Tag Archives: Space Shuttle

Paper planes

Last Christmas I received a funny gift: a fold-a-paper-plane-a-day calendar for 2016. That is a collection of papers with instructions and colored paper to fold a paper plane each day of the year. Doesn’t it sound great? This is just a short post to share a bit of info about it.

The creators of the collection are Kyong Lee and David Mitchell, apparently two experts in the field of origami with plenty of different models designed between the two. The collection in itself hasn’t got 366 different models. In fact, there are 40 models that after mid February repeat themselves once and again with different colors to complete the whole year. As I got some questions about it, I share here a link where the collection can be found.

After this short introduction let’s go to the best part of it, the airplanes themselves. Even if not all models are based on real airplanes (some models are not even inspired on airplanes but based on animals – birds, etc) some are, and when colored they provide a very good look of the original. Below I share some pictures with a general and some weekly overviews of the different planes and some comparison of the most beautiful and real-model-based ones.

Global

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Main models:

Rockwell B-1 Lancer  supersonic variable-sweep wing strategic bomber. Conceived to retire the B-52 (not quite yet) it entered operations in the late 80s and has played a major role in support of operations ever since.

B-1

Boeing 737. Derived from the 707, it first flew in 1967 and still today its newer versions are in production (nearly 9,000 have been delivered to date) and development.

737

Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde  supersonic passenger jet. Supersonic commercial flight was a dream come true from the late 70s to the early 2000s thanks to the Concorde. Only 20 units were built, each one now treasured in museums across the world, since difficult economics and a crash in 2000 ended it its retirement.

Concorde

Eurofighter Typhoon multi-role fighter. Built by a consortium made by  Alenia Aermacchi, Airbus Group and BAE Systems, after its first flew in 1994 it was introduced in operation in 2004, being now the fighter aircraft of the main European air forces.

Eurofighter

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. Introduced in the 1960s, with more than 5,000 units built, it played a major role in Vietnam.

F-4

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. Since its introduction in the late 1970s, with more than 1,000 units built, it plays the air superiority role for the US air force and several others.

F-15

General Dynamics F-16 Falcon. Multi-role fighter introduced in the 1970s, with more than 4,000 built, still in production, now by Lockheed Martin, for export.

F-16

Lockheed P-138 Lightning. Introduced in 1941, with more than 10,000 units built, it was the primary US fighter in WWII until the introduction of the P-51 Mustang.

P-38

Space Shuttle. Introduced in 1981 and retired in 2011. In those 30 years of services it completed 133 successful launches and landings.

Shuttle

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Long range  strategic reconnaissance aircraft that, despite its introduction in the 1960s (now retired) still today keeps several speed and high altitude records.

SR-71

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The Age of Aerospace (documentary)

The age of aerospaceIn the past days, the first episodes of the documentary “The Age of Aerospace” were released. The documentary consists of a series of 5 episodes each one lasting about 45 minutes and divided in a few chapters. The series, produced by The Documentary Group, covers much of the history of aerospace with a special focus on The Boeing Company, which celebrates 100 years in this 2016.

The series is progressively released in Science Channel, Discovery Channel and American Heroes Channel. It can also be watched via streaming at the website created for the documentary, here.

So far, I have watched the first four episodes, find some notes and comments below:

1 – What Can’t We Do?

The episode covers the initial years of flight: the creation of Boeing, the hiring of Wong Tsu (its first aeronautical engineer, fresh from MIT), the air mail expansion, the creation of United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (including Boeing, Hamilton, Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky, United Air Lines… among others), its split after the Air Mail scandal and the investigation led by senator Black, the early retirement of William Boeing, the Boeing 247, the Clipper, the B-17 Flying Fortress.

2 – Miracle Planes.

This episode covers how WWII gave new life to Boeing. From having been wiped out in the commercial aviation by Douglas and having lost to Douglas the contest for a new bomber with the B-17, due to a crash of the prototype, to a new emergence due to Roosevelt’s call for mass production of defense assets: including the success of the Flying Fortress with over 12,000 units produced in 10 years (“some days you would see 8 to 12 coming out”). Black Thursday with the lost of dozens of B-17s and the finding of the need for fighter coverage; the North American P-51 Mustang (Göring: “When I saw Mustangs over Berlin, I knew the war was lost.”). The Big Week in early 1944 and D-Day. The need for a longer range bomber for the pacific, the B-29 Superfortress.

3 – Shrinking the Earth.

