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.

15 April, 2016

Gross exports from the U.S. military and aerospace (mil/aero) sector “jumped $5 billion, an increase of 58.9 percent, over the last five years” to become “the largest contributing sector to America’s net exports from 2010-2015,” Deloitte market analysts reveal in their new “U.S. Aerospace and Defense Export Competitiveness Study.”

F-15K41 First Flight, Air to Air, St. Louis 4/19/2010

Photo credit: Boeing photo

Total U.S. exports declined in 2015, but the mil/aero (or aerospace and defense, A&D) export segment grew. The mil/aero sector accounted for 9.5 percent of total U.S. exports in 2015, up from 7.1 percent in 2010.

Commercial aircraft are leading the way in export growth – and the overall mil/aero market. U.S. commercial aerospace gross exports grew $6 billion in 2015, while defense exports declined by $800 million, due to regulatory approvals, contractual delays, and a decline in global defense spending in 2015, analysts say.

Strong growth in exports in the past five years was driven primarily by the commercial aerospace sector, where exports rose 65.2 percent, and are $47 billion higher than in 2010, explains Tom Captain, global aerospace and defense sector leader at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) and author of the study.

Deloitte’s A&D Export Competitiveness Study also provides the following interesting insights:

  • The U.S. accounted for one-third (33 percent) of global defense exports in 2015 and 39.2 percent of commercial aerospace exports worldwide in 2014.
  • Total aerospace and defense gross exports in 2015 were $143.3 billion, a significant increase of 58.9 percent over the last five years.
  • The aerospace and defense trade balance reached $76 billion, which is higher than other sectors, including agricultural products, petroleum and coal products, and manufacturing.
  • China was the largest recipient of U.S. aerospace and defense exports in 2015, followed by the U.K. and France.
  • The top five exporting U.S. states – which are Washington, California, Connecticut, Texas, and Georgia – accounted for roughly 61 percent of the total mil/aero sector exports in 2015.
  • Washington State showed a strong 109.4 percent increase in exports in 2015, compared to 2010, as the state that continues to have the largest presence in the commercial aircraft manufacturing subsector.
  • Washington, California, and Connecticut were the top three states for A&D exports in 2015, with combined gross exports of $73 billion, accounting for about half of all US A&D exports.

Looking forward, U.S. mil/aero gross exports are expected to increase by another 3.2 percent in 2016, thanks to attractive functionality, branding, competitiveness, and pricing, analysts say.

“The U.S. aerospace and defense sector was the largest contributor to America’s net exports during the 2010 to 2015 period, making it one of the few domestic industrial sectors with a positive trade balance,” describes Captain. “The sector is also a top employer, taxpayer and contributor to the nation’s gross domestic product, making it key to U.S. manufacturing competitiveness.”

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29 March, 2016

On March 22, 2016 NASA and United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched a two-stage Atlas V rocket with a heavy-laden Orbital ATK commercial Cygnus cargo freighter atop. That Atlas V successfully heaved 7,700 pounds of experiments, supplies, spare parts, and station hardware into a three-day rendezvous orbit – also known as an orbital rendezvous or space rendezvous – with the International Space Station (ISS).

oa6-launch-3c

Expedition 47 Commander Tim Kopra captured the unmanned Cygnus spacecraft upon its arrival, using the Canadarm2 robotic arm developed by prime contractor MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and attached it to the Earth-facing Unity module of the ISS. One of the new experiments onboard the Cygnus piqued this geek’s interest: It’s called Saffire-I.

Saffire-I is the first in a new series of experiments targeted at studying fire in microgravity environments. “A spacecraft fire is one of the greatest crew safety concerns for NASA and the international space exploration community,” affirms Gary Ruff, Saffire project manager at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

Experiments with fire on the space station are not new but had to be limited in size due to risk to the crew. Saffire will enable the scientists to experiment with much larger flames because the Cygnus will be detached from the ISS, reducing any risk to the crew.

Once the Cygnus freighter is free from the ISS, the experiment will be conducted remotely via high-definition (HD) cameras and remote sensors. The ISS crew and Saffire staff will set fire to a 16-by-37-inch piece of SIBAL (Solid Inflammability Boundary at Low Speed) cloth, a fiberglass and cotton mix that has been used in previous experiments. The cloth will be ignited from the bottom and observed to see whether an upward flame will continue to grow or microgravity will limit the size of the flame.

