Category Archives: Aerospace

NASA Drone Aircraft Scanning California Fires

Ikhana, credit NASA Dryden
In addition to the DC-10 air tanker that’s been getting a lot of press, we also have a new NASA drone aircraft called Ikhana helping out with California wildfires by using advanced thermal-infrared imagery to give firefighters a more accurate picture of fire activity on the ground.

Today’s Mercury News reports:

Ikhana, NASA’s pilotless aircraft, flew over the 47,000-acre Lick fire for the first time, transmitting images and information to firefighters below as they battled the blaze into Saturday evening.

“They used that to facilitate their planning for the day’s firefighting,” said Vince Ambrosio, NASA Ames’s principal investigator on the Ikhana project.

Ambrosio monitored the drone’s flight from a base in Boise, Idaho, while other NASA technicians on the ground interpreted the images for fire commanders. Altogether, Ambrosio said, Ikhana flew 20 hours, starting Friday night from NASA’s facility at Edwards Air Force Base to 11 fires in California, Oregon and Washington before returning to Edwards on Saturday afternoon.

You can read more details on the wildfire imaging mission in the NASA Dryden press release. Also check out NASA’s photo and video collections for Ikhana.

Other coverage includes Aviation Week, Firefighter Blog, and Skycontrol.

USS Hornet and Apollo 11

A short news story on the radio this morning was covering the USS Hornet and its role in recovering the Apollo 11 and 12 space missions. The Hornet is permanently docked here in the SF Bay Area in Alameda, but I haven't yet seen it. Starting this weekend the museum is hosting Splashdown! with various celebrations all week long.

The USS Hornet Museum will be hosting a festival July 16-25, 2004, to commemorate the 35th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 and 12 flights, which landed the first humans on the moon. As the primary recovery vessel for these historic missions, the USS Hornet played an important role in the Apollo space program. The Museum will be opening two new exhibits showcasing Hornet’s role as well as other spacecraft recovery missions performed by the US Navy supporting Mercury, Gemini, Skylab and Soyuz launches.

Apollo 11 & 12 Splashdown!

100 Years of Flight

Today's San Jose Mercury had a story describing the Bay Area's contributions to aviation in conjunction with the 100 year anniversary of the Wright Brother's first flight. I was surprised to see connections to my alma matter (Santa Clara University:

John J. Montgomery, a Santa Clara University professor, gets credit for the first controlled piloted flight, in a glider he called the Gull, off the bluffs near San Diego 20 years before the Wright brothers' first powered flight.

There was also mention of the founding of Lockheed (Lockheed History):

So Allen Loughead, a Santa Clara University student, and his brother Malcolm borrowed $4,000, built a two-seat seaplane, the Model G, and flew it out of San Francisco Bay in 1913.
Then, they took their earnings from flying at the San Francisco exposition in 1915 and started Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing in Santa Barbara. The brothers later changed the spelling of their name to match its pronunciation. Their company evolved into aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.

Santa Clara recently noted that Professor Montgomery was inducted into the National Soaring Museum Hall of Fame:

Montgomery built a tandem wing glider called the “Santa Clara” which he launched from Santa Clara College, as the University was then known. Today, a granite obelisk near Varsi Hall marks the spot where the glider was balloon-launched to 4,000 feet on March 16, 1905. The flight lasted 15 to 20 minutes and included several horizontal figure-eights, controlled turns and spirals. At the time, it was the highest flight ever by a manned aircraft.

SCU Professor John Montgomery, the first person to fly a heavier-than-air aircraft in the Western Hemisphere

Columbia Accident Final Report

Today the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) released the final report on the cause of the Shuttle accident on 2003-02-01. The press release says in part:

The CAIB report concludes that while NASA's present Space Shuttle is not inherently unsafe, a number of mechanical fixes are required to make the Shuttle safer in the short term. The report also concludes that NASA's management system is unsafe to manage the shuttle system beyond the short term and that the agency does not have a strong safety culture.

The Board determined that physical and organizational causes played an equal role in the Columbia accident – that the NASA organizational culture had as much to do with the accident as the foam that struck the Orbiter on ascent. The report also notes other significant factors and observations that may help prevent the next accident.

The full report is available in PDF format on the NASA Columbia home page. It's a long report (almost 250 pages), but I'm going to skim through it to see what can be learned. It's good to see the government putting so much information available online, including a long list of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.