Advancements in the aerospace industry

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SpaceX’s “Star Ship” top stage test launch in Cape Canaveral FL Image Source: CNET

Harry Michaud, Contributing Writer

The Aerospace Industry as a Whole

Dating all the way back to 1903 when the Wright brothers produced the first airplane, to when in 1969 the Apollo 11 crew landed on the moon, technology has changed. The aerospace industry has countless companies that are advancing the field and are constantly coming up with new ideas and innovations. 

eVTOLs

Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing: Someone needs to work on that acronym… eVTOLs are very new technology and are taking the world by storm. One of the leading companies in this area is JetsonAero. This company is bringing forth “a personal mini electric helicopter” named after the iconic 1960’s cartoon series. The Jetson 1 is an amazing feat in future technology.

Jetson 1 in action.
Image source: JetsonAero

These eVTOLs are built with the intent to make anyone a pilot. No license is required. Who knows how long that will last, but the idea of it is fascinating. Also, the fact that it’s all-electric is great. This “human-sized drone” will be relatively light when talking about a helicopter. The Jetson 1 sits at 190lbs. Considering that it is hard to even call the Jetson 1 an eVTOL, as it is a very small size. However, the Jetson 1 has revolutionized both eVTOL technology and drone technology in a way. The Jetson 1 will cost upwards of $92,000. So maybe you shouldn’t get too excited.

Joby S4
Source: eVTOL News

This is one example of an aerospace company that is creating something like no one has ever seen before. The Joby S4 looks insane, in a good way. This is also at a much larger scale than the Jetson 1. The Joby S4 weighs 4,000 pounds. The current problem with any eVTOL is battery life.  eVTOLs in general have limited flying time. Joby Aviation calls these vehicles “Air Taxis” and the plan is for it to work as an expensive flying Uber. The safety of its technology is still being questioned. It might be a while before these are released to the public, but eVTOLs have come a long way, and this is just the beginning of a new era. The day I can call an Uber and one of these shows up, will be a great day.

SpaceX

Starship prototype being loaded onto a “super heavy” booster in Cape Canaveral FL
Image Source: CNBC

SpaceX is the most successful non-government-owned space flight company ever. And not too long ago that sentence would be a very weird one. The concept of a private rocket ship manufacturer, not too long ago, would sound crazy. But now you are seeing it everywhere. Times have changed.  SpaceX’s Falcon 9 has the record for “most launched rocket ever” and SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy was the most powerful rocket (beat by NASA’s SLS super rocket). SpaceX has a lot going for them. Then in 2019 everything changed.  Founder of the company Elon Musk brought forth the plan for the next best thing, StarshipStarship will replace all previous rockets built by the company, and if all goes well this rocket will bring us to Mars. This rocket will be the most powerful rocket ever produced, the toughest, and the tallest. Starship with all of its stages will stand at 400ft tall.  To put that into perspective it would be roughly 100ft taller than the statue of liberty. The engine designed for this rocket is the “Raptor” engine and will have a methane-based fuel (as opposed to previous Space X rockets using RP-1). On top of all that, it is going to be made of stainless steel. This was an odd choice, but it’s really the only thing that can withstand the insane heat of reentry. This will be the most reusable rocket ever, the process to it re-launched is relatively low maintenance. Meaning it lands, and then after a brief check-up/inspection, it is launched again.

Starship Varients
Image Source: Everyday Astronaut

Additionally Starship will have multiple variants that will be used for different operations.  Starship is still being tested but is planned to be launched in late 2022. 

The rocket has many functionalities from being a refueling vessel. To have the capabilities to colonize the Moon and or Mars, and be able to explore the far reaches of deep space. 

Blue Origin

Blue Origin’s New Shepard test launch
Image Source: Space.com

Blue Origin is making it so anyone can go to space, as long as you have $28 million. Blue Origin is producing rockets like the New Shepard with the intent of getting people into sub orbit. So can it even be called a trip to space? The New Shepard flies 63 miles high. And the nationally agreed altitude to reach space is 62 miles. By going to Blue Origins website you can submit an application to have a chance at going on one of these flights. This rocket’s engine (the 1 BE-3) runs on an LH2 / LOX (liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen) propellant, and to top it all off, the New Shepard stands at 59ft. It’s a small rocket and gets the job done. In July of 2021, Jeff Bezos founder of the company put himself on the rocket to go to space. This was partially done for his own enjoyment, and partially to prove the safety of the rocket. There’s no better way to prove to your future customers the safety of getting shot up into “space” in this rocket than to try it yourself. Since then people like former NFL player Michael Strahan, and famous actor from the series Star Trek, William Shatner have traveled on the rocket. The capsule part of the rocket detaches upon assent,  and safely parachutes its way to the ground. While the rest of the ship lands back on a pad for swift reuse. 

Rolls-Royce?

Rolls-Royce “Spirit of Innovation” all eclectic aircraft
Image Source: BBC

The last company you thought would be making electric planes is Rolls-Royce. But in early 2022 Rolls-Royce has been testing the Spirit of Innovation all-electric aircraft. It’s a fairly small plane that is not being produced at a large scale level and is still in its early stages. However, the technology will get better over time. What this plane has going for it is that it has the record for being the fastest fully electric airplane produced, reaching 55.9 km/h (345.4 mph). This was over about 180 mph faster than the previous record. The plane uses a 400kw power train and packs a punch for such a small size.

“Under the hood”
Image Source: BBC

Sum Up

The future of aerospace technology is ever advancing. Powerful engines, taller, bigger, smaller, electric, fast, and far. To the stars, and to the sky, these new innovations present the future of flight in whatever form it may be.