Greetings from The Aero Experience Team
The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!
Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team
Monday, May 31, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
The Teacher of the Year award is comprised of a special Apollo 8 medallion originally produced by NASA in the 1960s. The medallions, containing small amounts of pure aluminum carried into space by astronaut Frank Borman, were struck in honor of Apollo 8, the first human mission to orbit the moon. They medals were originally presented to professionals who had provided support for those missions. The medallions used for this new Challenger Center award are special gifts from the late Mr. Turner N. Wiley, former Chief of NASA’s Communication Branch for Engineering at the Goddard Space Flight Center.
At his request, his gift is being used to honor students and teachers who perform exemplary work in education. Mr. Wiley stated "What better way to continue the tradition of these medallions than to reward educators who are working in both classrooms and Challenger Learning Centers to cultivate the next generation of space explorers. I congratulate and thank the five educators who are making such a profound impact on our nation’s children."
(Challenger Learning Center Press Release)
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Written Testimony of
Captain Eugene A. Cernan, USN (ret.), Commander, Apollo 17 , Astronaut (ret.)
Committee of Commerce, Science and Transportation
United States Senate
May 12, 2010
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for inviting me here today to express my personal views concerning the Administration’s proposed FY2011 budget as it pertains to America’s role in the future of Human Exploration in Space.
One month ago, Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and I released an opinion paper expressing our concern over the Administration’s FY2011 proposed space budget. We spent a great deal of time writing and refining our document, choosing words such as "devastating", "slide to mediocrity", and "third rate stature" very carefully, so that the intent of our message would not be misinterpreted and our deep concern about the future direction of human space flight as outlined in the President’s proposal would be fully understood. We particularly wanted to avoid any political overtones because the support of America’s role in space since its beginning has traditionally transcended partisan politics.
It was determined after the Columbia accident that NASA should return to its core values, focusing its resources once again on space exploration while continuing its space exploitation through its support of the International Space Station (ISS), with the Space Shuttle providing access to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The Congress supported such a focus with a near-unanimous bi-partisan support in both the 2005 and 2008 NASA Authorization Acts.
We have recently heard a lot of eloquent verbage about the exploration of space – landing on an asteroid, circling Mars, and at some time in the future perhaps landing on the Red Planet. There is talk about a decision yet to come of building a large booster which might ultimately take us anywhere we want to go into the far reaches of the universe. There are, however, no details, no specific challenge, and no commitment as to where or specifically when this exploration might come to pass. "Hope is not a destination, nor is it a management tool." I, personally, define the exploration, in contrast to exploitation, of space as "going where no man has gone before, doing what has never been done before, doing what others couldn’t do, wouldn’t do, or perhaps were afraid to do."
However, when one examines the FY2011 budget proposal, nowhere is there to be found one penny allocated to support space exploration. Yes, there has been much rhetoric on 2 transformative technology, heavy lift propulsion research, robotic precursor missions, significant investment in commercial crew and cargo capabilities, pursuit of cross-cutting space technology capabilities, climate change research, aeronautics R&D, and education initiatives. Yet nowhere do we find any mention of the Human Exploration of Space and nowhere do we find a commitment in dollars to support this national endeavor. We (Armstrong, Lovell and myself) have come to the unanimous conclusion that this budget proposal presents no challenges, has no focus, and in fact is a blueprint for a mission to "nowhere."
In this proposed budget we find several billions of dollars allotted to developing commercial human access to low Earth orbit, based upon the assumptions and claims by those competing for this exclusive contract who say that they can achieve this goal in little more than three years, and that it can be done for something less than 5 billion dollars. (These are the same entrepreneurs who are over a year late delivering unmanned cargo to LEO.) This assumes they can design, build, flight test, and develop a man-rated spacecraft and booster architecture along with the infrastructure required for such a venture. This includes redesigning the requirements of mission control, developing the support and training simulators, writing technical manuals for training and onboard procedures, developing the synergy between a worldwide tracking network and the uniqueness of a newly designed space vehicle along with an emergency recovery force needed to handle this new space system. These are just a few of the development and support requirements to put any new manned system into space. Although I strongly support the goals and ideals of commercial access to space, the folks who propose such a limited architecture "do not yet know what they don’t know." There are a myriad of technical challenges in their future yet to be overcome, safety considerations which cannot be compromised as well as a business plan and investors that they will have to satisfy. As an example, it took over a year and a half of review and redesign of the Apollo I hatch before operational and safety requirements were satisfied. All this will lead to unplanned delays which will cost the American taxpayer billions of unallocated dollars and lengthen "the gap" from Shuttle retirement to the day we can once again access LEO. Moreover, for a variety of reasons, a "Going Out of Business" sign hanging on the door is always a possibility in any high dollar - high risk investment.
