J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

J. VanDomelen holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and myriad certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTia in varying facets of computer software, hardware, and network design and implementation. He has worked in the electronics industry for more than 12 years in varied fields, including advanced systems design of highly technical military and aerospace computer systems, semiconductor manufacturing, open source software development, hardware design, and rapid prototyping.

11 April, 2014

NASA officials want you – to cast your vote. Now through 15 April 2014, aerospace geeks everywhere have the opportunity to vote on their favorite futuristic space suit design.

NASA’s next space suit, the Z-2, is the second and newest prototype in the space organization’s Z series of next-generation spacesuits. Its predecessor, the Z-1 suit, was named one of the best inventions of 2012 by Time Magazine. Now, all eyes are on NASA and its engineers to see what creative and innovative designs they’ve come up with for this new prototype suit.

“After the positive response to the Z-1 suit’s visual design we received, we wanted to take the opportunity to provide this new suit with an equally memorable appearance,” explains a spokesperson representing NASA’s space suit engineers. “We, the space suit engineers, have found ourselves with another exciting opportunity: the chance to make a suit with a look unlike any suit ever built before.”

Z-series space suit

NASA staff used modern hardware and software technologies in the design and development process. In fact, the Z-2 marks NASA’s first use of 3D scanning and 3D printing for spacesuit development, according to officials, who anticipate logging a number of other milestones with the Z-2 space suit. Among them are:

  • The first surface-specific planetary mobility suit to be tested in full vacuum
  • The most advanced use of impact resistant composite structures on a suit upper and lower torso system
  • The first integration of the suit-port concept with a hard upper-torso suit structure, and
  • The most conformal and re-sizeable hard upper-torso suit built to date.

This military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek urges everyone to vote. To do so, visit http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/z2/ by 15 April 2014.

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31 March, 2014

Many military and aerospace (mil/aero) industry pundits are expressing concern over the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2015 as it relates to defense spending. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, whose recommendations the President followed in the FY 2015 budget sent to Congress this month, also points out that the new plan is not without its risks.

The last installment discussed Secretary Hagel and President Obama’s recommendations for the Air Force; now this mil/aero geek presents changes planned for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. (Stay tuned for news on the Army, expected to suffer the largest cuts in personnel.)

Under the President’s budget plan, the Navy will reduce acquisitions costs and maximize resources available to buy and build new ships in an effort to grow its ship inventory over the next five years.

Eleven ships, half of the Navy’s cruiser fleet, will be “laid up” and placed in reduced operating status while they are modernized, and eventually returned to service with greater capability and a longer lifespan.

The plan preserves Navy fleet modernization programs and increases ship inventory over the next five years. To that end, the Navy will buy two destroyers and two attack submarines per year, as well as one additional Afloat Staging Base.

No new contract negotiations beyond 32 Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) ships will go forward under the plan.

USS_Independence_LCS-2_at_pierce_(cropped)

The Navy will aim to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, generally consistent with the capabilities of a frigate, affirms Hagel, who has directed the Navy to consider a completely new design, existing ship designs, and a modified LCS.

Again, however, if sequestration spending levels return in 2016 and beyond, tougher decisions on the Navy surface fleet will need to be made, such as having six additional ships laid up, halting procurement of the Joint Strike Fighter carrier variant for two years, and slowing the rate of destroyer acquisitions, resulting in 10 fewer large surface combatant ships in the Navy’s operational inventory by 2023.

The Marine Corps will lose 8,000 personnel, in a reduction from 190,000 to 182,000. If sequestration-level cuts are re-imposed in 2016 and beyond, the Marines would shrink to 175,000.

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31 March, 2014

Military and aerospace (mil/aero) professionals in North America are debating the U.S. President’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget, submitted to Congress this month. Priorities for defense going forward include homeland defense, strategic deterrence, building partnership capacity, and defeating asymmetric threats, as well as strengthening counterterrorism and crisis response capabilities. As a result, Special Operations forces will grow to 69,700 personnel from roughly 66,000 today.