Information gleaned from this experiment is expected to enable researchers on Earth to develop effective emergency fire procedures and new flame-retardant materials specifically designed to help ensure crew safety in space. This mil/aero geek is anxious to learn the results of this and other experiments going on now on the ISS.

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23 March, 2016

Space is a harsh environment, wrought with intense radiation and temperature extremes, both of which can wreak havoc on electronics equipment and the human body. Myriad other dangers exist. Some of them, like reduced gravity, seem benign but are far from it.

Astronaut Scott Kelly’s long stint in space is helping NASA scientists and researchers learn more about all the potential side effects of living in a microgravity environment. (It’s not zero gravity like many people think, NASA scientists explain; rather, it’s reduced gravity or microgravity.)

Scientists are studying and measuring Kelly and comparing his physicality to that of his twin brother, also an astronaut but who stayed on Earth and serves as the control. They quickly learned that over nearly one full year in space, Kelly “grew” approximately two inches. That is, he measured two inches taller when he returned from the International Space Station (ISS) than when he left Planet Earth. Lack of gravity enabled spaces to develop between his vertebrae. This gain in height was only temporary; the expansion of his spine was almost immediately lost once he returned to Earth.

An unforeseen effect long-term microgravity had on Kelly involves skin sensitivity. Items in the ISS, including the astronauts’ uniforms and clothing, “float” around their bodies. This lack of contact with the skin greatly increased sensitivity, so much so that Kelly reported burning sensations all over his body when he moved.

Photo courtesy of NASA

Photo courtesy of NASA

Other effects of living in microgravity include bone loss, greater risk of kidney stones, muscle fiber shrinkage, problems with cardiac function, and problems regaining balance when back in Earth’s gravity. Kelly admits that going from Earth’s gravity to microgravity on the ISS is much easier than the reverse, and jokes that aliens might have it better than Earthlings.

The NASA study of Kelly’s physicality after his stint in space has only just begun, but it seems as though we’re on the cusp of learning a great deal about life in space. Since his return, Kelly has announced his retirement after serving as a U.S. Navy Captain, completing four space flights, and commanding the ISS on missions 26, 44, and 45. This mil/aero geek joins the ranks of many who are sorry to see him go, but thank him for his service. (Be sure to check out Kelly on social media, where he continues to post highlights of his life back on Earth, including the first rain and cannonball into a pool after returning.)

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18 March, 2016

The global aerospace community is celebrating an historic achievement, as well as the enabling technologies and astronaut behind it.

This month, Astronaut Scott Kelly set a new record for the longest stay in space for an American when he returned to Earth, following nearly one year in space, on 1 March 2015 aboard a Soyuz TMA-18M Russian spacecraft. Kelly — and Mikhail Kornienko, flight engineer and Russian cosmonaut — spent 340 days on the International Space Station (ISS) performing myriad experiments. The most important of which was to test the long-term effects of space on the human body. The results of the study will help government agencies and private companies engineer spacecraft, space habitats, and other enabling aerospace technologies that are engineered to safely transport us to the stars and enable us to setup camp (as well as live and even thrive in habitats) on distant worlds.

Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA rest in a chair outside of the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft just minutes after he and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 (Kazakh time). Kelly and Kornienko completed an International Space Station record year-long mission to collect valuable data on the effect of long duration weightlessness on the human body that will be used to formulate a human mission to Mars. Volkov returned after spending six months on the station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA rest in a chair outside of the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft just minutes after he and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos landed. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Space is typically portrayed as a vast, expansive, and empty environment, but it is wrought with dangers. For starters, it is a high-radiation environment — and radiation wreaks havoc on the human body, as well as electronics. In fact, the radiation in space can quickly cut short hardware life cycles, which is why a majority of satellite, spacecraft, and space-based systems designs call for radiation-hardened or radiation-tolerant components able to withstand harsh conditions and the rigors of space.

While on Earth, all living things rely on the planetary magnetic field to protect our fragile bodies from high-speed particles from the sun and other celestial events, such as supernovae. These high-speed particles can literally destroy our DNA, attack our bone marrow, and greatly increase the chance of contracting cancer and other diseases.

NASA has revealed little about any adverse effects a year in space inflicted upon the human body of Astronaut Kelly. The entire aerospace community, including this mil/aero geek, is watching and waiting.