The United States, through NASA, has spent a half-century learning what we didn’t know, finding answers to questions we weren’t smart enough to ask at the time, developing technology that was needed to meet the challenge and get the job done. We came from Alan Shepard’s flight in 1961 to the Space Station and Shuttle today with a side trip or two to the moon along the way. The evolution of this learning process was not without its cost – not just in dollars, but also in the lives of our friends and colleagues. It took the courage, effort, dedication and self-sacrifice of thousands of Americans who allowed us to come this far this quickly. And, although we paid dearly for our mistakes, it is a testimonial to their commitment and American ingenuity that everyone who went to the moon came home. Therein is a lesson we cannot afford to ignore. Is this the NASA we want to transform?
Based upon my background and experience, I submit to this Committee and to the Congress that it will take the private sector as long as 10 years to access LEO safely and cost-effectively. A prominent Russian academician is quoted as saying in order to bring a craft to the standard of quality and safety for piloted flight, the United States will be dependent on Russia until at least 2020. The Aerospace Corporation estimates an initial cost of 10-12 billion dollars, plus the added cost of modifications required to launch vehicle ground systems. Should such a commercial venture run into insurmountable technical problems, business venture concerns, or – God forbid – a catastrophic failure, it would leave the United States without a fallback program, unable to access even low Earth orbit for some indeterminate time to follow. In any event, under this proposal the United States will be abandoning its 50 billion dollar, 25 year investment in the ISS, leaving us hostage to foreign powers. Is this one of our "Potential Grand Challenges" of the 21st century?Additionally, The President’s proposal suggests we develop "technology for the future." The technology we enjoy today, 40 years after Apollo, is technology that was developed from accepting a challenge and reaching for a goal. It was technology with a focus, with a mission. To simply put the best and the brightest in a room and tell them to develop breakthrough technology that could or might or may be useful in the future is a naïve proposition. Exploration drives technology innovation – not the reverse.
Also in the proposal is the possibility that maybe, at some time, perhaps as far down the road as 2015, the United States would decide to develop a heavy lift booster. This is a very vague proposition that will likely never be funded to fruition. Coincidently, Constellation has a heavy lift booster, Ares V, not only on the drawing boards but in component test today. Why do we need a new decision in 2015 for one already in development today?
A late addition to the Administration’s proposal, and one very obviously not well thought out, was a provision to build an "Orion Light" spacecraft as a rescue vehicle on the ISS. Although we have never had need for a rescue vehicle, we have today two Soyuz continuously stationed on the ISS capable of carrying as many as six people to safety should the need arise, with a provision for a third Soyuz should the crew complement ever increase to as many as nine – which is highly unlikely. An "Orion Light", before it is qualified to transport human beings to safety from the ISS, certainly would have to be man-rated. To man-rate a spacecraft requires a great deal more than following a list of safety requirements and protocol instructions included in its development. The "Orion Light" would have to go through an extensive development, test and evaluation phase before being qualified to carry humans. It sounds very similar to what the existing Ares I/Orion development proposal is all about within the overlying Constellation architecture.
Constellation itself is an architecture that over a five year period has gone through several detailed reviews and has been vetted by every government agency from the OMB to the DOD, and certainly by NASA – by every agency that has an ownership interest in any technical, scientific, budget or benefit to be derived from Human Space Exploration. In addition, an arsenal of the best engineers, scientists and management experts in America’s aerospace community added their knowledge and expertise to the review of the proposed Constellation architecture before it ever became an official program worthy of consideration. Constellation follows the Von Braun model in the evolution of the Saturn V, wherein the development of the Ares I is the embryo for the development of the Ares V. This shared DNA, with commonality of critical components throughout, leads to greater cost effectiveness, a higher degree of confidence and safety, and provides the first elements of a heavy lift booster. Appropriately under the law, both Houses of the Congress of the United States with overwhelmingly bi-partisan support, approved and agreed that Constellation should go forward.
