Space geeks rejoice: NASA news abounds

By Courtney Howard

I had the opportunity to meet with high-level executives at military and aerospace technology firms throughout the Pacific Northwest in the past couple weeks. I had the pleasure of discussing the avionics market, including military, commercial, and general aviation with professionals at industry firms VPT, Crane Aerospace & Electronics, Radisys, Martek Power, EDT, and others.

I learned in numerous face-to-face meetings that, when it comes to the current and future health of the industry, optimism abounds. Demand for avionics is growing across multiple segments and locales; among them are: the Asia-Pacific region, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and space. Space avionics sub-segments--including spacecraft systems, unmanned rovers, and satellites--are active and gaining considerable attention.

NASA officials have made several announcements, just in this first week of November. Among them is a rare opportunity.

For the first time in three decades, the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is open to tourists. Guests at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex can take a tour of the 525-foot-tall VAB, where myriad rockets have been built—ranging from the first Saturn V rocket in the late 1960s to the last space shuttle, the STS-135 Atlantis.

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), being called the largest and most capable rover to be sent to another planet, is scheduled to launch the morning of Nov. 25. The spacecraft will carry the car-sized Curiosity rover to the surface of Mars in Aug. 2010.

NASA officials, together with engineers from Lockheed Martin Space Systems, also plan an unmanned flight test of the Orion spacecraft in early 2014. The test of Lockheed Martin’s multi-purpose crew vehicle supports NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS).

NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna in California captured radar images of the aircraft carrier-sized Asteroid 2005 YU55 passing roughly 860,000 miles away from Earth.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has appointed Mason Peck, a professor at Cornell University, to be the agency’s chief technologist starting in January.

The Juno spacecraft has launched on its five-year voyage to Jupiter, with help from American Pacific Corp.'s in-space propulsion subsidiary (AMPAC-ISP).

NASA engineers are busy and, in turn, keeping aerospace technology companies busy and innovating. Space is a bright spot in the avionics community, and recent activity should allay concerns over a dwindling U.S. space industry. Kudos and keep up the great work--to 2012 and beyond!

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

January 2014
Volume 25, Issue 1
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