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.

29 August, 2014

On 22 Aug. 2014, Arianespace in France launched two satellites into orbit onboard a Russian Soyuz launch vehicle under contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for its Galileo program. News that the launch vehicle failed to inject Galileo satellites 5 and 6 into the correct orbit rocked the military and aerospace (mil/aero) community this month.

“Observations taken after the separation of the satellites from the Soyuz [rocket] for the Galileo Mission show a gap between the orbit achieved and that which was planned,” according to a statement by Arianespace. Moreover, “they have been placed on a lower orbit than expected.”


The European Commission (EC), the executive body of the 28-nation European Union (EU), has requested that Arianespace and the European Space Agency (ESA) provide full details of the incident, as well as a schedule and an action plan to rectify the problem.

Arianespace, in conjunction with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission, appointed an independent inquiry commission, chaired by Peter Dubock, former ESA Inspector General, to investigate. “Its mandate is to establish the circumstances of the anomaly, to identify the root causes and associated aggravating factors, and make recommendations to correct the identified defect and to allow for a safe return to flight for all Soyuz launches from the Guiana Space Center (CSG),” according to an Arianespace representative.

Arianespace Chairman and CEO Stéphane Israël explains that the Board was appointed in conjunction with ESA and the European Commission with the support of the space agencies from France (CNES), Germany (DLR), and Italy (ASI), as well as a team of European experts.

This mil/aero geek is anxious to hear the results, as are many in the EU and the aerospace community.

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29 August, 2014

Arianespace in France launched two satellites on the Russian Soyuz ST rocket. Telemetry data soon revealed that the spacecraft were placed in elliptical (rather than circular) orbit and in a lower orbit than anticipated; as a result, the satellites are operationally redundant, aerospace engineers indicate.

Arianespace officials found that an anomaly occurred during “the flight phase involving the [Russian] Fregat upper stage, causing the satellites to be injected into a noncompliant orbit.” Specifically, “complementary observations gathered after separation of the Galileo FOC M1 satellites on Soyuz Flight VS09 have highlighted a discrepancy between targeted and reached orbit,” according to Arianespace officials.

Arianespace Chairman and CEO Stéphane Israël launched an inquiry into the event to “determine the scope of the anomaly and its impact on the mission” in conjunction with the company’s Russian Soyuz partners in the program (Russian space agency Roscomos and manufacturers RKTs-Progress and NPO Lavotchkine) and ESA and its industrial partners.

Roll Out BAF to ZL 3

“Our aim is of course to fully understand this anomaly,” Israël explains. “Everybody at Arianespace is totally focused on meeting this objective. Starting Monday, Arianespace, in association with ESA and the European Commission, will designate an independent inquiry board to determine the exact causes of this anomaly and to draw conclusions and develop corrective actions that will allow us to resume launches of Soyuz from the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in complete safety and as quickly as possible. The board will coordinate its work with Russian partners in the Soyuz at CSG program. Arianespace is determined to help meet the European Union’s goals for the Galileo program without undue delay.”

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28 August, 2014

Europe is in the process of assembling a civilian-operated satellite navigation system, designed to deliver greater precision than the U.S.’s Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite constellation, to the tune of 5.4 billion Euro.

The full project calls for 30 modern satellites to be positioned precisely into orbit over the next few years. This week, however, the European Space Agency (ESA) hit a snag when two satellites intended for the Galileo circular constellation were launched into the wrong positions.

The ESA contracted Arianespace SA, a French company founded in 1980 as a commercial space transportation company (officials claim it is the very first, in fact), to launch the satellites into orbit. So, what went wrong?

An initial report from Arianespace indicates that on 22 August 2014, at 9:27 am local time in French Guiana, a Soyuz ST rocket lifted off with the first two satellites in the Galileo constellation.


“The liftoff and first part of the mission proceeded [normally], leading to release of the satellites according to the planned timetable, and reception of signals from the satellites,” the report reads. Following the separation of the satellites from the Russian-made Soyuz ST rocket, data from telemetry stations operated by the ESA and the French space agency CNES indicated that the satellites were not in the expected orbit.

“The targeted orbit was circular, inclined at 55 degrees with a semi major axis of 29,900 kilometers,” the report continues. “The satellites are now in an elliptical orbit, with eccentricity of 0.23, a semi major axis of 26,200 km and inclined at 49.8 degrees.”

This and other military and aerospace (mil/aero) geeks are now wondering, “What now?”

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28 August, 2014

European Space Agency (ESA) officials in Paris reported this week an error—specifically, an orbital injection anomaly—in the launch of its two latest satellites under the Galileo program.

Galileo, Europe’s global navigation satellite system, is intended to provide accurate, guaranteed global positioning that is under civilian control. It is interoperable with the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russia’s Glonass (which stands for Globalnaya navigatsionnaya sputnikovaya sistema) global satellite navigation system.

