Categories: General
      Date: Jun 12, 2014
     Title: MIRCE Science Events

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11 July 2019: No Disruptions Expected From New Airbus A380 Checks

The checks, which EASA will soon mandate, on the 25 oldest operating A380s Airbus, are for hairline cracks in outer rear wing spars  are recommended to be done  within 15 years of the aircraft’s “initial wing box assembly. This spreads deadlines for the affected aircraft out over the next several years. The time frame should allow most inspections to be done during routine heavy maintenance visits. Six airlines and one lessor are affected. Emirates Airline, operator of nine of the 25 identified airframes targeted for the checks, has scheduled and begun conducting the additional inspections on those aircraft identified. Qantas, which operates six affected aircraft, said its deadlines are between June 2020 and May 2021, but it is accelerating the inspections and working them in as the airframes are removed from service for routine work. Inspections are not required on these aircraft for another year or two and are being done well in advance of the required time frames. Air France, with two affected aircraft, is consulting with Airbus and awaiting a finalized service bulletin that Airbus is developing.  According to Airbus the analysis of these hairline cracks is not of an urgent nature and they do not in any way affect the safety of flights operated by Airbus A380. Other affected operators include Singapore Airlines, with four aircraft, as well as Lufthansa and Hi Fly, with one each. Lessor Afa Press has two in storage. Operators will share inspection results with Airbus and, depending on the findings, the checks may be expanded to a larger subset of the 240 A380s in service.

10 July 2019: Pilot Input Caused Air France’s Abnormal A340 Takeoffs

The French Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses (BEA) has determined that some abnormally long Airbus A340-300 takeoffs from Bogota El Dorado airport in Colombia were due to improper pilot practices. The events observed have been described as serious incidents and had been puzzling analysts since the first observation in March 2017. They involved Air France-operated aircraft but the carrier’s cooperation with Lufthansa demonstrated that the problem was not specific to the former company. A340-300 pilots tend not to pull the stick backward enough at takeoff, according to the BEA. The incident pilot was himself pulling even less than the average. In the BEA’s report, it also appears the issue was partly due to misleading Airbus documentation. Bogota’s airport is located at 8,360 ft. of altitude in a mountainous environment. The takeoff run available on the day of the investigated incident (Mar. 11, 2017) was 3,800 m (12,460 ft.) and a 300 m clearway was coming in addition. Both the pilot flying and the pilot monitoring told the BEA they were aware Bogota El Dorado is a challenging airport, one of them portraying it as “the most difficult” in Air France’s network. But despite thorough preparation work, the flight began with a dramatically long takeoff run and shallow climb. Liftoff took place 140 m before the opposite threshold and the end of the clearway was overflown at a mere 6 ft. Over the first obstacle, the instrument landing system’s antennas, the aircraft had a 12 ft. clearance. According to the BEA, the actual takeoff distance on that day was 424 m over the accepted standard, which includes safety margins. Airbus used Air France data to study A340-300 pilot practices, the BEA said. The airframer recommends, in the flight crew training manual, that the pilot should apply a two-third deflection to the sidestick (i.e. two-thirds [2/3] of the full back position) at rotation speed (Vr). This is supposed to be the right procedure to quickly reach the expected 3 deg./sec. rotation rate. However, the average Air France pilot makes a smaller deflection, resulting in less than 2 deg./sec. Airbus calculated this translates into an additional 200 m to liftoff. Lufthansa experienced the same problem during the Mar. 11, 2017 event in Bogota, when the pilot made an even softer input at Vr. The pitch angle was therefore dangerously low at takeoff and for the initial climb. Even more disturbing is the fact that Airbus’ simulation shows that, with the operating conditions on the incident day, the recommended 2/3 deflection was inadequate. “The pilot should have applied, at Vr, an initial input of more than 80% of the maximum deflection for 0.5 sec.,” the BEA said. With the 3 deg./sec. rotation rate, the simulation yielded a takeoff distance that used 67% of the mandatory safety margin.The A340 needs a greater sidestick input at takeoff than the A320 and A330, and Airbus has consistently highlighted the risk of tailstrike. BEA investigators believe these two factors may have influenced A340 pilots in their rotation technique. Moreover, perceiving a rotation rate is difficult and no instrument helps the crew, except the pitch limit indicator. The investigators had a hard time computing trends from the data available as the flight parameters that are recorded for the operators are unsuitable for systematic analysis, when it comes to takeoff performance. At the time of the incident, no takeoff performance monitoring scheme was in place and European A340 crews had not reported any issue. Since then, Air France has added safety margins into the takeoff procedure at Bogota airport. Crews have been retrained in rotation techniques. As a result, takeoff distances have been reduced but they remain above the Airbus’s theoretical model, the BEA noted. Lufthansa added safety margins into the takeoff procedure at Bogota. Even so, the German carrier chose not to teach its pilots to increase the rotation rate at takeoff, citing a risk of tailstrike. In Airbus’ documentation, a typical value for the backward stick input can no longer be found. The manufacturer rather focuses on the rotation rate. It warns against the impact of a 2 deg./sec. rate versus the nominal 3 deg./sec. The BEA recommends EASA and Airbus re-establish consistency between the certified takeoff performance and actual operations. It also wants EASA to require A340-300 operators to take action against variability in pilot rotation techniques. The EASA should ensure European operators implement takeoff performance monitoring in their flight analysis programs, the BEA added.