In contrast to the five years which has been required to bring Constellation to its present status, the Augustine Committee was required to provide their report in 90 days. The report contained several suggestions and alternatives to Constellation, few of which were included in the FY2011 budget, but ultimately the Committee came to the conclusion that Constellation’s architecture had been well managed and is indeed executable, providing it has the appropriate funding that had been denied for several years. Important to note is that the Committee was directed to base their conclusions and recommendations not on the FY2009 budget, but rather on the FY2010 budget from which tens of billions of dollars had already been removed between 2010 and 2020. Naturally, the Augustine Committee concluded that Constellation was "unexecutable" within the confines of that budget. I would have reached the same conclusion. More importantly, however, the funding proposed for FY2011, if prudently administered, is more than adequate to continue the development of Constellation.
It is unknown how much time and thought was put into the existing budget proposal for FY2011, or by whom this proposal was generated, but it is common knowledge that few if any of those government agencies referred to above were asked to participate, nor, of significant note, was the DOD or the engineering or management expertise that exists throughout NASA today. This leads one to the conclusion that this proposal was most likely formulated in haste within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and/or the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), with little or no input from the NASA Administrator, Center Directors, or senior NASA management. If that were the case, the originators quite likely were promoting their own agenda rather than that of NASA and America’s commitment to Human Space Exploration, as directed by Congress in the Authorization Bills of 2005 and 2008.
With the submission of FY2011 budget, either the Administration and the originators of this budget proposal are showing extreme naivete or, I can only conclude, they are willing to take accountability for a calculated plan to dismantle America’s leadership in the world of Human Space Exploration. In either case, this proposal is a travesty which flows against the grain of over 200 years of our history and, today, against the will of the majority of Americans. The space program has never been an entitlement, it’s an investment in the future – an investment in technology, jobs, world respect and leadership, and perhaps most importantly in the inspiration and education of our youth. Those best and brightest minds at NASA and throughout the multitudes of private contractors, large and small, did not join the team to design windmills, but to live their dreams of once again taking us where no man has gone before. If this budget proposal becomes the law of the land, these technicians, engineers, scientists, a generation removed from Apollo, yet re-inspired by the prospect of going back to the moon and on to Mars, will be gone – where I don’t know – but gone.
America’s human space flight program has for a half century risen above partisan differences from Eisenhower to Kennedy to the present day. The challenges and accomplishments of the past were those of a nation – never of a political party or of any individual agenda. If we abdicate our leadership in space today, not only is human spaceflight and space exploration at risk, but I believe the future of this country and thus the future of our children and grandchildren as well. Now is the time for wiser heads in the Congress of the United States to prevail. Now is the time to overrule this Administration’s pledge to mediocrity. Now is the time to be bold, innovative and wise in how we invest in the future of America.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee for this opportunity to express my personal views on a subject for which I have a passion –the future of my country!
Sincerely, and with respect,
Eugene A. Cernan
Commander, Apollo XVII
Written Testimony of
Neil A. Armstrong
Committee of Commerce, Science and Transportation
United States Senate
May 12, 2010
Mr. Chairman, and Members of this Committee, I want to express my sincere appreciation for being invited to present my views on NASA‟s new plan for human space flight. As I have come to accept that my opportunities to once again see our beautiful planet Earth from afar are limited, I can speak my mind without fear of jeopardizing my crew status.
New non-classified national program concepts are, typically, accompanied by substantial review and debate in a number of venues. That process is occasionally frustrating, but it assures that all the major issues (performance, cost, funding, safety, schedule etc.) will be examined in some detail prior to a public proposal.
After the tragic loss of Columbia and its crew, and the completion of the accident investigation, Admiral Gehman, the Chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, noted that NASA needed a long term, strategic, guiding vision. President Bush, after reflection, proposed such a vision: finish the International Space Station, return to the moon, establish a permanent presence there, and venture onward toward Mars. After completion of the very detailed Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), that vision became a Program known as Constellation. A high level panel of human space flight veterans and a highly experienced independent review team vetted the ESAS conclusions. ESAS results were briefed to senior Administration officials including OSTP, OMB, USAF Air Staff and DDR&E. Of course, this Committee as well as other congressional committees and subcommittees were briefed.
