The U.S. Air Force Looks To Advanced Manufacturing To Keep Existing Aircraft Flying And Develop Next-Gen Capabilities
What if there were Olympic events that weren’t physical, but were focused instead on completely geeking out on super-cool breakthrough technologies for real-world aerospace and defense challenges? Even better, what if they offered prize money totaling nearly a million dollars?
Now there are just such events, thanks to the U.S. Air Force’s Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO). In fact, participants in five such Olympic “sports” (or Technical Challenges, as the RSO calls them) have already been competing over the past few months. Those competitions will culminate when the winners are announced during next week’s four-day Advanced Manufacturing Olympics. This virtual conference runs from October 20-23, and features technology demonstrations, expert speakers from both industry and the military, virtual networking opportunities, and the awarding of prized for those Technical Challenges mentioned above.
“RSO is working to revolutionize sustainment, while building an agile supply chain for the future,” said Nathan Parker, Deputy Program Executive Officer at the RSO. “Originally, we were planning to hold this inaugural event outside Salt Lake City, Utah. But then Covid hit, so we’ve taken the whole thing virtual.”
Event speakers will include military officials such as Barbara M. Barrett, Secretary of the Air Force; General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., Chief of Staff of the Air Force; and General John W. Raymond, Chief of Space Operations of the U.S. Space Force. Other speakers featured are Sebastian Thrun, founder of Google X; Dr. Mae Jemison, NASA astronaut; and Brad Kesolowski, NASCAR Cup Series driver and founder of Kesolowski Advanced Manufacturing.
The five Technical Challenges began with an
WASHINGTON — For the first time, the U.S. Air Force updated the software code on one of its aircraft while it was in flight, the service announced Oct. 7.
And there’s a surprise twist: The aircraft involved wasn’t the “flying computer” F-35, the mysterious B-21 bomber still under development, or any of the Air Force’s newest and most high-tech jets. Instead, the service tested the technology aboard the U-2 spy plane, one of the oldest and most iconic aircraft in the Air Force’s inventory.
On Sept. 22, the U-2 Federal Laboratory successfully updated the software of a U-2 from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, which was engaged in a training flight near Beale Air Force Base, California, the Air Force said in a news release.
To push the software code from the developer on the ground to the U-2 in flight, the Air Force used Kubernetes, a containerized system that allows users to automate the deployment and management of software applications. The technology was originally created by Google and is currently maintained by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.
For the demonstration, the U-2 lab employed Kubernetes to “run advanced machine-learning algorithms” to the four flight-certified computers onboard the U-2, modifying the software without negatively affecting the aircraft’s flight or mission systems, the service said.
“The successful combination of the U-2′s legacy computer system with the modern Kubernetes software was a critical milestone for the development of software containerization on existing Air Force weapon systems,” said Nicolas Chaillan, the Air Force’s chief software officer.
During a Sept. 15 interview with C4ISRNET, Chaillan hinted that the service would soon be able to update the software of flying aircraft, calling the capability a “gamechanger” and describing the challenges involved with ensuring the aircraft could be updated without posing a safety risk.
“We need to
The judge said the Air Force’s actions were not arbitrary, capricious, or in violation of the law, and that SpaceX was not entitled to any relief in this action.”
WASHINGTON — A California judge Oct. 2 officially ended SpaceX’s 18-month-long lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force. Following a Sept. 24 ruling denying SpaceX’s claim, the judge on Friday ordered the case to be closed.
U.S. District Court Judge Judge Otis Wright II of the Central District of California on Sept. 24 ruled against SpaceX in its legal complaint over contracts the U.S. Air Force awarded in October 2018 to United Launch Alliance, Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin.
The judge’s Sept. 24 order, first reported by Reuters, was sealed by the court because it contained sensitive information.
In the Oct. 2 motion to close the case, the judge noted that his Sept. 24 order denied SpaceX’s claim, “concluding that the Air Force’s actions were not arbitrary, capricious, or in violation of the law, and that SpaceX was not entitled to any relief in this action.”
SpaceX first filed the complaint May 17, 2019, with the Court of Federal Claims. The company argued that the Air Force gave an unfair advantage to the other companies by awarding them Launch Service Agreements and excluding SpaceX.
After the Court of Federal Claims ruled that it lacked jurisdiction, the case was transferred in August 2019 to the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California.
The Air Force awarded Launch Service Agreements contracts to Blue Origin ($500 million), United Launch Alliance ($967 million) and Northrop Grumman ($762 million) to help the companies defray the costs of developing new rockets and infrastructure as they competed for a launch service procurement contract.
SpaceX’s proposal for a Launch Service Agreement contract was to leverage its Starship
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force has added nine vendors to the list of companies that will compete to build the service’s autonomous Skyborg drone wingman.
On Sept. 28, the service awarded each firm an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract worth up to $400 million. The nine companies were AeroVironment Inc., Autodyne LLC, BAE System Controls Inc., Blue Force Technologies Inc., Fregata Systems Inc., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, NextGen Aeronautics Inc., Sierra Technical Services, and Wichita State University.
Those organizations join Northrop Grumman, Boeing, General Atomics and Kratos, which won the first round of contracts in July.
No money has been allotted to vendors so far. Instead, the 13 companies on contract will compete against each other for future delivery orders.
“This second phase of awards establishes a diverse and competitive vendor pool by adding several nontraditional and traditional contractors we saw as important additions to the effort,” said Brig. Gen. Dale White, the program executive officer for fighters and advanced aircraft, whose team manages the Skyborg program with the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Skyborg is one of the lab’s top three science and technology efforts. The project is meant to produce a family of uncrewed aerial systems that can move into contested spaces and conduct aerial missions that might be too dangerous for human pilots to perform.
Under the Skyborg program, the Air Force hopes to build a low-cost, attritable drone that can be reused but — if destroyed in combat — is cheap enough to be written off without incurring a large material loss. Key to the program is the development of artificial intelligence that will allow the aircraft to operate autonomously and potentially learn from prior training missions.
Currently, the Skyborg program is focused on developing the technologies necessary for the “Autonomous Core System,” the service said