intent is to significantly reduce development timelines from contract award to initial operational capability by five to six years. By reducing the number of key performance parameters to mission tanking and carrier suitability, industry has increased flexibility to rapidly design a system that meets those requirements.

Boeing has been providing carrier aircraft to the U.S. Navy for more than 90 years.

File photo dated January 29, 2018. Boeing conducts MQ-25 deck handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of The Boeing Co./Released)
File photo dated January 29, 2018. Boeing conducts MQ-25 deck handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of The Boeing Co./Released)

Armstrong Line

Airbus Perlan Mission II, the world’s first initiative to pilot an engineless aircraft to the edge of space, made history again yesterday in El Calafate, Argentina, by soaring in the stratosphere to a pressure altitude of over 62,000 feet/18,898 m (60,669 feet/18,492 m GPS altitude). This set a new gliding altitude world record, pending official validation.

Airbus Perlan Mission II soars to over 62,000 feet/18,898 m, setting second altitude world record and crossing Armstrong Line (Airbus photo)
Airbus Perlan Mission II soars to over 62,000 feet/18,898 m, setting second altitude world record and crossing Armstrong Line (Airbus photo)

The pressurized Perlan 2 glider, which is designed to soar up to 90,000 feet/27,432 m, passed the Armstrong Line, the point in the atmosphere above which an unprotected human’s blood will boil if an aircraft loses pressurization.

This marks a second glider altitude world record for Jim Payne and Morgan Sandercock, the same two Perlan Project pilots who soared the Perlan 2 to 52,221 feet/15,917 m GPS altitude on September 3, 2017, in the same remote region of Argentine Patagonia. The 2017 record broke a previous record that was set in 2006, in the unpressurized Perlan 1, by Perlan Project founder Einar Enevoldson and Steve Fossett.

«This is a tremendous moment for all the volunteers and sponsors of Airbus Perlan Mission II who have been so dedicated to making our nonprofit aerospace initiative a reality», said Ed Warnock, CEA of The Perlan Project. «Our victory today, and whatever other milestones we achieve this year, are a testament to a pioneering spirit of exploration that runs through everyone on the project and through the organizations that support us».

«Innovation is a buzzword in aerospace today, but Perlan truly embodies the kind of bold thinking and creativity that are core Airbus values», said Tom Enders, Airbus CEO. «Perlan Project is achieving the seemingly impossible, and our support for this endeavor sends a message to our employees, suppliers and competitors that we will not settle for being anything less than extraordinary».

Another first-of-its kind achievement this year for the Perlan Project was the use of a special high-altitude tow plane rather than a conventional glider tow plane. During yesterday’s flight, Perlan 2 was towed to the base of the stratosphere by a Grob Egrett G520 turboprop, a high-altitude reconnaissance plane that was modified for the task earlier this summer. Operated by AV Experts, LLC, and flown by chief pilot Arne Vasenden, the Egrett released Perlan 2 at around 42,000 feet/12,802 m, the approximate service ceiling of an Airbus A380.

To soar into the highest areas of Earth’s atmosphere, Perlan 2 pilots catch a ride on stratospheric mountain waves, a weather phenomenon created when rising air currents behind mountain ranges are significantly strengthened by the polar vortex. The phenomenon occurs only for a brief period each year in just a few places on earth. Nestled within the Andes Mountains in Argentina, the area around El Calafate is one of those rare locations where these rising air currents can reach to 100,000 feet/30,480 m or more.

Built in Oregon and home-based in Minden, Nevada, the pressurized Perlan 2 glider incorporates a number of unique innovations to enable its mission, and reached an altitude of 62,000 feet/18,898 m during its second mission (Airbus photo)
Built in Oregon and home-based in Minden, Nevada, the pressurized Perlan 2 glider incorporates a number of unique innovations to enable its mission, and reached an altitude of 62,000 feet/18,898 m during its second mission (Airbus photo)

Built in Oregon and home-based in Minden, Nevada, the Perlan 2 glider incorporates a number of unique innovations to enable its ambitious mission:

  • A carbon-fiber capsule with a unique high-efficiency, passive cabin pressurization system that eliminates the need for heavy, power-hungry compressors.
  • A unique closed-loop rebreather system, in which the only oxygen used is what the crew metabolizes. It is the lightest and most efficient system for a sealed cabin, and its design has applications for other high-altitude aircraft.
  • An onboard «wave visualization system» that graphically displays areas of rising and sinking air in cockpits. For commercial flights, following lines of rising air would allow faster climbs and save fuel, while also helping aircraft avoid dangerous phenomena such as wind shear and severe downdrafts.

Unlike powered research aircraft, Perlan 2 does not affect the temperature or chemistry of the air around it, making it an ideal platform to study the atmosphere. The experiments carried aloft in its instrument bay are yielding new discoveries related to high-altitude flight, weather and climate change.

Perlan’s other sponsors: United Technologies; Weather Extreme Ltd.; BRS Aerospace (Airbus photo)
Perlan’s other sponsors: United Technologies; Weather Extreme Ltd.; BRS Aerospace (Airbus photo)

This season, Perlan 2 is flying with experiments developed by The Perlan Project’s science and research committee, as well as projects created in collaboration with organizations and schools in the U.S. and Argentina. Perlan 2 research projects currently include:

  • An experiment measuring radiation effects at high altitudes, designed by students from Cazenovia Central School & Ashford School in Connecticut. This project is in coordination with Teachers in Space, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization that stimulates student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics;
  • A flight data recorder, developed by Argentina’s Instituto de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas para la Defensa (CITEDEF);
  • A second flight data recorder, designed by students at Argentina’s La Universidad Tecnológica Nacional (UTN);
  • A space weather (radiation) instrument;
  • An experiment titled «Marshmallows in Space», developed by the Oregon Museum of Science & Discovery to teach the scientific process to preschoolers.
  • Two new environmental sensors, developed by The Perlan Project.

The Perlan 2 will continue to pursue higher altitude flights and conduct research in the stratosphere as weather and winds permit through the middle of September.

 

About Airbus Perlan Mission II

Airbus Perlan Mission II is an initiative to fly an engineless glider to the edge of space, higher than any other winged aircraft has operated in level, controlled flight, to open up a world of new discoveries related to high-altitude flight, weather and climate change. This historic endeavor is the culmination of decades of research and engineering innovation, and the work of a tireless international team of aviators and scientists who volunteer their time and expertise for the non-profit Perlan Project. The project is supported by Airbus and a group of other sponsors that includes Weather Extreme Ltd., United Technologies and BRS Aerospace.

The pressurized Perlan 2 glider, which is designed to soar up to 90,000 feet/27,432 m, passed the Armstrong Line (Airbus photo)
The pressurized Perlan 2 glider, which is designed to soar up to 90,000 feet/27,432 m, passed the Armstrong Line (Airbus photo)