Much of today’s aerospace news is literally out of this world. Let’s take a look at what’s happening in this important industry for those of us in the thermal-processing world.
It looks like supersonic travel might be making a comeback. Boom Technology is developing a 45-seat jetliner that will cruise 1,451 mph (Mach 2.2). At that speed, a New York to London route would take about 3.25 hours compared to the typical seven-hour trip. Boom plans to fly a prototype in 2018 to test some of its technologies.
Were you aware that there are 17 young “NewSpace” companies at the Mojave Air and Space Port? These companies are building the components, engines, materials and rockets being used to deliver satellites and more into space. A typical low-earth-orbit satellite weighs 3 tons, stands two-stories tall and costs tens of millions of dollars to build. Today’s microsatellites are between 22 and 220 pounds, and there are even nanosatellites under 22 pounds. A “cubesat” weighs around 2 pounds, is about the size of a fist and costs less than $100,000 to build. It is projected that 2,400 nano and microsatellites will launch between 2017 and 2023.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX recently slashed tens of millions of dollars from their rocket prices, which helped bring the company a $1.6 billion deal with NASA to fly 12 cargo missions to the ISS. Musk is also planning a mission to Mars.
Moon Express is vying for Google’s Lunar XPrize, a $20 million award to the first company to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon and accomplish several technical challenges. They plan their maiden voyage later this year. Also competing for the Lunar XPrize is Interorbital Systems, which sells satellite kits and says it will launch 137 satellites this year with its modular rocket.
Space even appears to be the new frontier for hobbyists. In a hacker space called Mojave Makers, people are building space-related equipment in much the same way that previous generations built computers.
Height and Flight Records
A new engineless-glider height record was recently set when an Airbus Perlan Mission II flew 52,000 feet above the ground in the Patagonia region of Argentina. The flight was performed there because of specific “mountain wave” winds, which help lift the glider to astronomical heights.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Air Force’s robotic X-37B space plane set a record for being airborne 718 days when it touched down at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on May 7. The previous X-37B flight lasted 674 days.
Another aerospace record was recently set by a Rolls-Royce Power Gearbox that reached 70,000 horsepower. Designed to run up to 100,000 HP, future demonstrator models are expected to reach the maximum design power.
Aerospace Stands Out
In FORTUNE magazine’s 2017 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies, the aerospace industry is well-represented. Five aerospace companies were in the top 33 of FORTUNE’s 50 All-Star companies. These include General Electric (7), Southwest Airlines (8), Boeing (30), Delta Air Lines (31) and Singapore Airlines (33). Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, United Technologies, Raytheon and Boeing were the top-5 industry standouts in the Aerospace and Defense category.
Delta made another FORTUNE list this year – The 100 Best Companies to Work For. It was their first appearance on the list and the first for an airline in 12 years. How did they do it? FORTUNE suggests that fostering a good corporate culture was part of the reason, but excellent pay and benefits are most important for keeping Delta’s workers happy and flying high.