June’s top stories: ESA’s Philae recovery, Sikorsky 1,400 job cuts

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Philae lander came online on the surface of Comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko, University of Bristol scientists developed self-healing aircraft wing technology, and Sikorsky announced plans to cut 1,400 jobs due to a drop in demand for helicopters. Aerospace-technology.com wraps-up the key headlines from June 2015


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British scientists develop self-healing aircraft wing technology

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Researchers at the University of Bristol have been developing a new technology that will allow aircraft wings and fuselage to recover themselves during flight, in the event of any undetectable cracks.

The team has been working on the technology over the past three years in partnership with aerospace engineers.

University of Bristol Professor Duncan Wass was quoted by the Independent as saying that the self-healing products could be available to consumers in the near future.

The solution involves the addition of tiny, hollow microspheres to carbon fibre composite materials that would release a liquid healing agent upon impact.

The compound fills the cracks caused by damage and a rapid chemical reaction makes it harden.

ESA's Philae robot comes online on comet 67P

Philae

The European Space Agency's (ESA) comet lander Philae came online after going into hibernation on the surface of Comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko last November.

The agency reported that the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany has received signals from the robot.

The Lander Control Center at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) teams have evaluated more than 300 data packets.

Philae communicated through Rosetta with its team on ground for approximately 85 seconds.

Nasa makes progress in mission to find life on Jupiter's moon

Europa

Nasa's mission to explore life on Jupiter's moon Europa moved into the development stage with the completion of the first major concept review.

The space research organisation has completed the preliminary concept level, where it surveyed Europa in detail and investigated its habitability.

Europa programme executive Joan Salute said: "It's a great day for science.

"We are thrilled to pass the first major milestone in the lifecycle of a mission that will ultimately inform us on the habitability of Europa."

In the development or the 'formulation' phase, a spacecraft is planned to be launched to Jupiter in the 2020s.

Sikorsky Aircraft cuts 1,400 jobs over fall in helicopter demand

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United Technologies' (UTC) subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft unveiled plans to cut 1,400 jobs over the next 12 months due to a drop in demand for helicopters.

The company said that declining orders are largely due to a slump in global crude prices.

Sikorsky communications director Paul Jackson said: "Sustained decreases in oil prices continue to drive significant declines in capital investments by oil companies in offshore oil exploration projects, impacting Sikorsky and resulting in reduced production levels.

"Additionally, Sikorsky continues to experience softness in demand for certain international military products."

The lay-offs will start immediately, affecting the company's production facilities in Pennsylvania and Connecticut in the US, and Poland. Workers and the Teamsters union have received notification of the redundancies.

The company plans to consolidate some of its manufacturing operations and move into larger facilities.

Airbus developing reusable rocket launcher technology

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Airbus revealed it was working on a new concept to enable rocket launchers to re-enter Earth for reuse on other missions.

Named Advanced Expendable Launcher with Innovative engine Economy (Adeline), the system is being designed at the Ariane production centre in Les Mureaux, near Paris.

The winged module will be installed at the bottom of the launcher to detach from the rocket's upper-stages once the propellant tanks are emptied.

Featuring a protective heat shield, Adeline will deploy its small winglets and propellers during descent, to manoeuvre towards a runway.

Wizz Air orders 110 A321neo aircraft for $12.5bn

Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air signed a deal with Airbus to buy 110 A321neo aircraft, which would be worth $12.5bn in list price.

Both the sides have signed a memorandum of understanding for delivery of these aircraft with an option to buy 90 more.

Airbus claimed that the order is its single largest for A321 aircraft.

The Budapest-based airline currently operates 61 aircraft, serving 380 routes from 22 bases.

Wizz Air CEO said Jozsef Varadi said: "Thanks to our rapidly growing A320 fleet, we've become one of Europe's leading carriers.

"The A321neo is clearly the leading single aisle aircraft and the best platform regarding operating economics to support our ambitious growth plans."

Virgin Galactic and Arianespace to launch OneWeb's internet satellite constellation

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British Channel Islands-based OneWeb signed contracts with Virgin Galactic and Arianespace to provide launch services for its planned 900-satellite constellation, which will deliver internet capability to remote corners of the world.

Under the contract, Virgin Galactic will provide 39 LauncherOne flights, while Arianespace will fly 21 Soyuz rockets.

Initially, OneWeb will launch around 648 satellites, keeping the rest as spares for when replacements are required.

Planned to be launched early in 2017, the satellites will primarily provide broadband and mobile services.

Nasa and Microsoft to develop virtual assistance technology for ISS astronauts

Nasa has partnered with Microsoft to develop a virtual assistance technology for astronauts on-board the International Space Station (ISS).

Called Sidekick, the technology features Microsoft HoloLens to assist astronauts working in space.

Sidekick is configured to operate in two modes, the remote expert mode and procedure mode.

Remote expert mode uses Skype to allow ground operators to provide guidance and draw annotations into the crew member's environment, while the procedure mode enhances standalone procedures with animated illustrations on the objects that that crew interacts with.

Safran and Dassault developing digital solution for 3D-printing aerospace components

Safran and Dassault Systèmes entered a strategic partnership to develop an end-to-end digital solution for additive manufacturing of aerospace engine components.

Also known as 3D-printing, additive manufacturing uses computer-aided design, engineering, manufacturing and materials science software to generate 3D models of parts and subsystems, which are then built using successive layers of materials.

Using Dassault Systèmes' 3DEXPERIENCE platform and Safran's expertise in innovative technologies, the companies will develop expertise for virtual validation of an additive manufacturing process.

Rolls-Royce signs $9bn contract with Emirates to supply Trent 900 engines

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Rolls-Royce won a $9.2bn contract to power Emirates fleet of Airbus A380 aircraft with Trent 900 engines.

Under its largest ever order, Rolls-Royce will supply the engines for 50 A380 aircraft that will enter into service in 2016.

The company will also support the airline with TotalCare service, which covers predictive maintenance planning, workscope creation and management, and wing repair and overhaul activities.

The engine offers the lowest lifetime fuel burn, with the latest version including technology developed for the Trent XWB and Trent 1000 engines, the company said.