This episode covers the jet age, from the operation LUSTY (LUftwaffe Secret TechnologY), the revamp of the swept wing technology originated by Adolf Busemann, the Boeing B-47, the taking over as president of Boeing by Bill Allen, to its inclusion in commercial aviation: the Comet, the prototype Dash-80 (including Tex Johnson‘s unexpected promotional double barrel roll flight), the Boeing 707 (Pan Am’s Juan Trippe: “Tomorrow you will see in the press that I have invented the jet age“), and 747 (Boeing’s Joe Sutter to Trippe: “You are sitting on a 747 in this conference room“).

4 – In the Vastness of Space.

This episode covers the  Space race. From the first warnings of Soviet Union breaking of frontiers to the launch of the Apollo program, the accident of the Apollo 1, its investigation and the need for more supply chain oversight and systems integration, the successes of the Apollo 8 (orbit around the moon), the Apollo 11 (landing in the moon), the Space Shuttle, International Space Station…

5 – The Dreamliner.

(Yet to be released in streaming) [Updated on March 29, 2016]

This episode covers the launch and development of the Boeing 787, the Dreamliner, a “game changer”. The launch of new programmes put manufacturers future at a stake, and after Airbus’ launched the A380 in 2000, Boeing had to define its next move. It first intended to launch the Sonic cruiser, but the 9/11 attacks changed the landscape and Boeing’s bet changed from speed to the economics of flight. Boeing challenged the hub-and-spoke strategy and launched a middle-sized aircraft that could connect middle cities far away from each other more economically. The documentary covers as well other innovations introduced in this programme: extensive use of composite materials, design of large components outsourced to risk sharing partners (check out the images of the giant Mitshubishi’s autoclave), the development of the 747 Dreamlifter to transport sections between partners… It covers as well the development issues (sections not fitting, quality, rivets…), the 3-year delay, the first flight at the end of 2009, the first delviery to ANA and the issue with the Lithium-ion batteries which caused the fleet of 787 in-service to be grounded by the FAA in 2013 for four months (a first in Boeing’s history). This last chapter conveys quite well the size of the undertake that is the launching of a brand new airplane.

gallery-full-13

I will conclude this review post recommending the documentary and leaving its 3-minute trailer:

 

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Space Shuttle last ride

I already wrote that my childhood dream job was to be an astronaut and that led to pursuing aerospace studies. In the same post I recalled a small toy of the Challenger Space Shuttle and how this toy contributed to that dream. Well, this post is just an homage paid to the Space Shuttle, or officially the NASA Space Transportation System, STS.

The last mission of the STS is scheduled for next Friday, July 8th. When the Atlantis is supposed to make the last lift-off for the mission STS-135 which, after 12 days, will end the 30 years of Shuttle flights.

During our last visit to the USA, Luca and I had the chance to see one of the Space Shuttle vehicles at the National Air & Space Museum (NASM). The vehicle at display there is the Enterprise.

I already mentioned in that post there that the Enterprise is the only vehicle of the fleet which never went to outer space. It was used for training purposes, to let the astronauts train the gliding descend they would have to make once the vehicle re-entered in the atmosphere. Thus, some parts of that vehicle are dummies.

The Enterprise hasn’t got the same thermal protection tiles since it wouldn’t need them, however its surface replicates the tiles with some kind of rubber ones so the flow of air around them would be the same as in the other vehicles. Another difference is in the engines at the back. The 3 engines that the Shuttle has at the back are its orbital maneuvering system, which allow it to adjust its orbit (they’re not atmospheric engines to propel the Shuttle in its flight back to Florida). Again, since the Enterprise would never go to outer space it wouldn’t need to adjust its orbit and the engines it has are just dummies to provide the same distribution of weight and forms in the vehicle.

I also mentioned in the previous post about the visit to NASM that the vehicle was going to be named Constitution until a public campaign achieved its goal of naming it Enterprise after the spaceship featured in Star Trek.

Find below some pictures of the Enterprise at NASM:

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The Economist features this week 3 articles about the Space Shuttle program. I found parts of them very critic of the costs of the program, but nevertheless they give a somewhat complete picture of the history of the Space Shuttle and what may lay ahead for space exploration.

The different Shuttle vehicles (and other related materials) will be distributed among several museums and educational institutions. The Enterprise will leave the NASM and will go to the USS Intrepid in NYC while the Discovery will be hosted at NASM. You may find other locations in this article.

Finally, NASA just unveiled last Friday a wonderful documentary (80 minutes) about the history of the program: its launch, the vast engineering undertaking, the first mission, the Challenger and Columbia accidents, the improvements that the accidents brought, etc. To close the circle, the documentary is narrated by William Shatner, an actor of Worldly fame as he featured James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek. See a small trailer of the video:

PD: In the full length video, in the images shown of the mission STS-95 which brought John Glenn back to Space at age 77, appears Pedro Duque a Spanish astronaut that coincidentally was my teacher at the aerospace engineering school.

