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All the Sexy Aerospace Stuff That is Happening

It was sometime around 1988 and it was pitch dark outside. I and some of my aerospace colleagues from work were driving in a car caravan from San Diego to Edwards Air Force Base at the ungodly hour of 3AM. The Space Shuttle Discovery was scheduled to land that morning and we wanted to see it.

From the moment I woke up in the middle of the night and all the way through the drive to Edwards AFB to the parking and walk to the viewing area to the standing in the cool, early morning air for a couple hours, I was questioning whether the whole effort was worth it. The landing of Discovery was not even certain. Weather conditions could postpone the whole thing.

And then someone pointed at the sky and yelled "There she is!". And I saw her too. Then a minute later we all heard the distinct double sonic boom. And I instantly knew it had been worth it.

To me, aerospace was always sexy and I was excited to be working in the industry. Today it is exciting to see all the new ventures happening. Over the past year AFT has been able to visit some of the new generation of companies and organizations leading the way forward. Be it at Kennedy Space Center or the adjacent Cape Canaveral AFB in Florida, to California not too far from where I saw Discovery land back in 1988, we have had the privilege to visit and meet the engineers making these new ventures happen - and to see some of the new flight hardware and ground system support and test hardware under construction. We also get to hear about how AFT software has been used to model these systems.

The residents of Florida got their own wake-up notice last week when the secretive X-37 made a morning landing at KSC (see Sonic boom rattles Central Florida as secret military space shuttle lands at Kennedy Space Center). I myself worked on the previous X-30 space plane project. This was a cool concept that used cryogenic solid-liquid "slush" hydrogen as a propellant. I worked on the slush hydrogen propellent tank design and got a year of really good experience doing scale model testing. Alas the X-30 was never built.

In the near future Virgin Galactic will be taking tourists into space on their VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo. SpaceX and Blue Origin are always in the news. NASA is working on their new heavy lift space shuttle replacement Space Launch System. AFT software continues to be used on such NASA systems.

This is all exciting and certainly inspiring to today's young generation. I can't wait to see how it all plays out!

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Tuesday, 28 March 2023
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