February’s top stories: ESA's IXV re-entry flight, first 3D-printed aircraft engines

ESA's Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) completed its mission to study re-entry capability for future reusable space transportation.


3D print engine-t

ESA's Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle completes re-entry flight

IXV

ESA's Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) completed its mission to study re-entry capability for future reusable space transportation.

Lifted-off from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana aboard a Vega rocket, the IXV separated from the rocket at an altitude of 340km, and went through 412km.

During its re-entry, the 2t vehicle recorded data from more than 300 sensors and manoeuvred to decelerate to supersonic speed from hypersonic speed.

The IXV landed in the Pacific Ocean west of the Galapagos Islands, and was recovered by a vessel.

Australian researchers create world's first 3D-printed aircraft engines

3D engine

Researchers from the Monash University, CSIRO and Deakin University in Australia created two 3D-printed aircraft engines.

One of the 3D-printed engines was showcased at the International Air Show in Avalon, while the other is at Microturbo (Safran) in Toulouse, France.

Monash and its subsidiary Amaero Engineering attracted interests from tier one aerospace companies to produce components at the Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing (MCAM) in Melbourne.

Researchers used an old gas turbine engine from Microturbo to scan components and print two versions.

Solar Impulse 2 completes first test flights in Abu Dhabi

SI 2

Solar Impulse 2 project team conducted the first test flights of the solar-powered aircraft in Abu Dhabi ahead of its planned round-the-world flight in early March.

Test pilot Markus Scherdel evaluated performance of the aircraft under various weather conditions, and Solar Impulse co-founder and pilot André Borschberg flew the aircraft for a full day test flight.

Mr Borschberg said: "These first test flights in Abu Dhabi are an important stage, a step closer towards the impending round-the-world solar flight attempt.

"Si2 incorporates innovative technology to render the aircraft more efficient, reliable, sustainable and in particular, better adapted to long-haul flights.

"It is the first of its kind, an aircraft with perpetual endurance and now, we must ensure the sustainability of the pilot in-flight."

DARPA working on low-cost satellite launch technologies

ALASA

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the US announced it is working on a programme to develop new technologies to launch 100lb satellites into low earth orbit within 24 hours.

Called Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA), the programme aims to design a low-cost, expendable launch vehicle from conventional aircraft, as well as reduce cost per flight to $1m.

The aircraft could serve as a reusable first stage, as well as fly to high altitudes and release the launch vehicle.

Nasa seeks additional budgetary allocation to support space programmes

Nasa requested an increase of more than $500m in budgetary allocation to $18.5bn during the fiscal year of 2016 to support the agency's space exploration programmes.

Nasa administrator Charles Bolden said: "Nasa is firmly on a journey to Mars. Make no mistake, this journey will help guide and define our generation."

Mr Bolden said the additional allocation will help the agency in further developing the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System (SLS) and Exploration Ground Systems that will send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit.

Nasa is currently developing the powerful SLS, which is a new heavy-lift rocket capable of sending humans aboard Orion to deep-space destinations such as an asteroid and Mars.

Aeros commences production of 40E 'Sky Dragon' airship

Aeros

Lighter-than-air aircraft manufacturer Worldwide Aeros (Aeros) commenced production of its latest airship, 40E 'Sky Dragon', at its engineering and production complex in Montebello, California, US.

The fabrication and vehicle assembly comes after the company completed critical design review (CDR) of the airship.

The company is working on supporting structure for the vertical and horizontal stabilisers, and will soon perform envelope and gondola fabrication activities.

Work on the 40E 'Sky Dragon' airship is expected to be completed later this year, and the vehicle will enter service after type certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Avianca places $10.6bn preliminary order with Airbus for 100 A320neo aircraft

Avianca

Colombian airline group Avianca Holdings placed a $10.6bn preliminary order with Airbus to purchase 100 A320neo family aircraft.

Avianca CEO Fabio Villegas Ramirez said: "After a thorough technical evaluation, we selected the A320neo family for its excellent fuel efficiency, reliability and comfort."

The carrier plans to rely on A320neo family airliners for its fleet renewal programme.

Airbus chief operating officer Customers John Leahy said: "The A320neo family is the ideal aircraft for Avianca's longest, single-aisle routes and high-altitude airports within their network."

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise looks to sell StandardAero aviation unit for $1.8bn

Aircraft leasing firm Dubai Aerospace Enterprise announced it is planning to sell its StandardAero aviation services unit for $1.8bn.

Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that the company is in negotiations with Moelis investment bank on an auction for StandardAero.

The auction process is expected to begin later this year, sources told the news agency.

Arizona-headquartered StandardAero provides engine and airframe maintenance, repair and overhaul, engine component repair, engineering services, interior completions and paint application services.

Flite-Wise project develops wireless sensor technology for aircraft monitoring

aircraft

EU-backed Flite Instrumentation Test Wireless Sensor (FLITE-WISE) project devised a new wireless sensor system to support continuous monitoring of aircraft.

Part of the Joint Technology Initiatives under Clean Sky, the system is said to eliminate use of wired sensors for monitoring aircraft engines, structures and gear boxes, among others.

The smart sensors with radio interfaces are said to offer reduced sensor wiring costs, lower weight and the flexibility to be installed on aircraft.

The platform includes an autonomous wireless sensor node to which acoustic and pressure sensors can be connected. This can be operated airborne for continuous flight test measurements.

Dassault Falcon 8X business jet makes first flight

Falcon 8X

Dassault Aviation completed the first flight of its ultra-long range Falcon 8X, the newest addition to its business jet portfolio.

Lifted-off from Dassault Aviation's Mérignac plant in France, the Falcon 8X s/n 01 levelled off at 5,000ft and raised its landing gear at 15,000ft, prior to flight handling manoeuvres and system tests.

The aircraft later climbed to 12,000m, accelerating to Mach 0.80 and descended to 5,000ft for approach and landing.