February’s top stories: Gravitational waves in space detected, Boeing collaborates on aviation biofuel research

JAXA launches x-ray astronomy satellite, EasyJet to trial hydrogen fuel cell in aircraft, Virgin Galactic unveils new spaceship to take tourists into space. Aerospace-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from February 2016.


Ligo

LIGO collaboration detects gravitational waves in space

Enhanced laser interferometer gravitational-wave observatory (LIGO) detectors, a US National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project, detected gravitational waves in space for the first time.

This confirms the prediction of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity after a hundred years.

LIGO researchers observed the merger of a pair of black holes through a transient gravitational-wave signal, more than a billion light years from Earth.

Boeing and Mexican partners to collaborate on sustainable aviation biofuel research

Boeing, Mexico's Airports and Auxiliary Services (ASA) and Aeromexico announced plans to collaborate on a biojet programme to advance the research and development of sustainable aviation biofuel.

The biojet programme is supported by the country's Sector Fund for Energy Sustainability (SENER-CONACYT).

The initiative was formalised by Boeing, Aeromexico, ASA and the Potosinian Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (IPICYT) in Mexico City.

JAXA launches x-ray astronomy satellite ASTRO-H

JAXA

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched an x-ray astronomy satellite ASTRO-H into space onboard a H-IIA rocket from the country's Tanegashima Space Center.

Approximately 14 minutes and 15 seconds after liftoff, the H-IIA rocket released ASTRO-H and placed it 580km above the Earth's surface.

Astro-H is JAXA's sixth satellite dedicated to the study of x-ray astronomy and is capable of observing x-ray sources, such as galaxy clusters and neutron stars more than ten times fainter than its predecessor, Suzaku.

Formation Design develops new seating concept for business class

US-based Formation Design Group developed a new seating concept for aircraft that allows elevated seats to fold into beds.

The company claims the new lie-flat seating concept is the next major evolution in premium seating. The configuration features lie-flat beds that are arranged to allow seat counts to be similar with traditional angled flat seats, while offering larger beds when compared to staggered arrangements.

The concept enables direct aisle access for all seats and is made possible due to the use of vertical cabin space through a small elevation change included into every third seat.

EasyJet to trial hydrogen fuel cell in aircraft to cut fuel costs

Easyjet

EasyJet is planning to trial new hydrogen fuel cell powered hybrid planes to save up to 50,000t of fuel a year and cut carbon emissions.

The new concept can help the airline to save between $25m and $35m a year on the cost of fuel, reports Reuters.

The technology works by tapping energy as the plane brakes on landing and uses captured energy to power the aircraft while taxiing on the land. The technology is similar to the one designed for Formula 1 cars.

ICAO bans lithium-ion batteries shipment on passenger planes

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) banned shipments of lithium-ion batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft on an interim basis.

The new aviation safety guideline will be implemented from 1 April. It does not impose a ban on personal electronic devices with lithium-ion batteries carried by passengers or crew members.

ICAO council president Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu said: "Safety is always our most fundamental priority in international civil aviation."

EPA to buy aerostat from Drone Aviation

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed an order to buy a helium-filled aerostat, allied airborne equipment and operator training in Jacksonville, Florida, US, from Drone Aviation Holding (DAC).

In August, EPA awarded a contract to DAC for a customised winch system and related equipment under the agency's National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL) programme for emissions sampling using tethered aerostats.

Drone Aviation Holding chairman Jay Nussbaum said: "With this purchase by the EPA, we have further strengthened our relationship with this important government agency and continue to demonstrate the value of our tethered aerostat systems.

Google trials solar-powered drones for transmitting 5G wireless internet service

Google is conducting tests that can provide high-speed 5G wireless internet services at Virgin Galactic's Gateway to Space terminal at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

According to The Guardian, Google was conducting tests of several solar-powered wireless 5G drone aircraft with an aim to replace current cellular-based networks.

Under a project codenamed SkyBender, Google is using millimeter wave-based transceivers to send and receive data.

Liberty Hall acquires AIM Aerospace for $220m

Private equity firm Liberty Hall Capital Partners acquired AIM Aerospace, a provider of composite ducting, substructural and interiors parts for the commercial aerospace industry, for $220m.

The deal is yet to receive customary closing conditions.

After completion of the acquisition, AIM Aerospace will support Liberty Hall's new strategy to create a fully integrated, diversified composites supplier network through organic investments and planned acquisitions.

Virgin Galactic unveils new spaceship to take tourists into space

VG

Virgin Galactic, the space company owned by Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments, unveiled its new spaceship.

The spaceship could take tourists and researchers into space.

Called Virgin Spaceship (VSS) Unity, the new vehicle is designed to carry a crew of two pilots and a maximum of six passengers to space.