As this committee well knows, that vision was analyzed, debated, and improved upon within the Congress for nearly two years. You then concluded, nearly unanimously, that it was the appropriate policy for our country. Three years later, after a change in Congressional control, the policy was once again approved, although it was still not adequately funded.
With regard to President Obama‟s 2010 plan, I have yet to find a person in NASA, the Defense Department, the Air Force, the National Academies, industry, or academia that had any knowledge of the plan prior to its announcement. Rumors abound that neither the NASA Administrator nor the President‟s Science and Technology Advisor were knowledgeable about the plan. Lack of review normally guarantees that there will be overlooked requirements and unwelcome consequences. How could such a chain of events happen? A plan that was invisible to so many was likely contrived by a very small group in secret who persuaded the President that this was a unique opportunity to put his stamp on a new and innovative program. I believe the President was poorly advised.
America has invested substantially for more than half a century to acquire a position of leadership in space. But for any organization, a public utility, an airline, a university, or an NFL team, to maintain a leadership position requires steadfast determination and a continuing investment in the future. That investment must be made wisely.
I believe that, so far, our national investment in space exploration, and our sharing of the knowledge gained with the rest of the world, has been made wisely and has served us very well. America is respected for the contributions it has made in learning to sail upon this new ocean. If the leadership we have acquired through our investment is allowed simply to fade away, other nations will surely step in where we have faltered. I do not believe that this would be in our best interests.
I am very concerned that the new plan, as I understand it, will prohibit us from having human access to low Earth orbit on our own rockets and spacecraft until the private aerospace industry is able to qualify their hardware under development as rated for human occupancy. I support the encouragement of the newcomers toward their goal of lower cost access to space. But having cut my teeth in rockets more than 50 years ago, I am not confident. The most experienced rocket engineers with whom I have spoken believe that will require many years and substantial investment to reach the necessary level of safety and reliability. Business analysts believe that at least two qualified competitors would be required to have any chance of reducing ticket prices. They further believe that a commercial market large enough to support even one competitor is unlikely.
If these experts are correct, the United States will be limited to buying passage to the International Space Station from Russia, and will be prohibited from traveling to other destinations in LEO, such as the Hubble Space telescope, or any of the frequently mentioned destinations out on the space frontier.
As I examine the plan as stated during the announcement and subsequent explanations, I find a number of assertions which, at best, demand careful analysis, and at worst, do not deserve any analysis.
The Augustine Commission found that "NASA essentially has the resources either to build a major new system or to operate one, but not to do both". In that context, the principal choices would be develop the Constellation Program or to continue to operate the Shuttle and the ISS.
The Shuttle, a stellar low Earth orbit machine, is scheduled for termination this year. It has a great deal of versatility and can do many things well, although the current protocol limits its operation to the ISS orbital inclination. While the Shuttle is four decade old technology, it has been operating well and could be expected to be able to continue to do so for some years if approved. Shuttle operation is, however, very costly. It could not be justified solely as a crew taxi, but would, and should, continue to carry cargo, and continue to perform the many other services it now provides.
The now to be cancelled Constellation program showed promise to fulfill lofty goals with a high level of safety and flexibility. Constellation would also be very costly. Critics claim it is „unexecutable‟, primarily because it has been under funded.
The new 2010 plan goals are largely undefined in the near term but have been characterized as supporting ISS through 2020 and finding breakthrough technology to allow flying to a near Earth asteroid and to Mars at some time in the future.
These are vastly different plans and choosing the proper path is vital to America‟s continued space leadership.
Amendments to the 2010 plan were announced in the President‟s April 15 speech at the Kennedy Space Center. He stated that the cancelled Orion Spacecraft would be given new life as an emergency return vehicle from the International Space Station. Such a craft would be necessary if an Orbiter or Soyus was not available, if the ISS had a major emergency, or in case of a medical emergency.
In the first decade of ISS operation we have not needed such a spacecraft, and, hopefully, in the remaining ISS lifetime, we will not need one. However, there certainly is merit in having emergency escape ability. The difficulties crop up when we examine the detail of the requirements necessary for such a vehicle.