Hagel recommendations and President Obama’s FY 2015 budget include the following changes for the Air Force.

Air Force modernization programs—including the new bomber, the Joint Strike Fighter, and the new refueling tanker—will continue.

$1 billion will be invested in a promising next-generation jet engine technology, which is expected to reduce fuel consumption and lower maintenance costs, will also help to ensure a robust industrial base—likely to be a national strategic asset.

The entire fleet of A-10 forty-year-old, single-purpose military combat aircraft will retire, saving $3.5 billion over five years. It will be replaced with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fifth-generation, multirole fighter aircraft early next decade (2020 and beyond).

Motorcycle Details

Many mil/aero proponents have vocalized their disappointment in retiring the A-10 “Warthogs,” yet military leaders have been discussing the fleet’s retirement and replacement for quite some time. The A-10 “cannot survive or operate effectively where there are more advanced aircraft or air defenses,” Hagel says, noting that the aircraft’s age is making it more difficult and costly to maintain, as well. “And as we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan, the advent of precision munitions means that many more types of aircraft can now provide effective close air support, from B-1 bombers to remotely piloted aircraft. And these aircraft can execute more than one mission.”

The Air Force will also retire the 50-year-old U-2 in favor of Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS), which now benefits from reduced operating costs and greater range and endurance, Hagel explains.

The Air Force will slow the growth of its armed unmanned system arsenal growing to a force of 55 around-the-clock combat air patrols of Predator and Reaper aircraft, rather than the 65 UAS originally planned.

All bets are off, however, if sequestration-level cuts are re-imposed in 2016 and beyond; “the Air Force would need to make far more significant cuts to force structure and modernization,” Hagel explains.

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31 March, 2014

The military and aerospace (mil/aero) community has been talking about dwindling defense budgets in the U.S. and Europe for years. Attentions, especially those of technology companies providing mil/aero solutions, have turned to emerging markets, including BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) countries.

President Obama sent his Fiscal Year 2015 Budget to Congress this month, and many in the U.S. are already hotly debating its allotment for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

The budget builds on the “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative that invests in our economic priorities in a smart way that is fully paid for by making smart spending cuts and closing tax loopholes that right now only benefit the well-off and the well-connected,” President Obama said.

defense-cuts

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made the following recommendations to President Obama for the Defense Department FY 2015 budget—which he called “the first budget to fully reflect the transition [the] DoD is making after 13 years of war—the longest conflict in our nation’s history.”

The budget calls for a reduction, to pre-World War II levels, of U.S. Army personnel, elimination of the A-10 military aircraft, and increased investment in modern technologies—referred to by Hagel as “an emphasis on capability over capacity.”

Hagel’s recommendations “favor a smaller and more capable force—putting a premium on rapidly deployable, self-sustaining platforms that can defeat more technologically advanced adversaries,” he said.

The DOD’s FY 2015 base budget request is $496 billion, roughly the same as the current year’s budget, and calls for $26 billion for the President’s Opportunity Growth and Security Initiative to improve readiness and modernization.

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28 March, 2014

In advance of Super Bowl XLVIII—that is, even before the Seattle Seahawks’ triumph over the Denver Broncos—a Washington State technology leader brought the fans’ excitement to a fever pitch in a way that only The Boeing Company can.

Boeing and Washington State have not been without their relationship-straining circumstances. Machinists and engineers have organized protests and held strikes. Unions have held votes and re-votes. Some have even filed suits and allegations against the company.

As for Boeing’s part, they have invested elsewhere—opening offices and facilities in other locales, including Illinois, Oklahoma, and South Carolina—and have entertained offers to move to other states and countries. At the end of January, however, as the Super Bowl approached, Boeing left little doubt as to its allegiance to Washington State. Officials at Boeing in the Seattle area painted a 747-8F freighter aircraft with a special Seattle Seahawks livery, which featured the NFL’s Seahawks logo, team colors, and the number “12” on the tail in a nod to the 12th Man (Seattle’s “loud & proud” fans).

