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.

30 June, 2014

For the first time in history, NASA will launch a 3D printer to the International Space Station (ISS) under the 3D Printing In Zero-G Technology Demonstration, which is laying the ground work for developing an on-demand machine shop for current and future deep-space missions.

NASA partnered with Made In Space, maker of the first space-bound 3D printer, via Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant to purchase the 3D Printing In Zero-G payload. The ultimate goal is to advance the Made In Space printer to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6, which would enable the adoption of additive manufacturing in space.

Made In Space engineers customized the Engineering Test Unit (ETU) printer in just six months, and then performed developmental testing, including rigorous environmental and functional testing to confirm the hardware could survive launch and function in microgravity

This month, the Made In Space 3D printer specially designed for use on the ISS passed final NASA certifications and testing ahead of schedule. NASA staff conducted Electromagnetic Interference (EMI), vibration, materials compliance, human factors, and electrical tests, as well as ISS interface checks, and certified that the hardware meets all necessary operational standards.

Made In Space testing their 3D printer in microgravity.

Made In Space testing their 3D printer in microgravity.

“NASA was able to provide key guidance on how to best comply with strenuous space certification, safety and operational requirements and Made In Space excelled at incorporating that insight into the design,” according to Niki Werkheiser, NASA 3D Print Project Manager. “As a result, the hardware passed testing with flying colors. Made In Space now has first-hand experience of the full ‘A-to-Z’ process for designing, building, and testing hardware for spaceflight.”

This achievement prompted officials to accelerate the launch of the printer. It was originally slated for SpaceX CRS-5, but has been moved to the SpaceX CRS-4 launch slated for August 2014 – in less than two months’ time. This mil/aero geek is anxious for the team to achieve the historic milestone of manufacturing in space.

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29 June, 2014

The military and aerospace (mil/aero) community is excited about the prospect of producing critical components with the aid of three-dimensional (3D) printers. Additive manufacturing is the name ascribed to the trend, one which has been employed in a variety of industry verticals and is now being adopted by mil/aero organizations. The technology and materials have matured, and are turning heads in the mil/aero community.

Additive manufacturing is likely to be a pervasive technology, taking hold throughout the mil/aero market. The proposed benefits are promising, and the relevant applications numerous. In fact, mil/aero organizations and officials are particularly interested in employing additive manufacturing in remote locales, including the farthest reaches of space.

Additive manufacturing might mean the end of astronauts stranded in space, awaiting a much-needed part or tool and organizations back on Earth scrambling to deliver the critical component or instrument to space as soon as humanly possible. Imagine if astronauts had the ability to 3D print on-demand, in little time and low cost (especially when compared to a cargo-delivery mission), whenever they encountered a problem and needed a part, tool, or other object. No need to imagine, in fact; that capability is now a reality.

3D printed drones.

3D printed drones.

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing are taking the mil/aero market by storm, and innovators on Earth are eager to deliver the capabilities to deployed soldiers, astronauts, and various other aerospace and defense entities—from schools to airlines and airports to aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facilities.

Will additive manufacturing make the practice of keeping large parts and components inventories a thing of the past? It’s a question this mil/aero geek ponders.

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29 June, 2014

NASA officials partnered with industry to launch the 3D Printing in Zero-G Experiment and Technology Demonstration, with the goal of validating the additive manufacturing capabilities in zero-gravity.

NASA scientists and Made In Space engineers at NASA Ames Research Park in California considered the International Space Station (ISS) to be the optimal place to initiate the journey of in-space manufacturing.

The Made In Space and NASA team envisions a future where space missions can be essentially self-sufficient and manufacture most of what they need in space, including consumables, common tools, replacements for lost or broken parts, and eventually even small, deployable satellites called CubeSats.

“A 3D printer extrudes streams of heated plastic, metal, or other material, building layer on top of layer to create three-dimensional objects,” explains Ken Cooper, B.A. in Mechanical Engineering, Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Alabama. “Testing a 3D printer using relatively low-temperature plastic feedstock on the International Space Station is the first step towards establishing an on-demand machine shop in space, a critical enabling component for deep-space crewed missions and in-space manufacturing.”

made-in-space_3

“The 3D printing experiment with NASA is a step towards the future. The ability to 3D print parts and tools on-demand greatly increases the reliability and safety of space missions while also dropping the cost by orders of magnitude,” said Aaron Kemmer, chief executive officer of Made In Space, located at the NASA Ames Research Park in Mountain View, Calif. “The public has been hearing about what this 3D printing technology can do, but most people haven’t seen a genuine impact on their lives yet. Space is one of the key places where humanity will see the first impact of this incredible technology.”

The first printers at the ISS will begin by building test coupons, Kemmer describes, after which they will be used to output a broad range of parts, such as tools and science equipment.

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27 June, 2014

“Imagine an astronaut needing to make a life-or-death repair on the International Space Station. Rather than hoping that the necessary parts and tools are on the station already, what if the parts could be 3D printed when they needed them?” postulates Aaron Kemmer, chief executive officer of Made In Space, located at the NASA Ames Research Park in Mountain View, Calif.