Configuration studies of emergency return vehicles have been going on for decades, NASA had a selected vehicle for development, the X-38, a lifting body which had substantial promise, but was cancelled for budgetary reasons in 2002.
The complexities of such a craft, required because of the wide variety of emergency situations that could be encountered, indicated that a near ballistic shape such as Orion would be inferior to a configuration with higher aerodynamic performance.
Because the Orion Light, as described, would be capable of carrying humans on only a return to Earth trajectory and not from Earth to the ISS, its utility would not seem to compare well with the Soyus and its 2-way trajectories that are currently used. The time and cost of this development including the autonomous or remotely controlled rendezvous and docking would appear to be significant. It appears that this would be a very expensive project with limited usefulness.
The second Florida announcement concerned studying heavy lift rockets with the objective of choosing a best design by 2015, then beginning construction and test. It was asserted: "That‟s at least two years earlier than previously planned….and that‟s conservative, given that the previous program was behind schedule and over budget." The assertion is disingenuous, in that it is comparing an unknown project in the future with a known project already underway for some years. The „previous program‟ is assumed to be the Ares V which depends on the same 5.5 segment SRBs and J-2X engines of the recently cancelled Ares 1. The delay in the Ares 1 development was due to under funding as a result of Shuttle Return to Flight requirements, ISS requirements, 2004 hurricane damage, OMB reductions and FY2010 Budget reductions. The budget reductions for Constellation through 2020 totaled more than 20 billion dollars. Considering those realities, some members of the Augustine Committee concluded that the Ares program was being quite well managed and in reasonably good shape.
Knowledge in Heavy Lift rockets is currently substantial. A great deal of such study has been completed in recent years as a part of the normal NASA and military studies. As of the time I write this testimony, NASA‟s web site describes the Ares V as follows: "Under the goals of NASA's exploration mission, Ares V is a vital part of the cost-effective space transportation infrastructure being developed by NASA's Constellation Program to carry human explorers back to the moon, and then onward to Mars and other destinations in the solar system. "
While Ares has been criticized for being late and over budget, the cause of that condition is largely understood. It seems appropriate that the reason for discarding all this work should be explained to this committee.
A heavy lift rocket derived from the Shuttle (SDHLV) has often been suggested as a useful vehicle and could be produced in far less time than that proposed in the 2010 plan, The technology and hardware, for this development is already largely available and would not require five years of study to implement.
The plan‟s consequent expected loss of jobs in space communities has been widely reported. This committee knows far more about such matters than I and I will not comment on it. I am concerned, however, about work force issues. Shuttle termination and Constellation cancellation will result in widespread breakup of design, manufacturing, test and operating teams that will be expensive and time consuming to reassemble when they are once again needed.
With the job market so tight, individuals who are in programs expected to be cancelled or cut back are leaving to pick up one of the few available jobs. Some of the best and the brightest are already leaving because of the uncertain future. Maintenance of a quality workforce is vital to a successful spaceflight program and attention to this consequence of the new plan must be considered.
It was asserted that by buying taxi service to Low Earth Orbit rather than owning the taxis, "we can continue to ensure rigorous safety standards are met". The logic of that statement is mystifying. Does it mean that safety standards will be achieved by regulation, or contract, or by government involvement? Does it mean that the safety considerations in the taxi design, construction and test will be assured by government oversight? The Augustine Committee report is quoted as follows: "Thus, the Committee views any commercial program of crew transport to ISS as involving a strong independent mission assurance role for NASA." The cost of that government involvement will be substantial and that cost must be acknowledged in the total cost of the service.
The private company spacecraft, to my knowledge, have not been as rigorously analyzed for safety as have existing rockets, Ares and shuttle derivatives, but it must be noted that Ares 1 enjoys, by a significant margin, the highest safety rating of the configurations studied.
I have highlighted just a few of the many issues and questions engendered by the 2010 NASA plan. I do believe, if the National Space Plan is subject to the normal review process of this Congress, the aerospace industry, and the reliable experts we know in the military and aerospace community, America will be well served.
Commander, Apollo 11
Monday, May 17, 2010
EVERETT, Wash. The Boeing Company's (NYSE: BA) latest addition to its lineage of pioneering commercial airplanes, the 787 Dreamliner, on May 8 caught up to its ancestor, a Boeing Model 40, in the skies over Mount Rainier south of Seattle.
