August’s top stories: Human-like skin for aircraft, BOC Aviation’s $8.8bn deal

BAE Systems revealed plans for developing human-like skin concept for aircraft, Malaysia Airlines received state buyout offer, while BOC Aviation placed an $8.8bn order for 82 Boeing aircraft, Aerospace-technology.com wraps-up the key headlines from August 2014.


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BAE Systems developing human-like skin concept for aircraft

Engineers at BAE Systems' Advanced Technology Centre are working on a concept to give aircraft human-like 'skin', which is claimed to detect wind speed, temperature, physical strain and movement more accurately than existing technology.

Embedding tens of thousands of micro-sensors into the aircraft body, the 'smart skin' concept is said to enable an aircraft to monitor its health and report potential problems, thereby reducing the need for regular check-ups on the ground.

It also helps to increase the efficiency of aircraft maintenance and improve safety.

BOC Aviation signs $8.8bn aircraft order with Boeing

BOC Aviation

Bank of China's aircraft leasing unit BOC Aviation placed an $8.8bn order for 82 aircraft, as part of its strategy to grow its fleet of fuel-efficient aircraft.

The latest order consists of 50 737 MAX 8s, 30 next-generation 737-800s and two 777-300ERs.

The order comes after Ireland-based SMBC Aviation Capital placed an order for 115 Airbus A320 family aircraft in July.

Japan plans to commercialise domestically manufactured aircraft by 2030

Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology plans to launch a R&D programme in 2015 in line with efforts to commercialise domestically manufactured next-generation passenger aircraft by 2030.

Officials at the technology ministry were quoted as saying that the government will take up an initiative to boost the domestic aircraft industry.

The Japanese aircraft industry currently has a 4% share in the global market and is valued at $9.68bn.

Embattled Malaysia Airlines gets state buyout offer

Malaysia Airlines copy

The Malaysian Government's investment branch Khazanah Nasional proposed the acquisition of the remaining 30% of the Malaysia Airlines for $437m as part of its efforts to restore the struggling company by privatising it.

The decision follows two consecutive disasters this year.

Khazanah, which already owns 69.4% of Malaysia Airlines System (MAS), will now be able to begin the steps to de-list the airline from the Malaysian stock market, further enabling drastic changes in the company with few regulatory constraints.

FAA approves drone test flights over upstate New York

The US Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved drone test flights over upstate New York as part of a research programme to evaluate their use in the national airspace system (NAS).

The Griffiss International Airport unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site in Rome, New York is the fifth of six test sites the agency selected after Congress tasked the agency with finding locations for the research programme.

The main objective of the programme is to evaluate methods for scouting agricultural fields using different types of sensors such as visual, thermal and multispectral equipment.

Nasa's deep space rocket will be ready by November 2018

SLS artistic

Nasa's Space Launch System (SLS) programme successfully completed a key decision point C (KDP-C) assessment that confirmed its readiness to enter the development phase, but added that it will not be launched before November 2018.

The KDP-C review provides a cost baseline of $7.02bn for the development of 77t-version SLS from February 2014 through the first launch.

Nasa administrator Charles Bolden said: "We are on a journey of scientific and human exploration that leads to Mars."

SpaceX to build world's first vertical rocket launch site

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) confirmed its plans to build a new commercial vertical rocket launch facility at Boca Chica Beach in the outskirts of Brownsville, Texas, US.

Claimed to be the world's first of its kind, the proposed facility would launch 12 rockets per year.

SpaceX's confirmation comes after three years of evaluating sites in Georgia, California, Virginia, Alaska, Puerto Rico and Florida, in addition to several locations within Texas ranging from Cameron County to 90 miles north in the King Ranch area.

LATAM Airlines places $7bn order for 27 Airbus A350-900 planes

Airbus A350-900

Airbus received a $7bn order from Latin America's LATAM Airlines Group for 27 new A350-900 jetliners.

The aircrafts will be deployed on routes from Brazil to cities in other countries.

According to Spanish publisher Agencia EFE, LATAM chief corporate officer Roberto Alvo said: "We're going to equip this plane with the latest cabin technology, with the most comfortable seats on the market, the most modern on-board entertainment systems."

Airbus to build first European satellite to perform electric orbit raising

EUTELSAT-172B

Eutelsat awarded a contract to Airbus Defence and Space for the construction of a new telecommunications satellite, expected to be the first in Europe to perform electric orbit raising (EOR).

Scheduled to launch in the first half of 2017, the new EUTELSAT 172B satellite can host a C-band, a Ku-band and a high throughput payload, offering high performance with lower launch costs.

Based on the company's Eurostar E3000 platform, the new satellite will use only electric propulsion during initial orbit raising and all on-orbit manoeuvres, further reducing the mass and allowing it to be launched with the Ariane 5 lower position.

Boeing and South African Airways partner to develop jet fuel from tobacco

Boeing collaborated with South African Airways (SAA) and SkyNRG to develop renewable jet fuel from a new type of tobacco plant to help meet environmental targets.

The programme will use Sunchem's nicotine-free energy tobacco crop called Solaris, involves growing the crop on a large scale, as well as on smaller farms within the region.

Solaris is capable of being used as a biofuel feedstock that can assist in considerably bringing down the prices of alternative fuels. It could trim down 80% of CO2 emissions compared to fossil kerosene.