While we all get distracted by the body (im)politic there is a ton of news the major media people are not covering for you. Readers of this column will know I focus often on aviation since it tends to be a signpost for what are good—and bad—indicators of progress.
By the time you read this, OneWeb should just have launched their first broadband satellite from Kourou, French Guiana. They are using a Russian Soyuz rocket run by ArianneSpace. Who’s OneWeb? They are launching 6 such satellites this year to eventually connect everyone on Earth with 5G communication. They will enable broadband access for every school, every farmer, every emergency service, even you on your phone, by 2022. How? Using an Arianespace factory manufacturing process (think Henry Ford), they are turning out satellites every week ready for launch. Cheaper, expendable, easy to launch, their goal is to connect every appliance, every phone, everything with 5G as fast as possible – with 900+ satellites. Where did they get the money? Dean Manson, Stephen Spengler, Richard Branson, Sunil Bharti Mittal, Greg Wyler, Tom Enders, and Paul Jacobs. Oh, and in case you’re wondering who these guys are... these partners are Coca-Cola, Airbus, Qualcomm, Intelsat, bharti, Hughes Aerospace, Virgin, and Salinas.
Next: Lockheed Martin is building the X-59 QueSST, a supersonic transport plane. How? Why? Well, the never-existed (super-secret) space plane they built decades ago has been removed from service so they have all this technology... why not build a supersonic plane that can hide its sonic boom, and after testing, prove that supersonic transportation is again possible? First flight of the X-59 is planned for early 2022. That’s the first public flight.
In LA there’s this weird company, Relativity Space. Cool name, huh? Well, what they do is more revolutionary than relative. They are printing, in 3D, rockets. Yes, you read that right. Actual space faring rockets made by machines, layer by layer. Transported to famous Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 16, their first launch is set for... well, that’s very secret. “We believe the future of humanity is interplanetary.” To get there, they are using a “proprietary printable metal alloy” in two stage rockets. Oh, the printer? These guys want to be so cool they have named it “Stargate.” Yes, geeks. But smart geeks, printing a rocket from scratch in just 60 days. You tell them the size of payload, they print a rocket for you. And the rocket engines? Called “Aeon” (again geeky name from comic books), it burns methane and oxygen (which makes water and carbon dioxide – both of which plants love).
Oh, and one more little development... BAE Systems, an aerospace company, is testing a “high pressure-ratio dual-slot blowing slot that enables a change in yaw, pitch and roll” on a test vehicle (that used to be a Lockheed Martin stealth concept from 1990). Where’s the slot? At the wing’s leading and training edges. What for, you ask? A rudderless, flapless plane controlled by pushing exhaust gas from the jet engine out the leading edge, up or down, side-to-side. If that works, everything we know about aviation design will change.