The fully restored 1928 vintage Boeing Model 40, owned and flown by Addison Pemberton of Spokane, Wash., is the only flyable Model 40 in the world and the oldest flying Boeing aircraft of any kind. The Model 40 not only is notable as Boeing's first production commercial airplane, but its innovation and efficiency were the deciding factor in Boeing Air Transport (the airline subsidiary of the Boeing Airplane Company) winning the lucrative Oakland-to-Chicago air mail route in 1927. That event set William Boeing on a course that, within just two years, would take him from managing his airplane company in Seattle to presiding over a vast nationwide aviation empire called United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC).
Taking a very short break from the 787 program's intensive flight test program, Boeing Chief Test Pilot Mike Carriker expertly maneuvered the first 787, ZA001, into formation with the Model 40 at 12,000 feet to allow photographer Ryan Pemberton, flying in an A36 Bonanza, to line up for the striking photo.
"It really took a lot of work and planning," Carriker said. "When I came alongside the Model 40 against those big puffy clouds it was unbelievable: Here is this 1928 biplane flying with a 2010 airplane side by side. How amazing the history of The Boeing Company is – it was really exciting."
(Boeing Company news release, May 17, 2010)
EAA Chapter 32 will host EAA's B-17G "Aluminum Overcast" during its stop at Spirit of St. Louis Airport July 13-14, 2010. If you would like to take a flight on the B-17, here are the details:
To book a flight please call 1-800-359-6217.
Pricing for flights:
Pre-book - for EAA members $359, for non-members $399
Walk-up – for EAA members $385, for non-members $425
Also, self Guided Ground Tours daily from 2-5 pm. Cost $5 per adult, $15 per family. Active Military or Veterans recieve free ground tour.
Check the EAA B-17 website for additional stops and hosting information: http://www.b17.org/
Saturday, May 15, 2010
May 21-22: Tri-State Aviation Museum, Cincinnati, OH - B-25
May 28-30: Salute to Veterans Show - Columbia, MO - B-25, TBM, L-3
June 19-20: Regional Air Festival - Cape Girardeau, MO - B-25, TBM, L-3
July 3 & 4: St. Louis Air Fair Flyover - St Louis, MO - B-25, TBM
July 17-18: Heart of America Wing Warbird Open House, Olathe, KS - B-25, TBM
August 27-29: Defenders of Freedom Show - Offutt AFB, NE - B-25, TBM
September 10-12: Airpower Over the Midwest, Scott AFB, IL - B-25, TBM, L-3
September 17-18: Fly Iowa 2010, Burlington IA - B-25, TBM
(Schedule courtesy of MO CAF)
Friday, May 14, 2010
By Carmelo Turdo
Mr. Robert Horton, UAV Test Pilot and Senior Manager at Boeing Company, gave the keynote address at the AIAA St. Louis Section annual Awards Dinner on May 12. He gave a fascinating inside view of the Boeing X-45A program that paved the way for the current Phantom Ray demonstrator rolled out earlier this week. His presentation provided a balanced overview and technical description of the program that was appreciated by both engineers and non-technical enthusiasts alike.
After retiring from the USAF in 2000 as a B-1B Offensive Systems Operator, Mr. Horton searched for an opportunity to remain in military aviation programs and joined the Boeing Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) X-45A program team. The X-45A program then under development was designed to demonstrate technology needed to perform unmanned combat missions as a force enabler for U.S. armed forces. The 2 X-45As went on to perform multi-vehicle coordinated operations at the height of the test program.
The 2 air vehicles were built around several design constraints and technical requirements. One was the need to store the aircraft in an enclosed container that allowed for systems testing while in storage. This requirement in part led to the small size – 8,000 lbs empty weight and 34 foot wingspan – and detachable wings. Another was the use of off-the shelf components, such as F-5E/T-38 landing gear and Honeywell F-124-GA-100 small jet engine, were used where available to save resources and development time. Also, all-electric systems were used to allow for computerized testing and control and for the avoidance of multiple hydraulic systems prone to leakage (except for nose gear). These requirements were incorporated due to customer request or to concentrate the development effort on the essential avionics and guidance systems.