9 July 2019: In-service Cracks Trigger Airbus A380 Wing-Spar Inspections

After reports of cracks on in-service Airbus A380 wing outer rear spars (ORS) Airbus and EASA are developing an inspection program for. The program, revealed in a proposed EASA airworthiness directive (AD) published July 5, targets “the 25 oldest wing sets” in the A380 in-service fleet. Affected operators are to conduct initial “special detailed inspections” on a schedule based on the aircraft’s age. Follow-up checks will be done every 36 months. The initial inspection results will be evaluated by Airbus and EASA and, “based on inspection findings,” may expand the program to other A380s, the proposed AD explained. Out of the 25 aircraft listed for initial inspections Emirates Airline has 9, followed by Qantas 6, including  the aircraft that suffered substantial damage during a November 2010 engine failure and was out of service for nearly 18 months. Singapore Airlines has 4, while 2 aircraft once operated by Singapore are in storage with Afa Press UK Ltd. as the listed owner. The remaining airframes are with Air France (2), Lufthansa, and Portuguese charter carrier Hi Fly. The initial program is in response to “occurrences” of ORS cracks on in-service aircraft, EASA explained, but the AD does not say how many aircraft have turned up with cracks.

4 July 2019: Dust Storm Swirl at the North Pole of Mars

European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express has been observing dust storms brewing at the north pole of the Red Planet over the last month, watching as they disperse towards the equator. According to ESA local and regional storms lasting for a few days or weeks and confined to a small area are common place on Mars, but at their most severe can engulf the entire planet, as experienced last year in a global storm that circled the planet for many months. It is currently spring in the northern hemisphere of Mars, and water-ice clouds and small dust-lifting events are frequently observed along the edge of the seasonally retreating ice cap. Many of the spacecraft at Mars return daily weather reports from orbit or from the surface, providing global and local impressions of the changing atmospheric conditions. ESA’s Mars Express observed at least eight different storms at the edge of the ice cap between 22 May and 10 June, which formed and dissipated very quickly, between one and three days. These regional dust storms only last a few days; the elevated dust is transported and spread out by global circulation into a thin haze in the lower atmosphere, around 20–40 km altitude. Some traces of dust and clouds remained in the volcanic province into mid-June.

25 June 2019: Beginning of Commercial On-Orbit Servicing

The first commercial, in-space satellite-servicing mission will start later this summer when it is expected that Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV), will be launched to start a on-orbit servicing. It is scheduled to fly beneath a Eutelsat satellite on a Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan later this summer. It was built to provide four types of service, geostationary station-keeping, reductions in the inclination of orbits, relocation of a satellite within the geo-belt, or into the graveyard, and satellite circumnavigation and inspection. The MEV will rendezvous with an Intelsat satellite that will conduct 30 orbital manoeuvres on its way to a point over the Pacific Ocean, chosen to be conservative and safe for docking. The MEV will extend the life of Intelsat 901, a Space Systems/Loral-made (SS/L) satellite launched in 2001 that is running out of fuel. The mission will allow Intelsat, which prides itself on early adoption of technology, to keep using that asset in its valuable orbital position for at least 5 years. The mission represents a step toward the larger goal of spacecraft that can service satellites in orbit, using robotic arms to repair their solar arrays. This would be one step closer to the dream of in-space manufacturing. During last three years, Northrop has been refining its MEV.