Boeing’s Seahawks aircraft was an impressive and excitement-inducing show of support and commemoration of the team’s National Football Conference Championship and appearance in Super Bowl XLVIII (considering they had not yet won); yet, Boeing didn’t stop there. Oh, no.  Boeing whipped into a frenzy aerospace geeks and Seahawks fans everywhere by flying the Seattle Seahawks 747 over Washington state in an enormous “12” pattern. Social media channels were buzzing as locals caught a glimpse of the Seahawks 747 flyby.

boeing_Centurylink_flyover

This aerospace geek did some research: Painting a 747 doesn’t come cheap, amounting to more than US$1 million to strip, dispose of hazardous waste, and then repaint.

“We’re honored that we could join together two Northwest icons, the Seahawks and the 747, for this special salute from the entire Boeing team,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner noted when the special livery was revealed. Boeing is a longtime sponsor of the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks.

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28 March, 2014

The Super Bowl may be but a memory for many, but those of us in the Pacific Northwest are still reveling in victory and overflowing with pride.

In case you missed it, Seattle Seahawks dominated this year’s Super Bowl with a decisive 43 – 8 victory over the Denver Broncos. Earlier this month, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey the Legion of Boom, the now infamous Seattle defense, held Payton Manning and the Broncos’ #1 offense at a near standstill in one of the most impressive Super Bowl victories in history. Some even wrote memes depicting Manning calling his mom to pick him up midgame (this geek chuckles). This woeful destruction of the Broncos unleashed a celebration never before seen in the typically easygoing Emerald City of Seattle, Washington.

Seahawks Super Bowl parade

Seahawks fans, called the 12th man, came out in full force to celebrate the players and coaching staff. Downtown Seattle was flooded with an estimated 700,000+ fans, in fact. The population of Seattle is 634,535, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, so this was quite a squeeze. There was barely enough room on the parade route for the vehicles to traverse and wind around downtown before they arrived at the Seahawks’ home stadium, CenturyLink Field. Super Bowl XLVIII marked the very first Super Bowl triumph for the 37-year-old football franchise, and the second Super Bowl in which the team participated.

What was most impressive, however, relates to a high-profile aerospace and defense industry leader in Washington State: The Boeing Company. Has this military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek piqued your interest? Be sure to read the next installment.

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28 February, 2014

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel earlier this week discussed recommendations for the Pentagon’s Defense Budget for Fiscal Year 2015. Many in the military and aerospace (mil/aero) community have, since Defense Sec. Hagel’s talk, been repeating “the smallest Army since before World War II” or something similar.

That phrase is in reference to the recommendation to reduce the number of U.S. Army soldiers/troops to its lowest level in decades, despite what pundits consider to be mounting global threats.

“The development and proliferation of more advanced military technologies by other nations that means that we are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies, and in space can no longer be taken for granted,” Defense Sec. Hagel explained. “We must now adapt, innovate, and make difficult decisions to ensure that our military remains ready and capable – maintaining its technological edge over all potential adversaries.”

The U.S. Defense Budget recommendations for Fiscal Year 2015 “favor a smaller and more capable force,” Defense Sec. Hagel described. Recommendations call for reducing the size of the Army to 440,000 to 450,000 soldiers from its current level of approximately 520,000 soldiers; FY 2015 is expected to see a reduction to roughly 490,000.

Were the U.S. Army concentrated to a level of 450,000 troops, it would be the Army’s smallest size since 1940, just prior to America’s entry into World War II (WWII), with a troop strength of 267,767, officials say. Conversely, special operations forces, used for counterterrorism and crisis response, will grow to 69,700 personnel from roughly 66,000 today.

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27 February, 2014

For years and in the midst of an economic downturn, military and aerospace (mil/aero) analysts have predicted that governments and military leaders will eventually opt to reduce the number of military personnel or “boots on the ground,” as they often described, in favor of advanced high-tech platforms, systems, and solutions. That time may now be at hand.

