January’s top stories: SpaceX $1bn fundraising, AirAsia flight fuselage found

Boeing and SpaceX prepared to begin the first manned test flights to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2017.


OnSight

Boeing and SpaceX prepare to launch flights to ISS in 2017

Boeing and SpaceX prepared to begin the first manned test flights to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2017.

In 2014, the companies secured contracts under Nasa's commercial crew programme to fly astronauts on missions to the ISS.

Boeing's fixed-price contract is valued at $4.2bn, while SpaceX's is at $2.6bn.

SpaceX and Boeing will carry out a series of tests on their Dragon V2 and the CST-100 capsules respectively until 2017 prior to the flights to and from the station.

The Dragon V2 and the CST-100 capsules are designed to carry up to seven people to the space station.

SpaceX raises $1bn to fund space and satellite technologies

SpaceX

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) raised $1bn through a financing round with Google and Fidelity Investments.

Under the deal, Google and Fidelity will have a combined stake of less than 10% in SpaceX.

SpaceX existing investors include Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Valor Equity Partners and Capricorn.

The company plans to use the proceeds for research in space transport, reusability, and satellite manufacturing technologies.

SpaceX's equity round comes after the company's founder Elon Musk announced plans to launch a space internet project to provide internet services to remote corners of Earth, and eventually to Mars, reported Bloomberg Businessweek.

UK consortium to develop imaging technology to produce carbon composite aircraft

A consortium-led by British defence technology firm QinetiQ worked on new imaging technology, to design and manufacture current and future generations of carbon composite aircrafts.

The consortium comprises the University of Southampton, University College London (UCL) and four companies in ProjectCAN.

The three-year project brings together academia, the aerospace industry and X-ray inspection equipment manufacture.

Nasa and Microsoft develop tool for virtual exploration on Mars

OnSight

Nasa partnered with tech giant Microsoft to develop a new software, OnSight, to work virtually on Mars with the Curiosity rover.

The tool creates a 3D simulation of the Martian environment, which will allow scientists to examine the rocky surface on the red planet, as well as plan activities for rover's science instruments using gestures to select menu commands.

Using holographic computing, the system overlay visual information and rover data into the user field of view.

Bombardier pauses Learjet 85 business aircraft programme

Learjet

Bombardier put its Learjet 85 business aircraft development programme on hold, placing 1,000 jobs at risk in Mexico and the US.

The company's plan to suspend the programme is in response to a weak demand for the Learjet business jet.

Consequently, Bombardier will record a pre-tax special charge of $1.4bn related to impairment of the Learjet 85 development costs in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Bombardier president Pierre Beaudoin said: "Given the weakness of the market, we made the difficult decision to pause the Learjet 85 programme at this time.

"We will focus our resources on our two other clean-sheet aircraft programmes under development, CSeries and Global 7000/8000, for which we see tremendous market potential."

DLR and Airbus complete laser measurement of in-flight aerodynamics

DLR Airbus

German Aerospace Center (DLR) researchers and Airbus completed an in-flight laser measurement of aerodynamics to visualise the airflow over the wing of a passenger aircraft.

The in-flight test data will be used to optimise future wings and flap systems suited to slower landing approaches of the aircraft.

Aircraft that approach for landing at a lower speed are quieter, and can operate on shorter runways, researchers said.

For the three-and-a-half hour flight, the team used a DLR A320 advanced technology research aircraft (ATRA), which set off from the research airport in Braunschweig, Germany.

AirAsia flight fuselage located in Java Sea

The fuselage of crashed AirAsia flight QZ8501 was found in the Java Sea by Singaporean Navy ship, MV Swift Rescue.

The main body of the aircraft was found 3km away from the point where the tail section was recovered.

National Transportation Safety Committee investigator Ony Soeryo Wibowo was quoted by Reuters saying: "A marker was placed on the engine. Beside the engine is the fuselage, the wing and a lot of debris."

Flying from Surabaya to Singapore, the AirAsia A320-200 with 155 passengers and seven crew members onboard lost contact with the air traffic control before it crashed into the sea.

Airbus unveils A321neo aircraft

A321neo

Airbus unveiled the newest addition to its A320 family of aircraft, A321neo, which has a maximum take-off weight of 97t.

The launch of A321neo comes with a commitment from Air Lease (ALC) to buy 30 A321neo aircraft.

With the latest decision, ALC becomes the launch customer for the new airliner and its total purchase of A321neo increases to 90 aircraft. ALC's total orders for Airbus aircraft will be 258.

Aviation consortium to develop non-halon fire extinguishing solutions for aircrafts

A consortium of aviation manufacturers, along with other industry companies, worked to develop non-halon fire extinguishing solutions for use in aviation engines and auxiliary power unit fire zones.

Named the Halon Alternatives for Aircraft Propulsion Systems (HAAPS), the consortium is managed by Ohio Aerospace Institute (OAI).

The consortium comprises aircraft manufacturers, including Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Embraer and Textron, as well as fire extinguishing system suppliers such as engine, auxiliary power unit, nacelle companies, and other key stakeholders.

The project is designed to identify a common environmentally-acceptable non-halon fire extinguishing solution.

Malaysia declares MH370 disappearance as an accident

The Malaysian Government declared the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 as an accident, which is in one of the world's biggest aviation mysteries.

Malaysia Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said: "Both investigations are limited by the lack of physical evidence at this time, particularly the flight recorders.

"Therefore at this juncture there is no evidence to substantiate any speculations as to the cause of the accident.

"An interim statement detailing the progress of the safety investigation is expected to be released on or around the one year anniversary of the accident."