Orion Crew Capsule Primary Structure Delivered To NASA

NASA Logo Last Monday the primary structure for the first Orion crew capsule destined for space was delivered to NASA at Kennedy Space Center. Orion, produced by Lockheed Martin, will be completed in the Operations and Checkout Building at KSC. This capsule will be used for a flight test in 2014, launched atop a Delta IV Heavy. It will orbit twice and re-enter at speeds close to what would be experienced during a lunar return to test the heat shield. Operationally the Orion is planned to launch atop the Space Launch System, which NASA is currently developing.

The most interesting part of this, to me, is the social media Q&A NASA conducted in conjunction with the arrival of the Orion. I think it is far more interesting and informative than the usual official presentations:

And speaking of those official presentations, there’s one of those too if you really want to watch it:

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Lockheed Martin F-35 Test Pilot Tuesday

Lockheed Martin Logo Since I was on vacation last week (I took my wife out to Disneyland and San Francisco to celebrate her birthday and the 4th) I didn’t do any posting, so you get last week’s and this week’s Test Pilot Tuesday in one shot:

And a bonus – test pilot Pete Wilson discusses flying the STOVL F-35B:

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Boeing 737 MAX Advanced Technology Winglets Face The Wind

Boeing Logo Boeing announced their new ‘dual-feather’ Advanced Technology winglet design for the B737 MAX a couple of months ago, but now they’re giving us a look behind the scenes are some of the development process. In particular the wind tunnel testing of a high-fidelity B737 MAX model in Boeing’s Transonic Wind Tunnel.

You might think that modern aircraft design is all CAD and computational fluid dynamics, but wind tunnel testing still plays a vital role in developing new designs. Data from tunnel testing helps validate the computational models, and it can uncover unexpected results. Computer simulations are only as good as the expectations that go into programming them. They’re constantly refined based on real world testing. More and more work is done in the virtual world of simulations, but nothing beats real world verification.

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Farnborough International Airshow 2012 Video Roundup

Farnborough International Airshow 2012 Logo The biennial Farnborough International Airshow is underway in the UK, and that means that aerospace companies are spitting out a number of videos. I won’t be sharing them all, as quite frankly most of them are kind of dull, if not utter crap, but there are a few I thought were worth sharing.

First and foremost is this one, from the opening of the show. The sole flying AVRO Vulcan, XH588, flying in formation with the UK’s Red Arrow demonstration team. Just awesome, nothing else looks like the Vulcan. I think it is similar to the SR-71 Blackbird in that it just looks like something out of time, completely radical for its day.

And since EADS is good enough to sponsor XH588, I’ll give them the next spot. Besides, this is kind of interesting – Additive Layer Manufacturing. Which is basically a kind of 3D printing on industrial scale. ALM, and other such techniques, have the potential to radically alter manufacturing. Eventually ALM or some form of 3D printing will probably be in most homes, but first it will bring big changes to industrial processes.

I posted a couple of GE’s videos in my last post, on the CFMI CFM56 & LEAP-X, since they directly related to the LEAP-X, but they also touted the success of their new GEnx engine, powering the B787 & B747-8.

Bell Helicopter has this short video promoting the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey. I basically never get tired of watching it do its thing.

Airbus shared their highlights from the first two days of the show:

And if you thought the seeing the giant A380 yanked around the sky in that last clip was impressive, check out the full uncut version:

I found this one interesting. Heeding the call of nature on a flight last week, and noticing for the nth time how small aircraft lavatories are (I’m 6’6″ and generally a big guy), I found myself wondering just how the disabled passengers, or what it seems the industry refers to as Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM), deal with it. Not very well I’d expect. But Airbus has an interesting new A320 lavatory design called Space-Flex PRM which will help. Basically there are two adjoining lavatories at the rear, as there generally are, but the walls are moving partitions. The flight crew can reconfigure them into one larger lavatory, which can accommodate a passenger in a wheelchair (presumably one of those narrow aircraft-aisle compatible ones). I think that’s an interesting concept, but we’ll see how many airlines adopt it. TAM Airlines is the first.