The vehicles were constructed of aluminum and composite skin, and had two weapons bays. The avionics pallet was positioned in the right weapons bay, and the test weapons were housed in the left bay. Other features, such as thrust vectoring nozzles and stealthy jet intake, were incorporated as proven design features rather than as part of advanced flight test concepts. Of course, the most important aspect of the aircraft was the avionics suite, which provided the capability of autonomous simulated combat flight with pilot override.
The aircraft went through a flight test program that included progressively more complex flight regimes. Block 1 consisted of system checkout of aircraft and ground stations. Block 2 advanced to multi-vehicle coordinated formation flight. Block 3 demonstrated smart single-vehicle combat tactical mission plans (autonomous flight regimes), and Block 4 combined 2 smart vehicle tactical mission plans. Current manifestations, including the new Phantom Ray, incorporate the lessons learned from the X-45A program and other advanced features that Mr. Horton would not discuss.
During the flight test program, which lasted from May 2002 through August 2005, both test aircraft accomplished their mission goals of successfully flying autonomous system test flights and weapons delivery, including missions with both aircraft simultaneously flying separate simulated combat missions and returning to Edwards AFB. The aircraft flew among other aircraft, including within traffic pattern, and were monitored by crews at Edwards AFB in California and from Boeing’s facility in Seattle, Washington on the same mission. Four Boeing pilots (including Robert Horton) and 2 U.S. Air Force pilots participated in the flight tests. During one weapon delivery, an inert GPS-guided weapon released from an X-45A landed within four inches of the target vehicle on the NAS China Lake Weapons Range!
Following the X-45A program, the X-45B and X-45C programs would have incorporated the successful elements of the X-45A into larger, combat-capable platforms. However, they were cancelled before operational prototypes entered flight test programs. The current company-funded Phantom Ray continues in place of the cancelled programs, and will be the platform to prove the practicality of the autonomous, air-refuelable unmanned combat air vehicle.
(Content of this article based on the presentation given by Mr. Robert Horton, May 12, 2010)
Akin Praises DoD’s Decision to Pursue Super Hornet Multiyear Authority
WASHINGTON, DC - Today the Department of Defense notified Congress of its intent to pursue a multiyear purchasing agreement for F/A-18E/F/G Super Hornets, in response to the so-called “Akin Amendment” that gave them the authority to do so. Congressman Todd Akin (R-MO), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces, released the following statement in response.
“The Navy and the DoD have made a great decision. I commend Secretary Gates and Secretary Mabus for seeing the light and moving forward with a multiyear contract. A multiyear contract for F-18’s saves the Navy and taxpayers over half a billion dollars, provides stability for the workforce in St. Louis, and is an important insurance policy as the Navy faces a large strike fighter shortfall. It is encouraging to see the Navy and DoD come to their senses on this issue, after I have spent two years arguing that a multiyear contract made sense on all fronts.
“Our aircraft carriers are one of our nation’s most powerful tools for extending presence and promoting peace around the world. Unfortunately, aircraft carriers are not very effective without strike fighters on board. This multiyear is the first step toward addressing the Navy’s fighter shortfall, but more needs to be done. Super Hornets are fantastic planes that provide amazing capabilities for our Navy and are the most affordable fighter aircraft the DoD is currently buying. The DoD should consider using the fantastic price provided by the multiyear contract to buy additional planes to reduce the Navy’s fighter gap.”
Congressman Akin has been championing an F/A-18 multiyear contract for over two years as something that benefits taxpayers, the Navy and the St. Louis region. In 2008, Akin inserted language into the defense authorization act requiring the Department of Defense to report to Congress on the potential cost savings of a multiyear contract for F/A-18’s. In 2009, Congressman Akin successfully added an amendment to the defense authorization act giving the Navy the authority to enter into a multiyear contract for F/A-18’s.
(Press Release from Office of Rep. Todd Akin, R-MO)
(Press Release from Office of Rep. Todd Akin, R-MO)
Monday, May 10, 2010
Boeing unveiled the fighter-sized Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system, a test bed for advanced technologies today at its St. Louis, MO assembly plant. Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said that Phantom Ray is on schedule to begin taxi tests this summer and fly in December, about two years after this project began.
Phantom Ray is designed to support potential missions that may include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; strike; and autonomous aerial refueling. It evolved from the X-45C program, is one of several programs in the Phantom Works division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. Phantom Works uses rapid prototyping initiatives to design, develop and build advanced aircraft and then demonstrate their capabilities.