Galileo is a safety-critical project designed to enable myriad high-tech applications, including safely landing aircraft, guiding cars, and running trains/rail services. The goal is to deliver dual frequencies as standard, real-time positioning accuracy down to the meter range, guaranteed service availability under all but the most extreme circumstances, and alerting within seconds of any satellite failure.


The Galileo system when fully deployed will consist of 30 satellites—including 27 operational satellites and three active spares—positioned in three circular Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) plane.

To date, four satellites are functional in orbit and have validated the Galileo concept in space and on Earth. Following this In-Orbit Validation (IOV) phase, additional satellite launches are being made until Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is achieved (roughly in 2015 or 2016).

Once the IOC phase is reached, The Open Service, Search and Rescue and Public Regulated Service will be available with initial performances; the constellation will be built-up beyond that, enabling new services to be tested and made available to achieve Full Operational Capability (FOC).

The 30 satellites were intended to be launched in orbit according to a “carefully-optimized constellation design,” according to ESA officials; yet, something has already gone awry. This mil/aero geek has more on this high-profile news story next.

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27 August, 2014

SpaceX has been making a big splash recently with the release of the revolutionary Dragon Version 2. Never before has this military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek seen such a futuristic design that is fully functional. The new Dragon v2 is a major leap forward in manned spaceflight. It features many new, advanced, and life-saving features that this geek will highlight as we explore the Dragon v2 in this blog series.

The SpaceX Dragon Version 2 is designed to deliver a revolutionary, reusable, manned space capsule. The spacecraft is capable of carrying up to seven astronauts and landing virtually anywhere terrestrially; and, after refueling, it can be ready for reuse. In this way, Dragon v2 eliminates the need for an ocean landing, which is a major challenge in myriad interplanetary destinations such as Mars or the moon which lack water on the surface.

The capsule interior looks as though it came straight out of a science-fiction film, with seven seats against a metal, geometric background. Without a doubt, this geek’s favorite aesthetic in the entire capsule is the avionics panel. The central control panel features four, wide-format (landscape) monitors with touchscreen pilot controls. The entire panel swings out of the way to facilitate easy, unobstructed capsule entrance and egress.


Safety comes first, so for the first time in history, the Dragon sports a safety system that provides a means of escape throughout the entire launch, from Earth to orbit. Additionally, eight SuperDraco engines are built into the side of the spacecraft and can produce up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to carry the passengers to safety in the event of an emergency. SpaceX officials explain that, “this system also enables Dragon v2 to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with the precision of a helicopter”—an impressive feat for a space capsule.

The Dragon currently resupplies the International Space Station under a $1.6 billion Cargo Resupply Services contract with NASA. This geek looks forward to a time when the U.S. can again launch astronauts into space, rather than relying on outsourced rockets or another government-funded launch system (i.e., Russian Federal Space Agency’s Soyuz or NASA’s defunct Space Shuttle program). More on that next.

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31 July, 2014

Farnborough International Ltd. (FIL) officials, having hosted Farnborough International Airshow 2014 earlier this month in England, added a space component to the biennial aviation event. Their timing is perhaps right on, given that the commercial space vertical is growing faster than many aerospace industry segments—with the exception of commercial aviation, of course.

The commercial space industry continues to gather momentum, bringing the dream of space flight closer to reality for virtually everyone. One of the people helping to drive this market vertical forward (or skyward, as the case may be) is Elon Musk. Musk is among many geeks’ favorite technology innovators, and this military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek is no different. Musk seems to be one of those “you love him or you hate him” figures who tends to elicit nearly as many eye rolls as he does accolades; nonetheless, many hang on his every word. Doubtless, he and SpaceX, the advanced rocket and spacecraft designer and manufacturer he founded in 2002, are pioneering the commercial space segment.


Born in South Africa in 1971, Musk taught himself to write software code at an early age. He sold his first video game, called “Blastar,” at the young age of 12 for $500. After he emigrated from South Africa to Canada at the age of 17, Musk eventually made his way across Canada’s southern border to the U.S. in 1992. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics.

Elon became an American citizen in 2002, the year that also marked the sale of PayPal, a company he co-founded, to eBay for a cool $1.5 billion. Currently Musk is the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, Product Architect and CEO of Tesla Motors, and Chairman of SolarCity with an estimated net worth of $12 billion as of March 2014.

Musk recently released all Tesla Motor Companies patents for free public use—a military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek’s dream!

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30 July, 2014

More than $201 billion U.S.—that is the total sum of orders and commitments placed at Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) 2014 this month in Farnborough, England, according to Farnborough International Ltd. (FIL) officials.

The figure represents an extremely positive note for the global aerospace industry, an FIL spokesperson says. Exhibitors at FIA2014, over the course of five days, announced orders and commitments for:
- civil jet engines, 1600 units with a total value or $34.5 billion;
- more than 1100 aircraft totaling $152 billion; and
- $14.5 billion in service contracts.