Boeing also has their highlights from the first day – they posted one for the second day, but for some reason it is private now they’ve reposted day 2:

They’re also touting their environmental designs:

Lockheed Martin jumped into the video fray as well:

They also released this look back at past LockMart Farnborough flight demos – not enough this year perhaps:

There will probably be more videos to come as the show continues. I’ll sort through them, so you don’t have to.

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How Does The World’s Most Successful Jet Engine Work, And What’s Next?

CFM International Logo Most people, who aren’t aviation geeks, have probably never heard of CFM International (CFMI). CFMI is a joint venture of GE, of the US, and Snecma, of France, and together they build most successful jet engine ever produced, the CFM56. Over 20,000 CFM56 engines have been built, with production continuing.

The CFM56 dates back to 1974 and evolved from technology developed for GE’s F101 power plant for the B-1 bomber. The world’s most successful engine was almost stillborn, as it struggled to find customers until the USAF selected it to re-engine a large portion of the KC-135 fleet. With that foundation the CFM56 was used extensively to re-engine commercial B707 and DC-8 commercial aircraft, as well as on other military C-135/B707 variants.

But the big breakthrough came when Boeing decided to re-engine the B737, replacing the old Pratt & Whitney JT8D of the B737-100/200. The CFM56-3 was selected as the exclusive engine for the B737-300/400/500 family, now called the B737 Classic, and after that the sky was the limit. It has powered every B737 since, with the current B737NG family, the -600/700/800/900, powered by the CFM56-7B. Over 6,000 CFM56-powered B737s have been delivered, with over 2,000 currently on order – and counting.

That alone would be an astonishing record, but the B737′s main competitor, the Airbus A320 family, is also powered by the CFM56-5B. Unlike the B737, it isn’t an exclusive arrangement. The A318 is available with the P&W PW6000 and the A319/A320/A321 are available with the International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500, but the CFM56 has a strong market share in the family. This means the CFM56 powers the two most successful airliner families of all time – the B737 & A320. And the A320 isn’t its only Airbus win; the CFM56-5C exclusively powers the four-engine A340-200/300 widebody as well.

What this all means is that if you’ve flown much at all in your life, you’ve probably flown on an aircraft powered by the CFM56. I did just this past week, as I flew on multiple B737s on a trip out to California.

I’ve been an aviation geek most of my life. Way back in seventh grade, which must’ve been 1983 or so, I did an independent study project on gas turbine engines. I got to visit the maintenance facility at the local Air National Guard base, the 109th Tactical Airlift Group in Schenectady, NY, and poke around in the innards of the Allison T56 turboprops from their C-130s. It was awesome, which just shows you I was a tech geek back then. I collected all kinds of diagrams, illustrations, etc., to use in the presentation, but the teenage me would’ve killed to have these videos. These are exactly the kind of thing I was picturing in my head and struggling to illustrate. And yeah, this whole post is just an excuse to post these.

First is the CFM56-7B, which exclusively powers the Boeing 737NG family:

Next, in a very similiar video, is the CFM56-5B, which powers the Airbus A320 family:

So how do you follow up the world’s most successful jet engine, which has been evolving for over three decades? You take a huge LEAP. Where LEAP stands for Leading Edge Aviation Propulsion, of course.

More specifically, the LEAP-X, CFMI’s new engine being developed to power the A320 NEO (LEAP-X1A), B737 MAX (LEAP-X1B), and China’s new COMAC C919 (LEAP-X1C). The LEAP-X is a major, er, leap forward from the CFM56. A design can only be evolved so far before it is time to start with a clean sheet and create a new design incorporating the latest and greatest technologies, which is exactly what CFMI have done. The LEAP-X will provide much greater fuel economy while at the same time being quieter, producing fewer emissions, and requiring less maintenance than older engines. It is poised to be as great of a success, if not greater, than its older sibling. And being the exclusive power plant for the next generation of the world’s most successful airliner, the B737 MAX, and one of the two options for the second most successful family, the A320, is a good start.

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