The mil/aero community, especially is the U.S., is buzzing with and entrenched in conversation over the news delivered by U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on 24 February 2014. Secretary Hagel provided a much-anticipated glimpse into the Pentagon’s Defense Budget for Fiscal Year 2015.

In his talk earlier this week, Defense Secretary Hagel summarized the recommendations he submitted to President Obama for the Defense Department’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget and beyond. “These recommendations will adapt and reshape our defense enterprise so that we can continue protecting this nation’s security in an era of unprecedented uncertainty and change,” he said.

The FY 2015 budget will be the budget to reflect the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) transition from 13 years of war – the longest conflict in our nation’s history – to focus on the “strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future: new technologies, new centers of power, and a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable,” Defense Sec. Hagel explained.

The near and foreseeable future will bring increased investment in technologies with which to modernize the military, and a reduction in personnel. The former has this military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek encouraged, while the latter has defense proponents and military families outraged and concerned (and virtually everything in between).

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27 February, 2014

Mars One staffers selected two semifinalists, who hope to take a one-way trip to Mars, from Canada—and more specifically, Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.). This military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek already discussed intriguing Fiction Author Marina Miral; now attentions turn to Alex Marion, a 26-year-old psychology graduate.

Alexander “A-Lex on Mars” Marion took a unique approach to grabbing the attention of the managers at Dutch non-profit Mars One and immediately set upon setting himself apart.

Marion, a self-proclaimed stargazer since the young age of five or six, seized the opportunity to join the Mars One project as soon as it was announced. He took to the Web, starting and mounting a social media campaign dedicated to making him one of the first inhabitants of the Mars One settlement. In fact, in one of his YouTube videos, A-Lex on Mars proclaimed, “I have applied to be one of the first people to set foot on the Red Planet. AND I’M NEVER COMING BACK!”

A.J. Parsons, Marina Miral, and Alex Marion still have a rigorous road ahead. Three more cuts to the Martian candidate pool are planned through the start of 2015, when the final 40 future astronauts and inhabitants of Mars will be selected. Those lucky folks will then spend the next seven years training to survive the less-than-hospitable Martian environment for the rest of their lives.

Mars One estimates that the first part of the venture will cost roughly $6 billion (U.S.), whereas each mission thereafter would set the non-profit back $4 billion. While many are excited about the project, it has drawn a fair share of skepticism. Buzz Aldrin is not convinced; he told HuffPost Live that he’s skeptical of any organization looking to explore Mars alone. Whether the ambitious project succeeds or fails remains to be seen, but this mil/aero geek applauds the vision, drive, and dedication.

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27 February, 2014

Mars One, which plans to set up the first human settlement on the Red Planet, just completed the process of whittling a pool of more than 200,000 eager men and women to little more than 1,000. Of the 1,058 semifinalists are two Canadians in Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.).

Thirty-year-old Marina Miral, a juvenile fiction author, and Alex Marion, a 26-year-old psychology graduate, have made it onto the Mars One mission short list from among 200,000+ applicants.

Miral, who took part in a candid interview with The Times Colonist, is garnering attention. “This might sound a little bit silly, but my dream for my entire life was to go to Starfleet Academy,” she told the newspaper. (For those who aren’t Trekkies, Starfleet Academy is where recruits are trained to be Starfleet officers in the fictional universe of Star Trek.)

“But that is fictional,” Miral adds, “so it’s been pretty hard trying to find something that will substitute for that dream.” She thinks she has found just that in the Mars One human settlement endeavor.

Miral also modestly noted that, for the life of her, she cannot figure out why the Mars One panel selected her. “I tried to get across in my application just how important it was to me and that I was taking it seriously,” she says, speculating that it was likely a major factor and differentiator. “I just love the idea of exploring, going somewhere completely new. Going to space — I can’t even describe how wonderful the thought is for me.”

This military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek thinks it likely has something to do with wanting to be an astronaut since she started watching Star Trek at age 10.

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