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DARPA has selected The Boeing Company to build its Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1)

DARPA

DARPA has selected The Boeing Company to complete advanced design work for the Agency’s Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program, which aims to build and fly the first of an entirely new class of hypersonic aircraft that would bolster national security by providing short-notice, low-cost access to space. The program aims to achieve a capability well out of reach today—launches to low Earth orbit in days, as compared to the months or years of preparation currently needed to get a single satellite on orbit. Success will depend upon significant advances in both technical capabilities and ground operations, but would revolutionize the Nation’s ability to recover from a catastrophic loss of military or commercial satellites, upon which the Nation today is critically dependent.
“The XS-1 would be neither a traditional airplane nor a conventional launch vehicle but rather a combination of the two, with the goal of lowering launch costs by a factor of ten and replacing today’s frustratingly long wait time with launch on demand,” said Jess Sponable, DARPA program manager. “We’re very pleased with Boeing’s progress on the XS-1 through Phase 1 of the program and look forward to continuing our close collaboration in this newly funded progression to Phases 2 and 3—fabrication and flight.”

The XS-1 program envisions a fully reusable unmanned vehicle, roughly the size of a business jet, which would take off vertically like a rocket and fly to hypersonic speeds. The vehicle would be launched with no external boosters, powered solely by self-contained cryogenic propellants.

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Upon reaching a high suborbital altitude, the booster would release an expendable upper stage able to deploy a 3,000-pound satellite to polar orbit. The reusable first stage would then bank and return to Earth, landing horizontally like an aircraft, and be prepared for the next flight, potentially within hours.
In its pursuit of aircraft-like operability, reliability, and cost-efficiency, DARPA and Boeing are planning to conduct a flight test demonstration of XS-1 technology, flying 10 times in 10 days, with an additional final flight carrying the upper-stage payload delivery system. If successful, the program could help enable a commercial service in the future that could operate with recurring costs of as little as $5 million or less per launch, including the cost of an expendable upper stage, assuming a recurring flight rate of at least ten flights per year—a small fraction of the cost of launch systems the U.S. military currently uses for similarly sized payloads. (Note that goal is for actual cost, not commercial price, which would be determined in part by market forces.)
To achieve these goals, XS-1 designers plan to take advantage of technologies and support systems that have enhanced the reliability and fast turnaround of military aircraft. For example, easily accessible subsystem components configured as line replaceable units would be used wherever practical to enable quick maintenance and repairs.


The XS-1 Phase 2/3 design also intends to increase efficiencies by integrating numerous state-of-the-art technologies, including some previously developed by DARPA, NASA, and the U.S. Air Force. For example, the XS-1 technology demonstrator’s propulsion system is an Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 engine, a version of the legacy Space Shuttle main engine (SSME).

XS-1 Phase 2 includes design, construction, and testing of the technology demonstration vehicle through 2019. It calls for initially firing the vehicle’s engine on the ground 10 times in 10 days to demonstrate propulsion readiness for flight tests.
Phase 3 objectives include 12 to 15 flight tests, currently scheduled for 2020. After multiple shakedown flights to reduce risk, the XS-1 would aim to fly 10 times over 10 consecutive days, at first without payloads and at speeds as fast as Mach 5. Subsequent flights are planned to fly as fast as Mach 10, and deliver a demonstration payload between 900 pounds and 3,000 pounds into low Earth orbit.
Another goal of the program is to encourage the broader commercial launch sector to adopt useful XS-1 approaches, processes, and technologies that facilitate launch on demand and rapid turnaround—important military and commercial needs for the 21st century. Toward that goal, DARPA intends to release selected data from its Phase 2/3 tests and will provide to all interested commercial entities the relevant specs for potential payloads.
“We’re delighted to see this truly futuristic capability coming closer to reality,” said Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO), which oversees XS-1. “Demonstration of aircraft-like, on-demand, and routine access to space is important for meeting critical Defense Department needs and could help open the door to a range of next-generation commercial opportunities.”

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He is an aviation journalist and the founder of Jetline Marvel. Dawal gained a comprehensive understanding of the commercial aviation industry.  He has worked in a range of roles for more than 9 years in the aviation and aerospace industry. He has written more than 1700 articles in the aerospace industry. When he was 19 years old, he received a national award for his general innovations and holds the patent. He completed two postgraduate degrees simultaneously, one in Aerospace and the other in Management. Additionally, he authored nearly six textbooks on aviation and aerospace tailored for students in various educational institutions. jetlinem4(at)gmail.com

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Aviation

Can Airline Seat Cushions Be Used As Life Jackets?

Can Airline Seat Cushions Be Used As Life Jackets?

In the event of an aircraft ditching into water, there’s a common question: Can aircraft seats serve as an alternative to life jackets for flotation? The answer lies in understanding their respective functions.

While seat cushions can provide some buoyancy in water, they are not intended nor certified to function as life jackets. Their primary purpose is to offer cushioning for passengers during flight. On the other hand, life jackets are meticulously engineered to keep individuals afloat in water, equipped with buoyancy materials, secure straps, and reflective elements for visibility. They offer numerous advantages over mere cushions.

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While a seat cushion might offer temporary assistance in staying afloat, it’s not a dependable substitute for a proper life jacket during an emergency. It’s crucial to utilize approved safety equipment when near bodies of water. A life jacket, designed to keep a person buoyant for extended periods, offers the rigidity needed for prolonged flotation and allows for easy movement of the arms to navigate effectively.

What fabric is used in aircraft seats?