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11 March, 2016

The Airbus A380 – the large, double-deck, wide-body, four-engine jet airliner from Airbus in Toulouse, France – continues to turn heads and make headlines. This month, an A380 passenger jet operated by Emirates – an airline based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and owned by the government’s Investment Corporation of Dubai – achieved the longest, non-stop commercial flight by distance. It narrowly missed also earning the distinction of longest, non-stop commercial flight by duration.

On 1 March 2016, Emirates flight EK448 touched down in Auckland, New Zealand, after traveling roughly 8,823 miles (14,200 kilometers) from Dubai. The inaugural flight of the airline’s new route was flown on an Airbus A380-800 and spanned nearly 16 hours, shaving roughly three hours off previous journey times. Qantas previously held the record – and still holds the record for longest duration – for its Dallas-to-Sydney service covering 8,578 miles (13,800 kilometers) in 16 hours and 55 minutes.

Photo courtesy of Airbus

Emirates officials have wanted to conduct daily ultra-long-haul, non-stop flights to and from Auckland, a thriving tourist and business area with a population of 1.5 million, for some time, but it wasn’t technologically feasible – until now.

“Operating a non-stop service between Dubai and Auckland has been in our sights for some time, dependent on availability of suitable aircraft as we rapidly expand our global network of destinations, and frequency of flights and capacity on existing routes,” explains His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group. The route is also expected to bring New Zealand’s high-quality produce to the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) market.

Emirates is expected to break its own record later this year or in early 2017, however, with a new Dubai-to-Panama City route. That’s if Qantas doesn’t reclaim the title when it launches Doha-to-Auckland service in December. Who will reign supreme in the end? This mil/aero geek will be watching.

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2 March, 2016

Rotorcraft technologies – including modern airframes, powerful yet fuel-efficient engines, and avionics and electronics innovations – take center stage in the military and aerospace (mil/aero) community this month.

Mil/aero professionals from around the world are gathering at Helicopter Association International’s (HAI’s) Heli-Expo annual conference and exhibition in Louisville, Kentucky, this week. Roughly 20,000 attendees from 80 different countries fill the classrooms, exhibit hall, and static aircraft display at the industry event annually – and with good reason.

The global helicopter market is, and has been, undergoing something of a growth spurt – an impressive one, at that, even in the face of a challenging world economy. Specifically, “the global civil helicopter market has grown almost threefold in size over the past decade,” say industry analysts at Research & Markets in Dublin, Ireland.

airbus

Image courtesy of Airbus

The civil helicopter community, now considered a bright spot in the industry, is somewhat new to the spotlight. “For decades, the civil helicopter market was one of the smallest segments in the aerospace industry, with a market size of just $2 billion each year,” explain analysts at Visiongain, a business intelligence provider in London.

“The situation changed in 2005, when the civil helicopter market entered its fastest growth phase,” reaching an estimated $7.4 billion in 2014, according to Visiongain analysts.

The market segment also shows few signs of slowing. In fact, industry pundits predict the global civil helicopter fleet will grow by 50 percent over the long term (roughly the next two decades). But what are the driving forces behind this impressive market growth?

Airframe, engine, and avionics technology advancements have effectively expanded the “operational spectrum, capabilities, and performance threshold” of helicopters, Research & Markets analysts affirm. As a result, helicopters are increasingly the aircraft of choice for search-and-rescue, law-enforcement, oil & gas, executive transport, and other civil applications.

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31 August, 2015

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – also commonly known as drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) – have been a hot spot in the military and aerospace (mil/aero) market for years.

In fact, industry analysts have credited UAS as having previously saved the global mil/aero market and many businesses in a downturned economy. Investment in military and commercial aircraft waned in response to a challenging economy and high fuel prices, but interest and investment in unmanned aircraft has, to the surprise of many, maintained a strong upward trajectory.

The UAS market segment has continued to be a bright spot in an era of declining military spending. Some market analysts predicted the demise of UAS, while others anticipated (at the very least) a sharp decline in unmanned aircraft spending. Yet, UAS spending soldiers on.

Worldwide UAV production is forecast to soar from $4 billion annually to $14 billion, totaling $93 billion in the next 10 years with military research adding another $30 billion over the decade, according to a 2015 market study from Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia.

amazondrone

“UAVs are no longer of interest only to aerospace companies, but increasingly technology companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon see a need to be in the market,” says Philip Finnegan, Teal Group’s director of corporate analysis and an author of the study. “The market for UAVs looks very strong, increasingly driven by new technologies, such as the next generation of unmanned combat systems, and the development of new markets, such as civil and consumer drones.”

