NASA is planning to privatize the space station, an optionally manned helicopter for the US Army, a new planet that may have life, get your pizza delivered with a drone and the biggest aircraft crash in the world. A global point of view of this month’s events in aviation
Noa Wollman | Translation: Ofri Aharon
For sale: a space station
It seems as if the era of commercial flights to space is just around the corner. NASA has reported that they will be giving control over the space station to commercial hands in the coming years. Simultaneously, the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, is considering lessening the amount of astronauts they have in the station. Both of the agencies are signed on an agreement to continue their cooperation to operate the space research in the station until at least 2024, meaning their plans to privatize the station will have to wait eight years.
These plans were added to the declarations given during the panel regarding the journey to Mars, during which the administrator of NASA, Charles Bolden said: “Our focus is to land on Mars and we are getting closer”. Privatizing the space station will help maintain the researching while allowing NASA to transfer additional resources to help get man on Mars.
Photo by: NASA
An optionally manned helicopter for the US Army
The Marines has announced their intentions to develop combat and SAR helicopters whose infrastructure will be operated without human touch. The helicopters will be developed as part of the future vertical lift (FVL) program, a joint project lead by the US Army with the goal of creating five different types of helicopters that will be used by every Unit in the US Army. These aircraft, that are expected to have operational use in the next 15 years, will replace several frequently used models of helicopters such as the Boeing CH-47.
For the Marines, this aircraft may constitute a less expensive alternative to the MV-22 helicopter for medium lift attack missions. Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, Deputy Commander of the Marines, has informed that by the end of next year the Marines is expected to receive two prototypes from “Bell” and “Sikorsky”.
These helicopters are expected to operate without human touch; however, the first versions will integrate between automatic systems and human pilots. “While many believe that unmanned flight is the future of aviation, we still do not have the appropriate technology. In the helicopter world, in order to successfully conduct a mission – you need pilots”, stated Lt. Gen. Davis. “In complex missions, man can maneuver where computers may fail”.
Photo by: “Bell”
A whole new world
At the distance of four light years away from planet Earth, a new planet that may have existing life was discovered. The planet, “Proxima B”, is currently in the Goldilocks zone. The term, which was taken from “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, describes the range of distances from the Sun in which the planet is neither too hot nor cold but just the perfect temperature, allowing there to be water flow, the condition for life as we know it.
Even with the promising environment, it is important to remember that this is a planet that has never been seen or photographed, and the findings are based on mathematical analysis. In order to guarantee the finding of life on the planet we will probably have to send a robotic or manned spacecraft to the planet.
According to the head of the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, Tal Inbar, “this is not a realistic option”. The technology in our hands today will require a journey of tens of thousands of years in order to reach the planet, so we still have a long way to go. To be exact, it would take four years of flight in space, if we were able to move at the speed of light.
An artist’s impression. Photo by: Reuters
A flying pizza delivery may sound futuristic, but if you order pizza from Domino’s in New Zealand, you will get one to your home. Domino’s has informed that they will be using limited drone deliveries, alongside their normal delivery techniques.
The drone that was built with “Flirtey”, a startup for drone deliveries, is built from carbon fiber and aluminum and has a GPS system that will guide it back to its point of departure if it loses service or the battery is likely to die. The company is planning on expanding the pilot in the coming months, so that all 2,000 of the branches around the world will use the drone.
Even with the revolutionary pilot, you cannot stop tipping the delivery person. Pilots and flight supervisors are concerned that the unsupervised use of drones in the aerial space may lead to multiple accidents between manned and unmanned aircraft, and as of now, the company was only given permission to begin this type of delivery in New Zealand.
Photo by: Reuters
The “Flying Bun” crashed
The largest aircraft in the world, Airlander 10, crashed this month during a flight test in Bedfordshire in central England, after hitting a high-voltage cable. The aircraft, named “The Flying Bun” due to its unique shape, took off after months of preparation for flight and years of trying to finance the ambitious project. In its maiden flight the huge aircraft was in air for 20 minutes and landed.
The Airlander 10 is a combination of an air ship, a helicopter and an aircraft. It is 92 meters long – 15 meters longer than a passenger aircraft. It was developed by the US Army for surveillance purposes, and was originally designed to hover over combat areas for weeks using the smallest amount of fuel that is needed for conventional aircraft.
In 2013, Hybrid Air Vehicles, a British aviation company, purchased the plane and its development rights in hopes of attracting customers and taking over various markets such as humanitarian aid deliveries or cargo flights to areas that are hard to access.
The hybrid aircraft has four engines. It maintains its shape using internal gas pressure and is filled with helium. The aircraft can carry 80 tons and can fly between 37 to 148 kilometers per hour at 6 kilometers high. It can take off and land vertically and can be operated from open fields, desert, ice, snow – and even over water.
Photo by: Reuters