PRESS RELEASE: ‘Asgardia’ to become the first new Space Nation

Plans were announced today at a press conference in Paris to create the first new Space Nation to be called ‘Asgardia’. The name derives from Norse mythology as the city of the skies ruled by Odin from Valhalla.

The first Asgardia satellite is planned to be launched in Autumn 2017, sixty years after the first ever satellite launch, and will mark a new era in the Space Age as the satellite will be independent of any current nation state on Earth: the satellite will comprise the nation itself, creating its own legal framework, flag and other symbols of nationhood.

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The project team is being led by Dr Igor Ashurbeyli, one of the Russian Federation’s most distinguished scientists and founder of the Aerospace International Research Center (AIRC) in Vienna. In a separate event in Paris yesterday [11 October 2016] he became chairman of UNESCO’s ‘Science of Space’ committee. Dr Ashurbeyli has consulted a group of globally renowned scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and legal experts on the development of the concept.

Dr Ashburbeyli said:

“The project’s concept comprises three parts – philosophical, legal and scientific/technological.

“Asgardia is a fully-fledged and independent nation, and a future member of the United Nations – with all the attributes this status entails.

“The essence of Asgardia is Peace in Space, and the prevention of Earth’s conflicts being transferred into space.

“Asgardia is also unique from a philosophical aspect – to serve entire humanity and each and everyone, regardless of his or her personal welfare and the prosperity of the country where they happened to be born.

“The scientific and technological component of the project can be explained in just three words – peace, access and protection.

“The scientific and technological envelope of Asgardia is a space arena for the scientific creativity of its citizens and companies in developing a broad range of future space technologies, products and services for humanity on Earth and humanity in Space.” 

The launch of the first Asgardia satellite is planned for 2017, with the project developing from there. Access to space is opening up, but the process remains slow and is tightly controlled by states on earth, restricting commerce and scientific developments in space by private enterprise. Of the 196 nation states on Earth, just thirteen (USSR, USA, France, Japan, China, UK, India, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Iran, South Korea and North Korea) and one regional organisation (the European Space Agency, ESA) have independently launched satellites on their own indigenously developed launch vehicles.

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Professor David Alexander, Director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University, Houston, Texas said:

“As low-earth orbit becomes more accessible, what’s often called the “democratisation” of space, a pathway is opening up to new ideas and approaches from a rich diversity of participants. The mission of Asgardia to create opportunities for broader access to space, enabling non-traditional space nations to realise their scientific aspirations is exciting.”

Under current international space law, including the widely adopted ‘Outer Space Treaty’, states are required to authorise and supervise national space activities, including the activities of commercial and not-for-profit organisations. Objects launched into space are subject to their nation of belonging and if a nation launches an object into space, that nation is responsible for any damage that occurs internationally and in outer space.

The project is creating a new framework for ownership and nationhood in space, which will adapt current outer space laws governing responsibility, private ownership and enterprise so they are fit for purpose in the new era of space exploration. By creating a new Space Nation, private enterprise, innovation and the further development of space technology to support humanity will flourish free from the tight restrictions of state control that currently exist.

Professor Ram Jakhu, Director, Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University, Montreal, Canada said:

“An appropriate and unique global space legal regime is indispensable for governing outer space in order to ensure it is explored on a sustainable basis for exclusively peaceful purposes and to the benefit of all humanity, including future generations living on planet earth and in outer space. The development of foundational principles of such a legal regime ought to take place at the same time as technological progress is being made.”

One of the early developments planned by the Asgardia team will be the creation of a state-of-the-art protective shield for all humankind from cosmic manmade and natural threats to life on earth such as space debris, coronal mass ejections and asteroid collisions.

There are estimated to be more than 20,000 traceable objects of man-made space debris (MSD) including non-active spacecraft, upper-stage rockets and final stage vehicles as well as fragments of craft that potentially pose a dangerous situation in near-Earth orbits. The impact of the Chelyabinsk meteorite which crashed over a major Russian town as recently as 2013, injuring 1100 people and damaging 4000 buildings, is a reminder of the threat that natural objects pose to life on the planet.

Whilst steps have already been taken by the UN (through the International Asteroid Warning Network – IAWN) and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) to identify potentially hazardous scenarios, Asgardia will build on these developments to help offer a more comprehensive mechanism.