18 June 2019: Boeing to Supply Airbus A320 Parts to British Airways

Boeing is to supply parts for aircraft made by rival Airbus to British Airways (BA), the first agreement of its kind for the U.S. aircraft maker. The deal with BA owner International Airlines Group (IAG) will see Boeing own, manage, and maintain a global exchange inventory of parts for the airline's A320 and A320neo single-aisle aircraft through its Component Services Program (CSP). BA has 67 A320-200s and 10 A320-200neos in its fleet. Boeing Global Services chief executive said that the manufacturer was “happy to put our hat in the ring” to offer BA “more choice”. In addition, the carrier has signed an agreement for three landing gear exchanges for its 777-300ERs. Through the program, operators receive an overhauled and certified landing gear from an exchange pool maintained by Boeing.

29 May 2019: The radiation challenge for Mars exploration

Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere protect us from the constant bombardment of galactic cosmic rays – energetic particles that travel at close to the speed of light and penetrate the human body. An astronaut on a mission to Mars could receive radiation doses up to 700 times higher than on our planet – a major showstopper for the safe exploration of our Solar System. A team of European experts is working with ESA to protect the health of future crews on their way to the Moon and beyond. Cosmic radiation could increase cancer risks during long duration missions. Damage to the human body extends to the brain, heart and the central nervous system and sets the stage for degenerative diseases. A higher percentage of early-onset cataracts have been reported in astronauts. Data show that one day in space is equivalent to the radiation received on Earth for a whole year. Also it has been noticed that t most of the changes in the astronauts’ gene expression are believed to be a result of radiation exposure. This research showed DNA damage in astronaut compared to his identical twin and fellow astronaut, who remained on Earth. A second source of space radiation comes from unpredictable solar particle events that deliver high doses of radiation in a short period of time, leading to ‘radiation sickness’ unless protective measures are taken.

28 May 2019: RR Trent 1000-Suffering Air New Zealand Orders GEnx

Air New Zealand operation has been disrupted by performance of the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000, and has ordered the competing GEnx1-B to power its latest order for eight Boeing 787-10s. The aircraft will replace eight 777-200s powered by Trent 800 engines, and will supplement the flag carrier’s existing fleet of 13 787-9s, which use the Trent 1000. Air New Zealand was one of many international carriers forced to ground aircraft over Trent 1000 problems, which are estimated to have cost it about $25 million so far. The airline might have hoped that engine issues were behind it as it began to take delivery of the new Trent 1000 TEN, a model that shares only 25% parts commonality with earlier builds, and was supposed to mark a clean break with mistakes of the past. However, in April this year Rolls-Royce announced an accelerated inspection program for high-pressure turbine (HPT) blades on the TEN, following an earlier communication to airlines that the engine’s HPT blades would not last as long as advertised. Air New Zealand’s order for eight GEnx-powered 787-10s comes with 12 options and the right to swap orders for the maller 787-9. First deliveries from the new order are scheduled for 2022.

27 May 2019: Special Conditions for 777-9 Fuel Tank by FAA

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), leveraging similar requirements issued more than a decade ago for the Boeing 787, has issued special conditions that Boeing must follow to demonstrate the 777-9’s composite fuel tanks durability. Thus, Boeing must follow to demonstrate the composite fuel tanks withstand tire debris impact. The requirements dictate that "tire-debris impact to any fuel tank or fuel-system component, located within 30 deg. to either side of wheel rotational planes, may not result in penetration or otherwise induce fuel-tank deformation, rupture (e.g., through propagation of pressure waves), or cracking sufficient to allow a hazardous fuel leak.”
According to FAA thetesting must be done using a tire debris fragment size that is 1% of the tire mass, and the fragment load must be "distributed over an area on the fuel tank surface equal to 1.5% of the total tire tread area.” The results must also demonstrate that fuel leaks within the defined debris-impact area triggered by larger debris pieces will not lead to “hazardous quantities of fuel” entering the engine inlet, auxiliary power unit inlet or cabin-air inlet.

