This month’s aerospace news is not only well-grounded; it is out of this world. The aerospace industry continues to have a positive impact on our industry.

We begin with news of higher deliveries for Boeing Co. in the third quarter and for the year. Compared to last year, Boeing delivered 13 more jets in Q3 and 52 more for the first nine months of the year. Deliveries were highest for its smallest jet, the 737, and were also up for the composite-rich 787. It is predicted that Boeing will have a record year in 2015, delivering 750-755 jets.

Next year, we expect to see the largest plane in the world – the Stratolaunch – take flight. It is being built to launch satellites into the stratosphere. The plane is so large that if it was placed on the 50-yard line of a football field, its wingtips would extend 15 feet beyond the goal posts on both ends of the field. Hard to believe something that big can even fly.

Two new design technologies are being tested by NASA with the goal of saving fuel. The first is a wing that can change shape called Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) technology. This morphing-shape wing has the potential to save millions of gallons of fuel and offers pilots more control over the shape of a wing’s surface.

The second NASA experimental design is breaking the rules of how planes fly. Code-named LEAPTech (Leading Edge Asynchronous Propellers Technology), the plane will use 18 tiny electrically powered propellers to replace the single large propeller. The small propellers will be attached to a very narrow wing with about one-third the area of a conventional wing. The smaller wing reduces drag at cruise altitude, and the 18 electric engines blow air across the wing to generate greater low-speed lift, both of which make the plane more efficient. The prototype is expected to be built in the next two years and may usher in a transition to electric propulsion within a decade.

3D printing (additive manufacturing, AM) is the today and tomorrow for our out-of-this-world news. Here is a sample of some of the ways 3D printing/AM is impacting aerospace.

  • Small RC aircraft (tested by the Royal Navy)
  • Components for an Atlas V rocket
  • Flight parts for the Airbus A350
  • Fuel-injector nozzles for helicopter engines
  • Printing system to operate in space (lower-gravity)
  • Drone for exploring Mars (could be created in space)

Mars seems to be the next frontier of space travel. This year, six scientists spent eight months in a dormant volcano in Hawaii to simulate life on Mars. Did you know there are eight different groups exploring the possibility of travelling to Mars? Popular Mechanics did an interesting Mars write-up to coincide with the release of The Martian, and they provided Vegas odds for the success of these groups. Here are the participants and their chance of success.

  • European Space Agency..................      300:1
  • China National Space Administration 100:1
  • NASA.......................................................  80:1
  • Russian Federal Space Agency......... 60:1
  • Inspiration Mars..................................... 25:1
  • Mars One................................................ 15:1
  • The Mars Society..................................... 9:1
  • SpaceX (Elon Musk)............................... 5:1

In this issue, several articles discuss a range of aerospace-related topics. Our article with PRI looks at Nadcap as they celebrate 25 years. I worked in aerospace before and during the time Nadcap was getting started. We endured many prime audits prior to Nadcap.

We look at temperature monitoring of aerospace materials in another article this month. Check out the sidebar for specific aerospace discussion. Also, you can learn more about ion/plasma nitriding for surface hardening of aerospace components. Finally, another article discusses the challenges of testing composite material used for several of the new passenger-jet designs. It’s an issue that’s all about aerospace, and we think it’s out of this world.