Dr. Joseph N. Pelton, former Dean, International Space University, Strasbourg, France said:

“The Asgardia project, among other things, may help prepare better answers to the future governance of outer space – a topic of major concern to the United Nations. The exciting aspect of this initiative is its three phase approach to providing broader access to space; promoting peace in outer space; and addressing cosmic hazards and planetary defence.”

The Asgardia Project Team will comprise a collaborative, multi-disciplinary effort from leading experts around the globe which it is envisaged will grow over time as the project evolves. But as well as expert involvement in the project, Asgardia is looking to capture the wider public imagination by crowd-sourcing key aspects of the project including involving members of the public in competitions to help design the nation’s flag, insignia and other symbols of nationhood.

To coincide with the press conference, a website with further details about the project and public involvement was also launched today at www.asgardia.space, including details of competitions open to the public across the world to help design the nation’s flag, insignia and anthem. In addition, the site will allow the first 100,000 people to register to become citizens of Asgardia alongside their nationality on earth. There will also be a twitter handle @AsgardiaSpace which will provide updates on the project and interaction between the Asgardia team and members of the public.

Source: Maitland Political

Press Release: Boeing Reveals First Two Aircraft for U.S. Air Force T-X Competition

Affordable, low risk and more flexible than older aircraft.

Boeing and its partner Saab AB will use their two production T-X aircraft, revealed today, to show the U.S. Air Force the performance, affordability, and maintainability advantages of their approach.

Boeing T-X is an all-new aircraft designed specifically for the U.S. Air Force training mission, and takes advantage of the latest technologies, tools and manufacturing techniques. It is an advanced aircraft designed to evolve as technologies, missions and training needs change. The design is more affordable and flexible than older, existing aircraft.

“Our T-X is real, ready and the right choice for training pilots for generations to come,” said Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Leanne Caret.

The Boeing T-X aircraft has one engine, twin tails, stadium seating and an advanced cockpit with embedded training. The system also offers state-of-the-art ground-based training and a maintenance-friendly design for long-term supportability.

“It’s an honor to build the future of Air Force training,” said Saab President and CEO Håkan Buskhe. “We have created the best solution thanks to great cooperation and a clear strategy since day one.”

T-X will replace the Air Force’s aging T-38 aircraft. Initial operating capability is planned for 2024.

Source: Boeing Defense and Saab

USAF Bombers Deployed to RAF Fairford for Ample Strike 2016

Written and photographed by Tom Mercer | September 10th 2016

The United States Air Force (USAF) have deployed three strategic bombers to RAF Fairford in support of the annual Ample Strike training exercise. For the third time running, the Czech Republic will take the lead and host up to eighteen allied nations who will work alongside each other to train Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs), Forward Air Controllers (FACs) and Close Air Support (CAS) units on the battlefield.

RAF Fairford, home to the world famous Royal International Air Tattoo, may seem like a fairly sedate standby airfield for most of the year but when required, the base can be turned into a fully operational hub in very little time. Fairford played a vital role for the USAF throughout the 1990s and early 2000s when B-52s were based there during the Gulf War and Iraq War. The last couple of years have seen a return to form with further bomber deployments but it’s all in the aid of training on an international scale.

The flying schedule for Ample Strike 2016 began on September 5th and will run for 11 days. To get an idea of what the exercise entails, and specifically what sort of missions the B-52 will be tasked with, Aviation Highlights spoke with Captain James Bresnahan:

“The B-52’s primary mission is to provide Close Air Support training to JTACs and Forward Air Controllers out on the battlefield. US bombers participate in international exercises fairly frequently. Providing CAS training like this is now fairly commonplace. We operate with our allied nations using joint procedures. Ample Strike ensures that all the controllers get training on the ground, that operational readiness is increased and international interoperability is improved.”

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The B-52 Stratofortress was designed and built by Boeing during the early 1950s when the USAF submitted a requirement for a long-range, subsonic bombing platform. Aviation has come a long way since the aircraft’s entry into service, so how exactly is a bomber of this age still relevant today?