23 May 2019: SpaceX launches 60 Starlink satellites to begin a constellation buildout

SpaceX launched the first 60 satellites for an internet constellation that could ultimately number 12,000 on a Falcon 9 rocket.  It took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 10:30 p.m. Eastern, and deployed the satellites into a low Earth orbit a little over an hour later. The 60 satellites mark the beginning of SpaceX’s deployment of a global internet mega constellation intended to generate more revenue to fuel the company’s interplanetary ambitions. Each Starlink satellite launched weighs roughly 227 kilograms. Collectively they are expected to deliver 1 terabit per second of usable capacity, and 2.5 to 3 terabits per second of total capacity. SpaceX landed the booster that launched the satellites 9 minutes after liftoff on the droneship “Of Course I Still Love You,” in the Atlantic Ocean. The same Falcon 9 first stage previously launched the Telstar 18 Vantage satellite to geostationary orbit in September 2018, and 10 Iridium Next satellites to low Earth orbit this January. The satellites are deployed collectively from the upper stage, allowing the satellites to drift off using their own inertia instead of springs or another conventional deployment mechanism. The satellites collectively weighed 13.6 metric tons, making this launch the heaviest mission for SpaceX to date. The launch deployed the Starlink satellites into a 440-kilometer orbit. From there, the spacecraft will use Krypton-fuelled electric propulsion thrusters to reach their target operational altitude of 550 kilometres.

22 May 2019: American Airlines Sues Mechanic Unions Over Alleged Mechanic Slowdown

American Airlines is suing the unions representing most of its mechanics, alleging that union officers and members have engaged in a deliberate work slowdown to gain leverage during ongoing contract negotiations. The lawsuit filed May 21 against the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) alleges the slowdown has caused 644 flight cancellations and more than 270 maintenance delays of two hours or more between February 4 and May 13. Lawyers for American wrote in their complaint that mechanics have escalated their campaign in recent weeks, resulting in a “dramatic increase” in outstanding maintenance write-ups and contributing to a sharp rise in the number of out-of-service aircraft for the Dallas/Fort Worth-based carrier. They said the odds of this slowdown being random – as opposed to the result of a concerted campaign – are “less than one-in-one billion,” adding that mechanics are “refusing en masse” to work overtime or take maintenance field trips to repair aircraft. The company said it has never had an issue staffing overtime or field trips before, given the high pay rates associated with those activities. However, since the unions began their alleged campaign, American reports there have been periods with no overtime shifts worked at its hub in Phoenix, and there have “regularly been weeks with a 100% field trip refusal rate” at its hubs in Charlotte, Phoenix and Philadelphia.The carrier also alleged that union leadership has directly orchestrated the slowdown in a top-down fashion, going as far as threatening and intimidating employees who have accepted overtime and field trips, stating they expect “100% participation” and warning that workers who fail to comply are “going on the list.”

5 May 2019: Aeroflot Superjet 100 (RA-89098) flight SU1492 Crashed in Moscow

A Superjet 100 airplane, operated by Aeroflot, flight SU1492 took off from Moscow Sheremetyevo airport (SVO/UUEE) runway 24C at 18:04L (15:04Z) . The crew stopped the climb at about FL100 and declared initially loss of radio communication. Later the crew declared emergency via transponder codes and returned to Sheremetyevo for an emergency landing. According to radar tracks, the first approach was discontinued, the airplane made a 360° and approached Sheremetyevo runway for landing on Runway 24C Weather at time of landing was not a factor for the landing, although not confirmed info says that a lightning strike might be involved in the accident : According to CCTV cameras, the airplane bounced on the runway during landing and when it hit the runway again, caught fire. During the deceleration, Superjet 100 burst into flames, it made a 180° and stopped his landing roll out of the runway, on an intersection.  The airplane veered to the left off the runway and came to a stop on the grass adjacent to the runway, after making a 180°. While the aircraft burned down, an evacuation started from the L1 and R1 doors via emergency slides. Although the post accident rescue is still ongoing , 41 people are confirmed dead, including 2 children : it is not known at the moment how many passengers vs crew died in the accident.

