When we think about space exploration, most of us instinctively call to mind white-suited astronauts stepping out onto launch-pads; a flag stitched to their left shoulder, a space agency emblem splashed across their chests. As of 2015, 70 governments around the world boasted a space programme. Six of those are equipped with full launch capabilities, sending rockets, satellites and probes into orbit. At the present time, only three are capable of human spaceflight.
At the turn of the millennium, entrepreneurs began to fight back against government monopolies on space. They began designing, and a decade later deploying, their own competitive space systems.
Sean Gallagher is a senior additive manufacture development engineer at BAE Systems and a QEPrize Ambassador. We spoke to him to find out a little more about what additive manufacturing really is, and how it can revolutionise design and engineering in the world of aerospace.
What is additive manufacturing and how does it help?
Additive manufacture, or 3D printing, is still a relatively new technology, which has grown massively in the last decade. The growing availability of new metallic and plastic materials continues to develop the scope of the technology, and therefore the impact it can have.
Whilst still supporting modelling and rapid prototyping to help us speed up design development, we can now start to develop products which are more fit for purpose. These can be made quicker, are lighter and often cheaper than conventional methods would allow. All of this means we can be more adaptable to meet our customer’s needs, using a technology that allows us to be more responsive and affordable than ever before.
For years, Maia Weinstock, the deputy editor of MIT News, has been creating miniature LEGO figurines to honor and promote such scientists and engineers as MIT Institute Professor Emerita Mildred Dresselhaus, Vice President for Research Maria T. Zuber, and Department of Chemical Engineering head Paula Hammond, the David H. Koch Chair Professor in Engineering. The figures are Weinstock’s playful way of boosting the visibility of scientists, in particular the work of female scientists.
Now, a set of LEGOs Weinstock created celebrating the history of women at NASA is about to blast off. On Tuesday, LEGO announced that Weinstock’s project, which spotlights five women who made historic contributions to the U.S. space program, has been selected to become an official LEGO set.
Engineers at Stanford’s ‘XLab’ are working on tiny electronic devices that could withstand some of the most extreme conditions imaginable.
The research group, which specialises in developing microsystems for extreme environments, hopes to study the most remote and inhospitable regions both here on Earth and in space.
Reaching temperatures of up to 480 degrees Celsius (more than 890 Fahrenheit) and doused with sulfuric acid rains, the atmosphere surrounding Venus is just the place they mean. With the metallic components in silicon-based semiconductors melting at around 300oC (572oF), today’s electronics wouldn’t stand a chance.
My name is Emma Goulding and I’m a controls engineer for Siemens Aeroderivative Gas Turbines (AGT). This is a technical role where I support the fleet of AGT engines through operational support, software testing and software coding. I started my career as an apprentice in 2012, and very soon after that registered as a STEM ambassador, carrying out STEM events for local schools. I recently led the Siemens AGT ‘Innovation Month’ STEM outreach programme, where over 150 students from more than 5 different schools and clubs took part in the STEM sessions hosted by Siemens AGT.
This Siemens initiative allowed the business to engage with local schools and to host sessions encouraging young people to get excited about STEM. The project also gave Siemens the chance to showcase some of the opportunities that a STEM career can offer.
Shortly before 11 o’clock in the evening on 7 March 2017, the tropical night air of French Guiana was rent with the roar of a Vega rocket, blasting off from its launch pad in Kourou. The payload sitting atop the rocket, a satellite developed and built by Airbus for the European Space Agency (ESA), was the missing piece in the puzzle to complete Europe’s colour-vision image of Earth.
Sentinel-2B joined its identical twin in polar orbit, unfurling its solar panels and reporting for duty just an hour after leaving Earth. Sentinel-2A, the first of the pair, launched in June 2015. Together, they make up Copernicus, the most ambitious Earth observation programme to date. Positioned 180 degrees apart, the pair can complete a full circle of the Earth just 100 minutes. Working together, the Sentinel satellites can cover the whole world, including all land surfaces, large islands and inland and coastal waters, every five days.
Ever since President Eisenhower established NASA in 1958, the world’s population has been hooked on pushing the boundaries of human exploration. In the 60 years that followed, humankind has travelled faster, further and more fantastically than ever before.
In early 1969, the first flight of the Concorde roared out of Toulouse, proving the colossal plane could take to the skies. Just a few short months later, the world watched as Neil Armstrong and ‘Buzz’ Aldrin took their first, tentative steps across the lunar surface. In quick succession, NASA sent missions to land on our nearest neighbours, tallying a list of firsts as they headed for Venus, then Mars, and finally set out to explore Jupiter.