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31 August, 2015

Two officials in the U.S. Department of the Interior in Boise, Idaho – Office of Aviation Services Director Mark Bathrick and National Unmanned Aircraft Specialist Bradley Koeckeritz – are seizing the opportunity to determine whether unmanned aircraft can help combat raging wildfires.

The Paradise Fire in the Olympic National Park is serving as the test bed. The National Park Service (NPS) describes the Paradise Fire as “located well within Olympic National Park in the Queets Valley wilderness,” roughly 13 miles North/Northeast of Quinault, Washington. The fire was caused by “a lightning strike in late May but smoldered undetected until June 14.”

Firefighters on the ground and in fixed-wing and rotor-wing aircraft have battled the fire, which has engulfed roughly 2800 acres, for months. Aerospace professionals want to see what unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones, can do.

fireretardant drop

Federal Government officials flew a ScanEagle unmanned aircraft system (UAS) from Insitu Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company located in Bingen, Wash., over the Paradise Fire this month (just days ago, in fact).

The ScanEagle’s payload, including infrared and thermal imaging technology from FLIR in Wilsonville, Oregon, collected data that is proving valuable for real-time hot spot detection and fire map boundary detection. Armed with this information, helicopter pilots could concentrate on areas in most dire need of attention.

The sheer size and number of wildfires has stretched resources thin, however, and testing was cut short. It was determined that further testing could not be performed until more resources become available. Even so, Washington Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark is thinking positive — unmanned aircraft could prove integral to fighting fires and this mil/aero geek couldn’t agree more.

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31 August, 2015

With wildfires raging in the Northwestern United States, aerospace professionals, firefighters, and myriad others are wondering whether unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also referred to as drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could bring some much-needed relief.

It is a hotly debated issue today, whether unmanned aircraft help or hinder in civil matters, scenarios, and environments. On the one hand, drones have delivered a helping hand to firefighters, helping locate and identify not only fires, but also survivors in dangerous areas thick with smoke and flames. On the other hand, helicopters used to battle the Lake Fire in San Bernardino National Forest in California had to be grounded due to interfering private drones.

kamiah wildfire

Some area residents had deployed drones to capture videos of the wildfires and in so doing, put more lives at risk. A small unmanned aircraft can easily go undetected as pilots’ visibility is impaired by thick smoke and attentions are focused on keeping track of other airplanes and helicopters battling the fires. If a small UAS (sUAS) is sucked into a helicopter’s propeller or an airplane’s engine, it can quickly bring the aircraft down.

Nonetheless, proponents see tremendous promise for UAS aiding firefighters today and in the foreseeable future. Mark Bathrick, director of the Office of Aviation Services (OAS), and Bradley Koeckeritz, national unmanned aircraft specialist at the U.S. Department of the Interior in Boise, Idaho, aim to test the efficacy of UAS in fighting fires. What better place than Washington State? And what better time than now?

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31 August, 2015

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are rising rapidly in popularity, use, and functionality. Are there limits to their use? Do the risks ever outweigh the benefits? Military and aerospace (mil/aero) professionals, lawmakers, and the general public are pondering these questions, and more.

In the face of adversity, many key decision-makers have opted to employ unmanned aircraft – a key tool in the military and aerospace (mil/aero) arsenal. Military, law enforcement, public safety, and myriad other organizations have entrusted important missions to unmanned vehicles – with great success.

Can UAS benefit those fighting fires of great magnitude, such as the wildfires currently rampant in the Northwestern United States (including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana)? Some fear drones would interfere with piloted firefighting aircraft, while others see great promise for UAS gathering intelligence, delivering needed supplies, operating above or below piloted aircraft, and flying at night.

scaneagle infrared

Among the proponents are Mark Bathrick, director of the Office of Aviation Services (OAS) for the U.S. Department of the Interior in Boise, Idaho. Bathrick, a former U.S. Navy aviator and test pilot, thinks it is high time to put unmanned aircraft or optionally piloted aircraft to work delivering crucial, real-time data to firefighters – and he is not alone.

Bathrick and Bradley Koeckeritz, national unmanned aircraft specialist at the Department of the Interior, sought to test the effectiveness of unmanned and optionally piloted aircraft in fighting fires – and they have the opportunity to do so now in the Pacific Northwest.

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