1 May 2019: B737 MAX MCAS Met Boeing's Certification Criteria

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg insists that the grounded aircraft was designed and certified to the company's standards, safety analysis criteria and certification criteria. The aircraft's manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) operation during the October 29, 2018 Lion Air Flight 610 accident and March 10, 2019 Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accidents is a focus of both investigations. In each case, a single source of faulty angle-of-attack (AOA) data activated the flight-control law, which provides nose-down inputs in certain flight profiles. In both accidents, the pilots needed the aircraft to climb, but MCAS, triggered by AOA data that said the aircraft's nose was too high, pushed the nose down by moving the horizontal stabilizer. Neither crew was able to override MCAS and maintain altitude, and both aircraft eventually dove to impact, killing all 346 people onboard of both flights. Boeing's safety analysis determined an MCAS failure would be recognised as runaway stabilizer, and the applicable checklist, which includes a step for de-powering the automatic stabilizer trim motor, would be followed. But neither the Lion Air nor Ethiopian crews followed the checklist step-by-step. The Ethiopian crew followed some of the steps, including de-powering automatic trim, but then re-activated it. MCAS's inclusion in the MAX flight control logic was not communicated to pilots until after the Lion Air accident. Boeing assumed the system would stay in the background, and its failure would be quickly recognized as a runaway stabilizer, leading pilots to de-activate the system. However, the two accident sequences suggest this assumption was wrong.

30 April 2019: International Space Station Electrical Issue Delays SpaceX Launch

The planned May 1 launch of a SpaceX cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed due to troubleshoot a problem with the station’s electrical system. The problem poses no immediate concerns to the station or its six-member crew, involves a main bus switching unit (MBSU), which distributes electrical power to two of the station’s eight channels. Electrical power generated by the station’s solar arrays is fed to all station systems through these power channels. One of these units has failed in a manner that cannot be recovered, so it effectively loses one-quarter of the power to space station. It is possible to move loads around and keep payloads operating, but to lose redundancy. Among the systems now lacking backup power are the station’s robot arm and mobile base, which is needed to capture SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship and berth it to docking port. Launch has been tentatively rescheduled for May 3, pending a successful robotic change-out of the failed MBSU, on the May 2. In the past the ISS had two failures of this particular box, one of which was repaired on orbit. This one looks like it’s probably not repairable on orbit as it is lifetime issue.

29 April 2019: Boeing Cost of 737 Max Groundings 1 billion in the First Quarter

The grounding of the 737 Max and Boeing’s subsequent reduction in 737 production from 52 to 42 aircraft per month cost them about $1 billion in the first quarter. Much of that additional cost was due to Boeing’s decision to maintain headcount on the production line and not reduce its orders from certain suppliers. This means that it has the costs of 52 aircraft per month but not the income; Boeing delivered 50 fewer 737s in the first quarter than in the same period in 2018. Storing momentum on the 737 line is seen as crucial to a later recovery. Boeing is unwilling to adjust its 2019 guidance until there is more certainty about when the Max returns to service, but a key part of that recovery will be how quickly it can get aircraft out the door and how quickly customers can accept them. The length of the grounding itself is also crucial and Boeing is trying to synchronise its recertification efforts with different regulatory authorities to ensure as smooth a return to service as possible.

25 April 2019: U.S. Marine Corps Deploying F-35 with 44% Incompatible Spare Parts

The U.S. government watchdog agency report reveals that roughly 44% of spare parts for the Marine Corps deployed F-35s aboard the Wasp (LHD-1) and Essex (LHD-2) were incompatible relative to total parts in the packages. Examples of incompatible parts include pilot harnesses, masks, breathing hoses, batteries, electrical equipment, antennas, multiple types of valves and panel assemblies. The operator had to alter their plans and deploy older aircraft with less advanced capabilities that matched the parts package instead of the jets that best met their operational requirement. Also, Air Force and Marine Corps officials also said ”the quantity of parts within their parts packages were not fully reflective of the actual demands for certain parts, based on updated information about the reliability of certain parts and how frequently they needed to be replaced.” For example, Marine Corps officials said they were able to identify more than one dozen different parts in one of the afloat spare packages before deployment. The service was provided insufficient quantities because the F-35 joint program office did not account for actual fleet demand in its modelling for the afloat spare package. The F-35 program does not have a process in place for changing out the parts within the afloat and deployment spares packages that are put on contract years before a deployment. Such a process is needed to ensure that the packages reflect the actual configuration of the deploying aircraft or updated demand projections for parts.

23 April 2019: The development of robots for service and repair of U.S. spacecraft more than 22,000 miles above the Earth.