Seats are meticulously designed to fulfill multiple purposes, ensuring passenger comfort, safety, and protection from unforeseen circumstances like fires and accidents. A typical design incorporates an aluminum frame with blocks of polyurethane foam affixed to it. Additionally, a layer of fire-resistant fabric, such as Kevlar or Nomex, is often applied over this framework, topped with a layer of cloth or leather.

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Leather seats, while luxurious, are more expensive compared to traditional cloth seats. The majority of fabrics used in seat upholstery contain at least 90% wool fiber, with the remainder typically consisting of polyamide (nylon). Wool stands out as the primary fiber chosen for commercial airline seating fabric due to its desirable properties and suitability for such applications.

What is the lightest economy seat?

In recent times, airlines have been downsizing seat dimensions to accommodate more passengers, resulting in reduced cushion length and leg space. This contrasts with earlier times when airlines offered more generously cushioned seats and ample amenities.

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According to Recaro Seats Company, their SL3710 model represents the lightest economy class seat available, weighing in at a mere 8 kg (17.6 lb.), setting a new standard in aircraft seating.

For individuals weighing more than 350 pounds, fitting into a standard economy-class seat can be a challenge due to the narrower dimensions. Economy seats, also referred to as “coach,” “standard,” or “main cabin” seats, typically range from about 40 to 48 centimeters in width, further emphasizing the need for more accommodating seating options.

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Aviation

Does airline food have more salt? Here is the answer.

Does airline food have more salt? Here is the answer.
Image:Wikipedia


Whenever you fly with an airline, you often notice that the taste of the food is different from what you’re accustomed to on the ground. While passengers sometimes prioritize the food experience, have you ever wondered why airline food tends to be saltier? Let’s delve into this in the video.

Airline food has 15% more salt

One of the main challenges for chefs crafting meals served on airplanes is ensuring they are flavorful for passengers. To achieve this, chefs typically add more salt and seasoning, roughly 15% more salt is used, given that our taste buds are less sensitive by about 30% when we’re airborne.

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The Role of Sodium: Sodium is a key ingredient used to enhance flavor, especially in the air where our senses can be dulled. On average, airline meals contain over 800mg of sodium, exceeding 40% of the daily limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

Altitude Alters Perception

Flavors are perceived differently at higher altitudes due to the dry cabin air and low humidity levels, which can diminish our ability to taste and smell. To compensate, airline chefs amp up the salt and seasoning to elevate the food’s taste.

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Airline’s food Preservation:

Airline meals are prepared in advance and stored, necessitating longer preservation times. Salt serves as a natural preservative, ensuring the food maintains its quality and safety during storage and transportation.

However, excessive salt intake can pose health risks such as high blood pressure and dehydration, particularly problematic during air travel. Therefore, it’s crucial for airlines to strike a balance between flavor enhancement and maintaining a healthy sodium level in their meals.

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An Indian content creator and food analyst discovered that the Indian-based carrier, IndiGo Airlines, incorporates higher levels of salt into its meals compared to standard food practices. According to him, “Many of us are aware that Maggi is high in sodium! What most don’t realize is that IndiGo’s Magic Upma contains 50% more sodium than Maggi, IndiGo’s Poha boasts approximately 83% more sodium than Maggi, and even Daal Chawal matches Maggi’s sodium content.”

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Airlines

Why Don’t Airplanes Fly Over the Pacific Ocean?

Why don't flights fly over the Pacific Ocean?

Flights do indeed fly over the Pacific Ocean, but the routes they take are often determined by factors such as airline policies, air traffic control decisions, and weather conditions. The Pacific Ocean is one of the largest bodies of water on Earth, and it’s regularly crossed by numerous flights traveling between North America, Asia, Australia, and other destinations.

However, some specific routes might avoid flying directly over certain parts of the Pacific Ocean for various reasons. For example:

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  1. Safety and emergency considerations: While modern aircraft are equipped with advanced safety features, airlines, and pilots may prefer routes that keep them closer to potential diversion airports or within range of search and rescue facilities in case of emergencies.
  2. Air traffic control restrictions: Airspace management authorities may impose certain restrictions or preferred routes for managing air traffic efficiently. These restrictions could be based on factors such as military operations, airspace congestion, or diplomatic considerations.
  3. Weather conditions: Pilots and airlines consider weather patterns when planning routes. While the Pacific Ocean generally experiences fewer weather-related disruptions compared to other regions, factors like turbulence, thunderstorms, or tropical cyclones can influence route selection.
  1. Managing Cost Factors: In route planning, airlines have to take fuel prices, maintenance costs, crew charges, and other operating costs into account. Direct routes over the Pacific Ocean may be more cost-effective for shorter distances, but they may also necessitate extra safety precautions, including carrying more fuel for longer overwater operations.
  2. Remote Locations and Navigational Challenges: The Pacific Ocean’s vastness poses navigational issues, particularly for aircraft operating over isolated regions with few ground-based navigational aids. For precise positioning and route direction, pilots must mostly rely on satellite-based technology and onboard navigation systems, which may necessitate additional training and equipment purchases.
  3. Lack of Suitable Landing Options in the Pacific Ocean: Unlike regions with dense air traffic and numerous airports, the Pacific Ocean has vast stretches of open water with few suitable landing options in case of emergencies. While long-range aircraft are equipped with safety features like life rafts and emergency locator transmitters, the lack of nearby airports can increase the time it takes for rescue and recovery operations to reach distressed aircraft, posing additional risks to passengers and crew. Therefore, flight routes may be planned to ensure proximity to potential diversion airports or alternate landing sites in case of unforeseen circumstances.
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