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Flight

Legendary science fiction author Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) scored another hit in the prediction department on Monday, July 23, 2012 when NASA tested an inflatable heat shield that he foresaw back in the 1980s. The test of the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) was launched by rocket into a suborbital trajectory from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, VA. The unmanned vehicle reached velocities of up to 7,600 mph (12,231 kph), yet was protected from atmospheric heating by the mushroom-shaped shield. Read More
Late last year, DARPA researchers upped the standard two-hour endurance of Lockheed Martin’s Stalker small unmanned aerial system (UAS) by a factor of four using a propane-fueled compact solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). Now the flight time of the aircraft has been improved by a whopping 2,400 percent, with a test flight lasting more than 48 hours using a laser power system to wirelessly transfer power to the UAS from the ground. Read More
In celebration of the two hundred and thirty sixth anniversary of the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence from British rule, Masten Space Systems has performed a record-setting flight of their vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) Xaero suborbital rocket at the Mohave Air and Space Port. Unlike the rockets designed specifically for the NASA Lunar Lander challenge, the Xaero is the only VTVL rocket intended to carry payloads into suborbital trajectories. The test flight saw the Xaero propelled to an altitude of 444 meters (1,457 feet), before returning to Earth and making a perfect landing on its jets. However, the test flight took place on July 3 - after all, who wants to work on the fourth? Read More
Six years after the initial announcement that Terrafugia, Inc. would develop a "roadable airplane", the Transition has completed the first phase of flight testing. The flight testing, carried out at Plattsburgh International Airport in northern New York State, assessed the light sport aircraft's full performance envelope. The Transition prototype was reported to perform "exceptionally well", allowing the testing to be carried out quickly. Read More
Virgin Galactic’s suborbital, air-launched spaceplane, SpaceShipTwo (SS2), aka VSS Enterprise, is back in the air after a break of nearly nine months following a recent integration period for rocket motor systems and maintenance. The June 26 flight coincided with another successful full duration test fire of the spaceship’s engine RocketMotorTwo (RM2) on the same day. The tests mark an intensification of activity that sees Virgin Galactic aiming for powered flights by the end of the year. Read More
The second Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 5:48 a.m. Pacific time on Saturday, marking the successful completion of its first flight. Being developed for the Rapid Capabilities Office of the U.S. Air Force, the X-37B is intended to demonstrate the capabilities of reusable unmanned spacecraft in the wake of the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet. Read More
The airplane is arguably the biggest single revolution in travel ever. Voyages that used to entail weeks of dangerous, life-threatening navigation can now be done in the matter of hours. No single invention has connected physical space like the plane. Yet, there's still much room for improvement in terms of cost, efficiency and comfort. With this in mind a team of U.S. designers is developing what they believe is a better solution for flying: the Synergy aircraft. Read More
Hovering unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – most of which take the form of quadrocopters – are currently being developed for a wide range of applications. Some of these include the delivery of supplies to remote locations, urban reconnaissance, and military operations. Whether they’re flying solo or in organized swarms, however, they constantly need to be aware of potential collision hazards, both mobile and stationary. While various technologies are already being utilized for this purpose, Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems has developed a new 3D CMOS sensor, that promises particularly good performance. Read More

"Human Birdwings" creator Jarno Smeets and his Android-powered, mechanically-assisted flying machine are creating a stir again. Gizmag originally reported on Smeets' effort to fly like a bird when he posted a video of his first test flight, in which he appeared to hang in the air a few feet off the ground for a second or two. In the video of his latest attempt, he's shown soaring around in the air, and a lively debate over the validity of the video is already heating up. Read More

NASA has announced it will use a modular, unmanned flight research vehicle being built by Lockheed Martin for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to test enabling technologies for new kinds of lightweight, energy-efficient, flexible aircraft. The small aircraft, dubbed the X-56A, will be used to explore ways to suppress vibrations and alleviate the load on flexible aircraft from wind gusts and atmospheric turbulence. Read More
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