More than 400 U.S. military, government and commercial satellites are circling the globe in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO), a celestial path about 22,000 miles above the ground. These high-altitude satellites are ideal for telecommunications, meteorology and certain military applications, but when they break down, it’s nearly impossible to fix something far out in the cosmos. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) believes space-based robots offer the best step forward for inspecting and repairing high-altitude satellites, especially with the number of satellites set to skyrocket due to a budding Space Force and federal agencies and industry ramping up operations in outer space. Thus, DARPA is planning to partner with teams to build both robots that can maintain and upgrade satellites, as well as the spacecraft to move the bots through space. Once deployed, the tech would periodically check in on different satellites and service them as needed. Because today’s high-altitude satellites are so difficult to repair, they’re often built with numerous backup systems to take over when something malfunctions, which adds weight, cost and complexity. Thus, if robots could perform repairs, satellites would likely become both cheaper and more reliable in the near future.

15 April 2019: Rolls-Royce Reveals Blade Problems in Newest Engine

Durability problems have been affecting a series of Trent 1000 engines for many years. Its newest iteration, the Trent 1000 TEN, was supposed to mark a clean break with mistakes of the past. However, that is no the case, as Rolls-Royce has just announced an accelerated inspection program for high-pressure turbine (HPT) blades on the TEN. It follows an earlier communication to airlines that their HPT blades would not last as long as advertised. This blade deterioration is a known issue to RR but it is occurring faster than they expected in some engines. Rolls-Royce is now testing an enhanced blade that should resolve the issues, although that will not be available to airlines until early 2020. The Trent 1000 TEN engine has been in service since November 2017, and there are currently more than 180 of the engine type in service. According to RR the tests of TEN engines operating at high flight frequencies revealed that “a small number of these engines have needed to have their HPT blades replaced earlier than scheduled”. As part of the accelerated inspection program, an airworthiness directive will be issued by EASA in addition to a Rolls-Royce service bulletin. RR stated that he new inspection regime will not affect its ongoing maintenance programs for the Trent 1000 Package B or Package C engines.

12 April 2019: Rocket breakup provides rare chance to test debris behaviour

The discarded ‘upper stage’ of Atlas V Centaur, nearly cylindrical object, 12.5 metres in length and three metres in diameter, with a mass of more than two tonnes, launched in September 2009 has recently crumbled to pieces, leaving a trail of debris in its wake. Fragmentation events like this one, either break ups or collisions, are the primary source of debris objects in space in the range of a few millimetres to tens of centimetres in size. Travelling at high speeds, these bits of technological trash pose a threat to crucial space infrastructure, such as satellites providing weather and navigation services, and even astronauts on the ISS. The Deimos Sky Survey in Spain captured the stream of newly-made debris objects as they rush across the sky. The remnant piece is clearly visible as the largest and brightest point at the centre of about 40-60 smaller pieces, many larger than 30 cm in size. Given the international code 2009-047B, this rocket remnant had been flying in an eccentric orbit around the Earth  flung as far as 34 700 km from Earth at the most distant point in its orbit and just 6675 km at the closest. For an as-yet-unknown reason, the rocket body fragmented some time between 23 to 25 March.

9 April 2019: Boeing Experiencing Foreign Object Debris Problems with KC-46A

The U.S. Air Force acquisition service put a hold on KC-46 acceptance in late February after a Foreign Object Debris (FOD) were found in unsealed areas of the tanker. This hold has been lifted on 11 March when they approved Boeing’s corrective action plan. However, the service halted delivery of the KC-46A Pegasus a second time on March 23 after additional FOD was discovered on the brand-new tankers at Boeing’s Everett, Washington, facility.  Consequently, both Boeing and the Defence Contract Management Agency opened up every sealed area on every aircraft and approved that corrective action plan before the acceptances are resumed. The Boeing company has implemented additional training, more rigorous cleaning practices and FOD awareness days to stress the urgency of the problem.

