2015: The year's biggest Aerospace Technology stories

NASA to build a 3D printed rocket engine, Boeing gets a patent for a drone that can turn into a submarine, and Amazon unveils a delivery drone prototype. Aerospace-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from 2015.


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Nasa moves closer to building a 3D printed rocket engine

A team at Nasa's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, developed and tested complex engine parts together, marking a step closer towards building a complete 3D printed, high-performance rocket engine in the future.

The test firing was conducted using cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that produced 20,000lb of thrust.

For the last three years, the team at Marshall have been working with several groups to build 3D printed parts, including turbopumps and injectors, and test them separately.

FAA makes UAS registration mandatory

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced an online registration process for owners of small unmanned aircraft (UAS) as part of its process of making the registration of UAS mandatory.

The FAA specified in its guidelines that any owner of a small UAS, who previously operated an unmanned aircraft or drone exclusively as a model aircraft before 21 December have to register their UAS by 19 February 2016.

Owners who have bought any other UAS for use as a model aircraft after 21 December have to register their aircraft before taking its first flight outside.

Blue Origin completes test flight of reusable rocket

Blue

Blue Origin, a private space company by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, completed a test flight of a fully reusable rocket, beating SpaceX's attempt at a similar landing.

The company's reusable New Shepard vehicle flew 329,839ft into the air from the launch pad in West Texas and control landed a spent rocket back on Earth, which can be used in another flight.

The rocket, named after first American space traveller Alan Shepard, is designed to carry six passengers to altitudes beyond 100km altitude into space.


Candy-powered hybrid rocket flight launched in Japan

A working group organised by Japanese confectioner UHA Mikakuto partnered with aerospace experts to launch the world's first candy-powered hybrid rocket.

During the flight, the hybrid rocket reached an altitude of 813ft.

Space research and rocket development experts involved in the Candy Rocket Project include Akita University's Akita Space Development Institute director Yutaka Wada, Wakayama University institute for education on space director Hiroaki Akiyama, and Seiichi Sakamoto of the NAOJ Chile Observatory.

Comac delivers first China developed regional jet to Chengdu Airlines

ARJ21

Chengdu Airlines, a subsidiary of China's Sichuan Airlines, received the delivery of the country's first regional commercial aircraft ARJ21.

The passenger plane, ARJ21, was manufactured by Shanghai-based state-owned Commercial Aircraft of China (COMAC).

The plane made its first flight in 2008 after undergoing several tests for six years.

USPTO approves Airbus patent for removable cabins to reduce plane boarding times

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) approved a patent for aircraft removable cabins filed by Airbus.

Airbus filed for the patent in 2013, which mainly seeks to reduce the 'turn time' or duration of a plane's time on the ground.

Under Airbus' new aircraft design, the cabin module of the plane can be detached from its body, which eventually turns the cabin into a unit that looks like a shipping container.

SpaceX seeks approval to trial space internet project

Elon Musk's SpaceX filed an application with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to commence testing its space-based internet project.

The company plans to deploy a network of satellites in orbit to beam high-speed internet to remote corners of the world from space.

The proposed project involves a constellation of 4,000 low-cost satellites launched using SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets.

Thoth receives patent for space elevator concept to launch rockets

Thothx

The US Patent and Trademark Office awarded a patent to Canadian space company Thoth Technology for its proposed space elevator, which is designed to take astronauts into the stratosphere, and to launch rockets.

Named ThothX Tower, the free-standing building would reach 20km above the earth and be 20 times higher than the tallest existing structures.

If ever built, the technology will help to reduce the costs of transporting cargo and people into space.

Inventor Brendan Quine said: "Astronauts would ascend to 20km by electrical elevator."

Boeing receives patent for drone that can turn into submarine

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently awarded a patent to Boeing for its new type of unmanned aerial drone that can be converted into a small submarine.

If ever built, the rapid deployment air and water vehicle will be adaptable for both flight and water travel.

Powered by a propeller, wing and stabiliser, the vehicle would be launched aboard a large carrier aircraft to reach the deployment area.

Zodiac Aerospace files patent for windowless passenger cabin on cargo deck

French aircraft equipment manufacturer Zodiac Aerospace filed a patent that proposes a lower deck space to seat passengers, where luggage is currently stored.

Since the design will deprive passengers seated in the cargo deck the benefit of a window view, the company proposes to stream a video feed of outside.

It proposes installing a full length wall screen, which will display live footage captured by cameras fitted on the outside of the plane, instead of adding windows to the deck that would increase the weight of the plane.

Airbus unveils wide-body VIP cabin concept

Summit

Airbus revealed a new wide-body cabin concept, which features a VIP section at the front of the cabin and airline-style seating at the rear.

Called Summit, the new concept is said to offer greater capacity, capability and comfort, and is designed for private and government customers.

It features a bedroom with an en-suite bathroom at the front, followed by an office, a conference and dining room, as well as a working area.

 

Amazon unveils new unmanned delivery drone prototype

Amazon released a new video showing the prototype of its unmanned drones to be used for delivering packages to customers within 30 minutes or less.

In a bid to have a smooth and quick delivery system, Amazon announced the technology two years ago.

In the video, Amazon said the drones weigh 55lb and are capable of carrying shipments of up to 5lb. While delivering packages to their destinations, the drones will use 'sense and avoid' technology to negotiate any possible hindrance.