All space missions today are completely dependent on Earth and the launch vehicles that send equipment to space. This fact is often considered a boon for broad range of aerospace vendors—including commercial space firms, prime contractors and subcontractors, and system- and component-level suppliers—but, at the same time, bad news for both taxpayers and awaiting astronauts in space. Moreover, the greater the distance a mission is from Earth and the longer its duration, the more difficult it is to resupply materials. Government and aerospace leaders are setting out to change all that.

mars misssion

“As NASA ventures further into space, whether redirecting an asteroid or sending humans to Mars, we’ll need transformative technology to reduce cargo weight and volume,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said during a recent tour of the agency’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. “In the future, perhaps astronauts will be able to print the tools or components they need while in space.”

In the summer of 2013, officials at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and space manufacturing company Made In Space began preparations to enable a future where parts can be built on-demand in space. And so, the 3D Printing in Zero-G Experiment was born.

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27 June, 2014

The military and aerospace (mil/aero) community is excited about the prospect of producing critical components with the aid of three-dimensional (3D) printers. Additive manufacturing is the name ascribed to the trend, one which has been employed in a variety of industry verticals and is now being adopted by mil/aero organizations. The technology and materials have matured, and are turning heads in the mil/aero community.

Additive manufacturing is likely to be a pervasive technology, taking hold throughout the mil/aero market. The proposed benefits are promising, and the relevant applications numerous. In fact, mil/aero organizations and officials are particularly interested in employing additive manufacturing in remote locales, including the farthest reaches of space.

Additive manufacturing might mean the end of astronauts stranded in space, awaiting a much-needed part or tool and organizations back on Earth scrambling to deliver the critical component or instrument to space as soon as humanly possible. Imagine if astronauts had the ability to 3D print on-demand, in little time and low cost (especially when compared to a cargo-delivery mission), whenever they encountered a problem and needed a part, tool, or other object. No need to imagine, in fact; that capability is now a reality.

makerbot

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing are taking the mil/aero market by storm, and innovators on Earth are eager to deliver the capabilities to deployed soldiers, astronauts, and various other aerospace and defense entities—from schools to airlines and airports to aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facilities.

Will additive manufacturing make the practice of keeping large parts and components inventories a thing of the past? It’s a question this mil/aero geek ponders.

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30 May, 2014

Learjets have been garnering attention for decades, and Bombardier Aerospace’s new Learjet 85 business jet is no different in that regard. It is novel in a number of ways, however, including the engineering workflow in which it was designed and developed.

Bombardier Aerospace engineers employed a complete digital development process for the Learjet 85 aircraft’s electrical distribution system. In fact, the electrical wiring system development process on the Learjet 85 benefitted from the Mentor Graphics Capital product family.

Specifically, Bombardier Aerospace used Capital Logic, Capital HarnessXC, and Capital FormboardXC software, supplemented by Capital’s CATIA V5 MCAD integration applications. Mentor Graphics Corp.’s Capital product, an advanced software suite for the electrical systems and wire harness domain, has been used by leading aerospace original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

The Capital product delivers a number of benefits; for example, design data was shared between all the tools, enabling digital continuity throughout the development process. Applications in the Capital software also: helped address electrical systems definition and integration, incorporated with mechanical CAD systems, and culminated with products that address harness planning and manufacturing tasks.

Learjet85 for press release (3)

Data verification occurs throughout the process with the Capital product. Constant design verification helps engineers ensure that the manufactured wire harnesses meet the design intent. It also enables process and quality improvement objectives, including adherence to the FAA and Canadian Transportation Agency’s Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 25 Electrical Wiring Interconnection System (EWIS) mandate for the certification of new civil aircraft. In fact, EWIS wire routing constraints defined early in the Capital environment are maintained throughout the workflow and ensure that the as-built wire routing meets the EWIS mandate objectives.

This military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek is always excited to hear real-world digital and platform-level engineering design successes.

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30 May, 2014

Last month, the aviation community was buzzing about the Learjet 85 business jet from Bombardier Aerospace, as it made its first flight. Aviation enthusiasts, including this mil/aero geek, are still talking about Bombardier engineers’ novel approach to the aircraft’s design and development.

On 9 April 2014 at 8:19 am CST, the Learjet 85 flight test vehicle one (FTV1) took off from Wichita-Mid Continent International Airport with a crew that included Captain Ed Grabman, Chief Flight Test Pilot at the Bombardier Flight Test Center, Co-pilot Jim Dwyer, and Flight Test Engineer Nick Weyers. During its 2 hour and 15 minute maiden flight, the Learjet 85 aircraft reached an altitude of 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) and an air speed of 250 knots (463 km/h; 287 mph). The successful first flight, in which all flight controls were exercised and the systems and aircraft performed as expected, marked the start of the test program.