The orders and commitments reflect the buoyancy of the aerospace industry internationally and in the United Kingdom (U.K.), the spokesperson adds. Further, the total sum of $201 billion U.S. beats “all previous records set for the show.”

“We are extremely pleased by these numbers,” says FIL Chief Executive Shaun Ormrod. “There is already an order backlog and these additional orders will keep manufacturers in business and people employed for some years to come.”


Some large aircraft orders finalized during FIA2014 were commitments announced previously, including at Dubai Airshow in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) in November 2013; many others were announced for the first time at Farnborough Airshow. Without question, the military and aerospace (mil/aero) market is alive and well, and continuing to grow and expand.

Boeing analysts added more good news, announcing during FIA2014, that they predict global demand for commercial passenger jets to reach 36,770 new aircraft worth $5.2 trillion over the next 20 years. All this news has this mil/aero geek and myriad others elated and optimistic.

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29 July, 2014

A Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was severely damaged when it erupted in flames on the runway at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on the morning of 23 June 2014. That singular event would have been enough to garner U.S. attention; yet, it has gained considerable attention among the global military and aerospace (mil/aero) market.

Pentagon officials in Washington grounded the entire fleet of F-35 military jets on 3 July 2014, despite commitments to display the single-seat, single-engine, fifth-generation multirole fighters at two international aviation events. Attendees to the 2014 Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) and Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) in England held out hope until the very last minute.

FIA2014 organizers (Farnborough International Ltd., FIL) even made the following statement on 13 July 2014, the day before the trade days opened on 14 July: “Unfortunately the F-35B Lightning II will not be displaying at the Farnborough International Airshow tomorrow, Monday 14 July. The aircraft is still awaiting US DoD clearance but we are hopeful that it will fly at the airshow by the end of the week. Everyone involved in the project is working towards a positive result for attendance and we fully support the stance to never compromise safety of either pilots or show participants and we thank them all for their continued hard work.”


Soon, however, it became clear that none of the four F-35 variant aircraft would be permitted to fly in time to make it to the shows.

The fire, located in the back end of the F-35A Air Force variant, was extinguished by emergency personnel. No injuries were reported. Officials are still investigating the incident.

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28 July, 2014

Every other July, military and aerospace (mil/aero) professionals and aviation enthusiasts from all over the globe flock to the Farnborough International Airshow (FIA). This month was no different, and this mil/aero geek found himself among a crowd of roughly 100,000 at FIA2014 in Farnborough, England.

Attendees, to both the trade days and the public days, were anxious to see several commercial and military aircraft that were making their debut at FIA2014, including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner commercial passenger jet and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) single-seat, single-engine, fifth-generation multirole military fighter aircraft.

F-35B Lightning II military aircraft were also on track to appear at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in Fairford, Gloucestershire, England. Four F-35 jets in total were slated to fly from the U.S. to the U.K. to take part in both events, yet all F-35s were grounded just before the fourth of July, Independence Day in the U.S. A potentially life-threatening aircraft engine issue was the culprit.


The entire F-35 fleet was grounded on 3 July 2014 in the wake of a 23 June 2014 engine fire on the runway at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida. No one was injured during the incident.

“While we’re disappointed that we’re not going to be able to participate in the airshow,” says Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby. “We remain fully committed to the program itself and look forward to future opportunities to showcase its capabilities to allies and to partners.”

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28 July, 2014

The global aviation community gathered in the United Kingdom (U.K.) this month for the Farnborough International Airshow (FIA).

Leading up to the biennial event, the military and aerospace (mil/aero) industry was buzzing with excitement over several “firsts.” In fact, in advance of the show, Airshow Organizers Farnborough International Ltd. (FIL) announced that the 2014 static aircraft park and the flying display would include more large-bodied aircraft than in recent years. “The show will also feature a number of Farnborough firsts this year across the seven days including the F-35 Lightning and Textron Airland Scorpion through to classics such as the ME262 and Spanish Navy’s Sea Harrier, which will be flying here for the first time,” FIL staff announced.


FIA 2014, held this month in Farnborough, England, welcomed several military and commercial aircraft to both the static aircraft display and the flying display. Among the aircraft making their Farnborough Airshow debut were:

- the Boeing 787 Dreamliner commercial airliner,
- Boeing P-8A Poseidon military aircraft
- Airbus A320neo single-aisle jetliner,
- Turkish T129 ATAK combat helicopter,
- Textron AirLand Scorpion light attack and Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) jet aircraft,
- and more.

Turkey T-129

The international aviation community voiced excitement over seeing the 787-9 in the flying display, as well as the Airbus A380 large-body airliner and A400M turboprop military transport aircraft; yet, most of the talk on the show floor, at vendor chalets, and at the static aircraft display centered on the F-35. This mil/aero geek also was excited to see major aircraft platforms at FIA2014.

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