Key Phantom Ray suppliers include General Electric-Aviation (propulsion and power distribution), Honeywell (brake system), Woodward-HRT (flight control actuation system), Crane Hydro-Aire (brake controls) and Heroux-Devtek (landing gear).
For a feature story on today’s Phantom Ray ceremony in St. Louis, visit http://bit.ly/99AvLS.
(Boeing news release, 11:30 AM ET, May 10, 2010)
(Boeing news release, 11:30 AM ET, May 10, 2010)
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Come to the Honored Guests Banquet on May 29, 2010 at the Hearnes Center at University of MO Columbia. Meet the following special guests:
Captain Mary Burch Nirmaier, USAFR, Ret., WASP
Brigadier General Stephen L. Danner, Adjutant General, MONG
Colonel Michel Latouche, Commander Canadian Air Division 1 Forces
Major General Frank J. Grass, Director of Operations, HQ US Northern Command
Colonel Bernard Schwartze, Deputy Director Air Component Coordination Element (ACCE), Headquarters, International Security Force in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Vice Admiral Mark D. Harnitchek, Deputy Commander, United States Transportation Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Captain Robert L. (Hoot) Gibson, US Navy, (Ret)., NASA Astronaut, Racing Pilot
Captain William Bond, US Navy Retired as Commander, Fighter Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, F-14 Tomcats.
Major General Arnold Fields, US Marine Corps Retired, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR)
Lieutenant General Dennis D. Cavin, US Army (Ret), Vice President, International Air and Missile Defense Strategic Initiatives, Lockheed Martin Corporation.
Colonel Charles DeBellevue, US Air Force (Ret), Ace of Aces from the Vietnam War credited with downing six North Vietnamese MiGs.
Colonel Charles McGee, US Air Force (Ret), pilot in Class 43-F, Tuskegee Army Air Field
Mrs. Patricia Young, WWII Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)
To make your reservation, call Kimberly Boyer at 573-449-0018.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
"Do Good Work," is based on an entire speech given by Astronaut Gus Grissom. Shortly after becoming one of America's first seven Mercury astronauts, Grissom toured the Convair plant that was constructing the Atlas rockets used to launch future orbital Mercury flights. Grissom was never comfortable speaking in front of crowds, and this was no exception. However, thousands of workers were assembled to hear the astronaut's remarks, and he then told them these three words, "Do good work." The assembly reportedly went wild with approval, showing that few words, well spoken and sincere, can inspire. The Aero Experience intends to continue in that spirit. Please leave your constructive feedback to our posts, and give us your ideas on what we should include on this site. And in all things, "Do Good Work!"
NASA announced the death of legendary Launch Pad Leader Guenter Wendt on Monday, May 3. He died at his home Monday morning in Merritt Island, Fla., within a few miles of NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Wendt had been hospitalized with congestive heart failure and suffered a stroke. He was 85.
As a young man, Wendt was a member of the German Luftwaffe during World War II. Sponsored by his father, he became a U.S. citizen in 1955 and worked as a structural engineer at McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis. He joined the Mercury program in 1958, and a year later became capsule pad leader. After an absence during the early portion of the Apollo Program, Wendt returned to the program when manned Apollo missions resumed following the disastrous Apollo fire.
Wendt saw all the Apollo astronauts off on their way to the moon before working as the head of flight crew safety for the Space Shuttle Program. He later served on the investigation board that reviewed the Challenger accident.
He retired in 1989, but still didn't leave the space program far behind. He worked as a consultant on Hanks' production "From the Earth to the Moon," and also worked with the team that recovered the Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. That was the Mercury capsule Gus Grissom flew into space, but the spacecraft filled with water after splashdown and sunk.
He also returned to Kennedy on occasion and spoke with today's spaceflight engineers, technicians and specialists. In May 2009, Wendt told them to establish credibility, learn from mistakes and "think outside the box." He also told them, "Don't fake it. Always have the facts to back up your statements," and "never take things for granted."
(NASA Press Release)
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Make plans to visit this midwest treasure:
Open Friday and Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. or by appointment
2300 Vector Drive, Cahokia, IL 62206
A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world's largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world's largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $34 billion business.