Bombardier Learjet 85 FTV1

Tipping a hat to the Learjet heritage of more than 50 years, Bombardier Aerospace engineers and executives opted for a clean-sheet design with an eye toward high performance, advanced technology, and value. The Learjet 85 started with a clean slate onto which engineers incorporated a wealth of customer-requested features and an open architecture to enable the fast and easy integration of third-party equipment and applications—today and for the foreseeable future.

When speaking with today’s aerospace engineers and industry consultants, “clean sheet” and “open architecture” are among the hottest “buzzworthy” terms. Another hot buzzword? Digital. Modern aircraft not only feature digital, rather than analog, systems, but also are designed and developed digitally.

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28 May, 2014

Not long ago, and virtually the entire time this military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek was growing into adulthood, the word “Learjet” was used interchangeably with the phrase “business jet”.

Now aviation geeks (avgeeks) simply use the term “bizjet” but “Learjet” has been synonymous with private, luxury aircraft for decades. Historians even credit Learjet as having helped to establish Wichita, Kansas, as an aviation hub.

Bombardier Aerospace, with headquarters in Montreal, acquired Learjet Corp. in 1990 and began selling the Bombardier Learjet family of aircraft. Bombardier even extended the well-known brand by launching eight high-performance, fuel-efficient Learjet models.

The most recent, and some say the most advanced, Learjet aircraft is Bombardier’s Learjet 85. The new bizjet is the company’s first all-composite business aircraft to meet the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) airworthiness standards for transport aircraft (Part 25, Federal Aviation Regulations or FAR). Bombardier Aerospace officials describe it as “the largest, fastest, and most capable Learjet aircraft ever”.

Flexjet Learjet 85

The Learjet 85 business jet is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW307B engines, each capable of 6,100 pounds of take-off thrust, and features advanced low NOxemitting combustor for reduced environmental impact, a transcontinental range of roughly 3,000 nautical miles, the Bombardier Vision flight deck, and a Cabin Management System with a high-capacity Ethernet network.

Without question, aviation geeks have much to appreciate in the Learjet 85. Yet, the most exciting news about the latest Learjet is how it was designed and developed. Engineers took a novel approach to the aircraft. This mil/aero geek provides a peek behind the curtain next.

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27 May, 2014

Aerospace is a robust and growing market, with civil aviation leading the charge. Industry pundits anticipate increased, and even potentially record, growth in commercial aviation—while military aviation is largely stagnant and general aviation, including business jets (bizjets), starting to emerge from a period of stagnation.

What’s happening in the bizjet community? Something that hasn’t been seen in decades, roughly since the dot-com explosion (boom) of the late 1990s: record growth in the number of millionaires and billionaires worldwide. Just ask the biweekly business magazine Forbes:

“This year Forbes welcomes a record 268 first-time faces to our annual listing of the World’s Billionaires, including 42 women, the most ever. They minted their fortunes from social media in Silicon Valley, real estate in China, fashion in Nigeria and every combination in between. The largest contingent – 50 – hails from the United States, followed by China (37), Germany (26) and Brazil (23). In aggregate they are worth some $510 billion – roughly the GDP of Norway – another record.”

lux_jet

More millionaires and billionaires means greater demand for travel—and not just any travel, but luxury air travel. Business jet manufacturers came out in droves this month at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva, Switzerland. The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), the leading association for business aviation in Europe, and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), the leading voice for the business aviation industry in the United States, co-host the annual EBACE event.

This military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek loves a business jet event, where virtually all the bizjet leaders show off their aircraft in a static display. This year, they packed the Geneva International Airport with Bombardier, Airbus, Cessna, Dassault, Cirrus, AgustaWestland, Socata, Eclipse, Embraer, Gulfstream, Pilatus, Beechcraft, and more.

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27 May, 2014

Civil aviation is hot, and it is only getting hotter. As the middle class continues to grow in emerging markets, including nations such as China and India, more people and more goods than ever before are flying.

Growth in passenger and cargo transport is driving demand for new aircraft, and airframe manufacturers such as Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Dassault, Embraer, and others are actively filling that need. At the same time, however, competition among these firms is high as each one endeavors to sell more and more of its own innovative aircraft models. High competition most often lends to a buyer’s market in which prices—as well as company profits—are low.

All these latest trends make for an interesting, if not perfect, storm. More passenger and cargo aircraft are taking to the skies travelling, and they are doing so on aircraft of varying ages and with different levels of technology (older analog instruments versus modern digital avionics). Add unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)—also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), or drones—to the mix and attentions to turn to the ever-more-crowded public airspace.

Crowded Skys

Government entities overseeing transportation and safety the world over are responding to these developments by modernizing and updating transportation infrastructures, regulations and recommendations, and more. In turn, today’s airframe manufacturers need to be concerned not only with outpacing competitors and keeping an eye on the bottom line, but also staying updated on and adhering to new and revamped certification requirements.

What’s a manufacturer to do? This military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek describes what one proactive producer did next.

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