“This particular aircraft started on the production line in 1960 and has since had multiple avionics, communications and weapons upgrades. We’re able to carry the widest variety of weapons in the US inventory as well as the most current and updated weapons. Our upgraded communications platform allows line of sight and beyond line of sight comms to take place. The equipment that crews are trained on also have access to the very latest tactics, techniques and procedures to keep the entire process up-to-date and relevant to today’s global mission. We plan to fly the B-52 for at least an another 25-30 years with continual updates to follow. Any advancements in weaponry within the US military will continue to find its way on to the B-52.”

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There’s no doubt that the B-52 has displayed exceptional endurance and assurance throughout it’s time in service. Some may see these deployments and exercises as, perhaps, a little antagonising but in reality that’s not the case. Large-scale complex international exercises like Ample Strike allow allied nations to strengthen their relationships and learn from each other on the battlefield.

“The missions that we’re executing during Ample Strike are carried out by a single aircraft but we may be working with multiple ground parties throughout the exercise. We’ll take off from Fairford, complete the scenario over in the Czech Republic and then return to land here. Our scenarios are CAS based and the training is provided to ground forces in order to simulate the purpose of the JTAC and FACs. On-time, on-demand fire support and air support is delivered as required, coordinating point of contact on the ground to enable safe and effective support to ground forces. I suspect that a lot of these JTACs have never worked with American bombers so it’s a new experience for them and provides brand new training on an aircraft type they’ve likely not worked with in the field before.”

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With so many nations participating both in the air and on the ground, you might think that it’s difficult to debrief on the missions that have been completed but once the crews have landed back at RAF Fairford, a series of in-depth ‘feedback’ sessions begin over the telephone and via email.

Believe it or not, this is the very first time that B-52s and B-1s have deployed to the same airfield in support of an international exercise.

Although the two types have been deployed together, they’re not actually working together in the air. Aviation Highlights spoke exclusively to Colonel Denis Heinz, Commander 489th Bomb Group, to find out more:

“On the face of it we’re essentially carrying out the same mission; helping train the JTACs and the FACs but we’re flying on alternating days. For what we’re doing out here and the missions that we’re flying in support of Ample Strike, the B-52 and B-1 are basically the same. They both have targeting pods and both are carrying the same simulated weapons. The main real difference is that the B-1 is supersonic and we still do a lot of low level training. On Monday for example, as part of our scenario, we conducted a show of force. We dropped down to about 1000ft and increased our speed to about 500 knots; it’s a very effective way of establishing yourself on the battlefield and something that the B-52 simply isn’t capable of.”

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Colonel Heinz flew the B-52 from Fairford during the Iraq War so he knows just how capable a platform it is but how does it compare to the B-1?

“They’re both phenomenal aircraft but the Block 16 upgrade on this B-1 is just outstanding. I’m still learning my way around it but there’s so much more information available to the crew. You can select what you want to see on each of the 4 or 5 screens; we call them ‘declutters’ because you can tailor it to what you want to see and when during the mission. That way you get just the information that’s relevant to you. The Block 16 jets’ systems have also been upgraded so that they can also talk to each other in the air. You can see what other B-1s are carrying, what they’re targeting, which AWACS they’re communicating with and if required, that information can be available to you too in an instant.”

The good news is that Ample Strike 2016 won’t be the last time you see B-1s deployed to the UK in support of an international exercise.

“I’m personally still pretty new to the B-1s but the B-52s have participated in Ample Strike since 2010. Now that we’re part of the 307th Bomb Wing, which is the lead unit for sending bombers to exercises, we’ve got the B-1 involved too and we’re hoping to participate in Ample Strike each year now. We’ve been asked to do another deployment in Norway shortly but again, it all depends on the training cycle and aircraft availability.”

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Ample Strike runs until September 20th with flying elements scheduled to end on September 16th.

Farnborough International Airshow: Wednesday

Written and photographed by Tom Mercer | July 13th 2016

The third and final day, for us that is, of Farnborough International Airshow has drawn to a close and once again the weather didn’t play ball; persistent, heavy showers passed through on multiple occasions causing localised flooding in some of the halls.

It’s fair to say that Farnborough has felt much quieter this week compared to previous years and the orders seem to confirm this. Although they’ve been coming in thick and fast, they haven’t quite stacked up against orders confirmed during the 2014 show.