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National Air & Space Museum at Dulles

Let me quote from the Wikipedia:

“The Smithsonian Institution was founded for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge” from a bequest to the United States by the British scientist James Smithson (1765–1829), who never visited the new nation. In Smithson’s will, he stated that should his nephew, Henry James Hungerford, die without heirs, the Smithson estate would go to the government of the United States to create an “Establishment for the increase & diffusion of Knowledge among men”.

“The Smithsonian Institution is the largest museum complex in the world, and many of its buildings are historical and architectural landmarks.”

During our last trip to USA, Luca and I visited both locations of the National Air & Space Museum of the Smithsonian institution. I had already been at the one in the Mall and I already talked about it briefly in a previous post. I wanted to write about the museum at Dulles, close to DC international airport.

That museum is named after Steven F. Udvar Hazy, who is the CEO of Air Lease Corp, an airplanes leasing company. Previously he was chairman and CEO of ILFC, another leasing company, together with GECAS, one of the 2 biggest. The guy is a living legend or commercial markets: when he blessed or criticizes an aircraft it is seriously noticed by the manufacturers. He donated 65M$ to the Smithsonian to set up this museum and that’s why it carries his name. Thanks Steve! What a museum! The NASM is awesome!

The museum has dozens if not over a hundred of airplanes, satellites, rockets, helicopters, etc., in display, all tagged with small explanation of the aircraft.

On our visit we joined a free guided tour, another fabulous feature of the museum. Our guide was Bill Laux, a veteran pilot from the Navy. He was originally from Omaha where we would be going in a couple of days while he would be heading also in a couple of days to Belgium… crossing roads.

We stayed with Bill for about 2 hours, following one explanation after the other, one curiosity here, another detail there, etc. I remember visiting Ellis Island in NYC 2 years ago with a ranger who also filled the tour with stories. This is something I really like: instead of paying for a quick tour or audio-guide, they make use of the willingness of these volunteers to pass on their knowledge.

I have to admit that the session was for core aviation geeks, and I want to commend Luca for standing it. At the beginning we were a group of 10-12 people, wives and children included. The guide asked: “Who has got an aerospace background?” 4 or so of us raised hands… after 30 minutes of tour only Luca and those with aviation background continued with the tour (no sight of wives and children). After 1 hour 30 minutes, only Luca and me. After 2 hours the guide went “well, we’ve seen pretty much everything” :-). Thanks Bill!

I scanned one of the sides of the map of the museum to post it here. The map covers the Boeing hangar, but bear in mind that there is another hangar missing (James S McDonnell, which hosts a Space Shuttle), an IMAX cinema, the restoration hangar and the control tower.

I wanted to post it here so you can get a grasp of what we’re talking about. Airplanes packed side by side, one of top of the other… and not any airplane, some are unique pieces. Let me just comment on a few of them (of which below you can find the pictures):

  • The Space shuttle Enterprise: which never went to outer space as it was used only for training purposes, to let astronauts command the powerless flight after re-entry. Believe it or not, it was going to be named “Constitution”, trekkies had not stepped in.
  • A Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird: the reconnaissance aircraft which set the record as fastest aircraft back in 1976.
  • The Boeing 367-80 “Dash-80”, which as I already mentioned in a previous post, was the prototype Boeing built to test and market a new configuration for commercial jet aircraft, a configuration which all commercial aircraft have followed more or less ever since.
  • A Concorde.
  • The infamous B-29 Enola Gay.
  • The Langley Aerodrome A: a model that Samuel Pierpont Langley (a manned flight pioneer and secretary of the Smithsonian institution at the time) used to try to set the first heavier-than-air flight… he didn’t, as the model crashed in the Potomac river.
  • A Junkers 52 built by the Spanish CASA.
  • A Boeing 307 Stratoliner: the first pressurized commercial aircraft.

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I would only give one point of improvement for the museum: now you cannot get into the aircraft except for simulators, if they would just change that policy it would be just perfect (in the Mall you can actually enter in some models, e.g. Spacelab).

I forgot to mention some extras: the museum is free (free as in zero dollars), it has a transport leaving every hour to and from Dulles airport which costs just 50 cents, has lockers for big luggage free of charge, has a nice souvenir shop with plenty of aviation books and even a McDonald’s to recover some strength at half way of the visit…

In future posts I will comment some of the details of some aircraft… give credit to Bill, our guide.

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