Like with most things, if you keep an eye on the most advanced processes and product, you can better plan for the future. You watch cooking shows to advance your knowledge even if, currently, some of those skills and tastes are a bit ahead of where you are. You watch NASCAR or Formula 1 even through the thought of reprogramming your car’s computer sends you into a sweat. Why do we want to know about things we can’t currently do? Because only by learning what’s to come can we plan for our own future or enjoyment.
Most of space and aviation innovation pushes the boundaries of what’s technologically possible. We went to the Moon with computers that today’s school calculators surpass in speed, ability and programming. Silly, lazy, journalists said that the Apollo program gave us Velcro and the heat-capable nose cone of the Saturn 5 rocket (material used in Corning Ware). The truth is, Apollo changed every single job on the planet from computers, to CT scans, to synthetic materials, to programming, to fuel changes, to the windscreen on every car (to name but a very few).
So what’s up for tomorrow? Here are only some of the leading developments currently pressing ahead, pushing the technology envelope that will, one day soon, upend your lives again:
- There are now 12 spaceports in America alone. All of them have active flights and programs to get to space underway. Alaska, 2 in California, New Mexico, Colorado, three in Texas, Oklahoma, Maryland, and two in Florida. And that does not include the government’s 6+ sites.
- Lightsail 2 opened in orbit on July 24—a 350 sq. ft. Mylar sail meant to capture solar radiation and propel a craft across the solar system. Slow at first, it may reach 60% of the speed of light as it leaves our solar system.
- Made In Space is an Archinaut robot set in orbit soon to build and service satellites. It is rumored that forty other space-based autonomous robots are in planning stages.
- India launched its second Lunar exploration mission July 22. It’ll be the 4th country to land something on the Moon.
- Virgin Orbit’s Boeing 747-400 air launch system will soon launch, from high altitude, rocket payloads with satellites. 25% the cost of a rocket from the ground.
- Returning astronauts to the moon is slated for 2024 with the Cygnus Cargo Capsule from Northrup Grumman – rejigged as the Minimal Habitation Module. NASA has awarded the contract... it is expected that as many innovations will come from this program as came from Apollo.
- GE has developed a turbo-prop Catalyst as the core of a hybrid-electric propulsion system for a vertical take-off-and-landing ship being built by XTI Aircraft called the TriFan 600. GE expects to see that market grow to 20,000 units by 2030 – air taxi anyone?
- Meanwhile Karem Aircraft is building the Butterfly electric vertical take-off-and-landing air taxi, sponsored by Hanwa Systems of S. Korea.
- The B-21 “Raider” bomber for the AF to replace an aging B-2 fleet is scheduled to fly in December 2021. That’s when it will be shown for the first time. A reminder: the secret SR-71 flew 6 years before being shown to the public.
- The Exoatmosphere Kill Vehicle is a satellite destroyer currently rumored to be in flight. How good is the rumor? Someone recently leaked it would soon be replaced by the Redesigned Kill Vehicle under development.
- The global small sat market will be $25,000,000,000 by 2029. Some are under 2 lbs., some around 100 lbs. Use? Communications, product linking, aircraft positioning, the radio in your car... all the way to an affordable, “Where’s my kid now? And Where’s My Amazon package?” Small sats have a limited lift, are very cheap (using off the shelf components) and, in the near future will be overseen by AI.
- Speaking of which, A.I. holodecks are under development for pilot training. A.I. can more quickly simulate real flying issues, sense pilot weakness response times and act as personal trainers. The partial goal is to prepare for planes to have only one human pilot...