The highlight of today was being shown around Boeing’s new 737 MAX. In their centennial year, the aviation giant are demonstrating a redesigned version of the 737 ‘Next Generation’ series aircraft and with over 3000 orders already confirmed, the 737 MAX is due to be a financial success when it launches with Southwest Airlines in 2017.

Headlines

  • Leonardo Aircraft have confirmed that buyers in South America and Asia have shown ‘significant interest’ in their armed AW149.
  • Air Asia have signed a deal with Airbus for 100 A380neo aircraft.
  • BAE Systems have signed a 10-year arrangement with Leonardo Aircraft to support the avionics of the Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fleet.
  • Leonardo Aircraft will develop the largest solar panel array ever built, measuring 97 square metres, for the Airbus Defence and Defence JUICE space mission.
  • Reaction Engines Ltd and the European Space Agency have signed a deal worth £8 million which will see the ESA continue as the ‘technical auditor’ of the Sabre rocket project.

In Pictures

Farnborough International Airshow: Tuesday

Written and photographed by Tom Mercer | July 12th 2016

After the chaos that ensued yesterday afternoon, the team here at Farnborough worked through the night to get the site ready for day two of the airshow.

Due to the freak storms that forced closure yesterday afternoon, FIA announced that all Monday tickets would be valid again today. The improved forecast meant that a full afternoon of flying was able to go ahead as scheduled and though two years later than originally planned, the Lockheed Martin F-35 finally made it’s Farnborough debut.

It’s been a long day for many but there’s been plenty going on so check out our headlines below.

Headlines

  • Sikorsky officially unveiled their new armed Black Hawk variant and announced that they’d be targeting existing Mi-24 fleets.
  • Airbus Defence announced that its conducting intensive paratrooping trials with the A400M.
  • Cobham have successfully demonstrated their aerial refuelling system on the Embraer KC-390 for the very first time.
  • Boeing and TUI finalised an order for 10 737 MAX and one 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
  • Boeing also confirmed the terms of a deal with Volga-Dnepr to supply the cargo giant with 20 747-8F aircraft.
  • Thales and Qinetiq have selected the Textron AirLand Scorpion Jet for the upcoming Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) bid.
  • Leonardo has confirmed a deal with an Asiatic country for two AgustaWestland AW119Kx helicopters and the supply of a complete radar system.
  • Sukhoi Civil Aircraft introduce the concept of a new aircraft, specifically designed to meet the requirements of professional sports teams, named SportJet. The airliner is scheduled for release and certification in 2018.
  • Medyacity launch new airshow in Turkey, the Eurasia Airshow, which will take place 25th-28th April 2018.

In Pictures

Farnborough International Airshow: Monday

Written and photographed by Tom Mercer | July 11th 2016

Farnborough International Airshow got off to a great start this morning as the show was officially opened by a flypast from the Red Arrows and F-35B.

Unfortunately the weather didn’t exactly play ball and the airshow site was thrown into chaos mid-afternoon when the airfield was subject to a freak storm; power was turned off in the main halls before being evacuated due to flooding. As a result, the show was drawn to a close almost 90 minutes early but there was still plenty of good news to come out of the first day of Farnborough.

After the show closed, Farnborough International Airshow later confirmed that due to the early closure, all Monday tickets will be valid for Tuesday too.

Headlines

  • The UK MoD confirmed the purchase of nine P-8A Maritime Patrol Aircraft and additional Apache helicopters from Boeing, in a deal said to be worth over $6 billion.
  • Richard Branson confirms that Virgin Atlantic has placed an order for twelve Airbus A350-1000s, the first of which will be delivered in 2019.
  • Boeing confirmed the technical feasibility of a 777-10.
  • Bell Helicopters says its pushing the V-22 Osprey for the German Air Force heavy-lift rotor-craft requirement and says that the Royal Navy may also be interested in a future purchase.
  • CargoLogicAir, the latest British cargo airline, announces a Memorandum of Understanding to be the BLOODHOUND Project’s exclusive air cargo partner.
  • Leonardo announced a new variant of the M-346 aircraft, the M-346FT, which will allow the aircraft to act as a fighter platform as well as an advanced jet trainer.

In Pictures