26 March 2019 Contained Failure of Southwest B737 MAX 8 Leap Engine

About 10 min. after takeoff, the Southwest Flight 8701, that has being ferried B737 MAX 8, to storage from Orlando International Airport to Victorville, Calif., the no. 2 engine experienced a contained failure. The two-person crew returned to Orlando and landed safely. Within hours of the failure, the company analysed the engine's operating history, not just hours and cycles, but detailed performance data, and compared it against data from each of the other 1,560 Leaps engines in service. The engine-maker has targeted a specific subset of Leap-1A engines that power Airbus A320neos and -1B engines found on 737 MAXs based on operational data and recommended that operators inspect the affected powerplants. The issue: carbon build up, or deposits of evaporated fuel and other material, on fuel nozzles that lead to uneven temperature flow regions within the combustion chamber exit plane and hot spots within the high-pressure turbine (HPT). These hot spots can cause premature wear. In the case of the Southwest engine, the wear led to a turbine blade failure. Metallic fragments were found in the tailpipe. CFM is working to understand not only why the Southwest engine failed, but also what is behind the carbon build-up on the fuel nozzles, of which each Leap-1B has 18. Manufacturer continually monitors the fleet and has a method to detect carbon build-up, enabling CFM and their customers to proactively manage the issue. In the case of the engine on Flight 8701, the evidence shown that CFM monitoring analytics and maintenance process needed to be adjusted for our Leap engines. This adjustment has been made and the fleet was assessed within hours, with follow-on actions completed within days. Southwest inspected 12 engines, which has been identified within their fleet and handed that information over to CFM for review.

21 March 2019: Grounded B737 MAX Stretches U.S. Airlines To Cover Routes

Regulators around the world banned 737 MAX operations in the days following the Mar. 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 near Addis Ababa. Southwest Airlines is the carrier facing the largest challenge, as it has the most MAXs, 34, of any U.S., operator, and also the highest percentage of fleet exposure, at 4.5% of its 750-aircraft fleet. The Dallas-based carrier is back-filling around 200 daily departures that its MAX flew prior to FAA’s Mar. 13 order banning the model’s operation indefinitely. The airline, which is adding MAXs for growth and to replace older 737-700s, has been cancelling about 150 flights per day and shuffling the remainder of its fleet to operate the rest. It is modifying its schedule daily, and attempting to give customers at least five days’ notice when flights are cancelled. American Airlines operated 85 departures per day with its 24 MAX 8s. “Our operations centre is working to reroute aircraft throughout the system to cover as much of our schedule as we can. United Airlines operated about 40 daily departures with its 12 MAX 9s. “Through a combination of spare aircraft and rebooking customers, we do not anticipate a significant operational impact.” Public concern over the MAX groundings is affecting carriers that don’t operate the type. “We’ve received many inquiries about the 737-MAX 8 and 737-MAX 9 aircraft,” a note on the Alaska Airlines Fleet web page says. “Alaska Airlines does not currently have these aircraft in our fleet.”

13 March 2019: Citing New Data And Physical Evidence USA Grounds B737MAXs

Three days of groundings by regulators across the world, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), relying on refined satellite tracking data and new physical evidence that more closely links two crashes of Boeing 737 MAX 8s, grounded Boeing's newest narrowbody, with immediate effect. The move ends three days of cascading groundings after the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 (ET302) accident, and leaves the world's MAX fleet grounded. The FAA is the safety authority for emergency airworthiness directives and orders found some similarities between the ET302 and [October 2018 Lion Air Flight TJ610] accidents that warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed. In a statement, Boeing said it has full confidence in the MAX, but concurred with the FAA decision.

10 March 2019: Ethiopian B737 Max Crashed After Takeoff

The Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-8 Max that crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa operating as flight ET302 to Nairobi, departed Bole International Airport at 08.38 a.m. local time with 149 passengers and eight crew members onboard. Radar contact was lost at 08.44 a.m. In mean time the crew issued a distress call and requested a return to Addis Ababa shortly before contact was lost. Flightradar24 data indicates the aircraft operated what appears to be a routine climb and acceleration for the first minute of its flight. The aircraft then levelled off at around 8,150 ft. before descending slightly reaching a speed of close to 400 knots. Flightradar24 reports significant variation in vertical speed, although that data may be unreliable. The aircraft, ET-AVJ, arrived in Addis Ababa from Johannesburg at about 05:30am March 10 after completing a routine scheduled flight, its third five-hour segment between the two cities within 24 hours. According to the airline the aircraft's records show no "technical remarks" following the last Johannesburg-Addis Ababa leg, and nothing was noted during its roughly three hours on the ground before its final departure. The brand new acquired aircraft had its first “rigorous” maintenance check on Feb. 4.  Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebre Mariam said "From the records that we have, it was a clean airplane "The routine maintenance checks didn't reveal any problems. I confirmed that it was a clean airplane." Flight ET302's captain,  had “more than” 8,000 flight hours, and became a 737 captain in November 2017.  He joined Ethiopian in July 2010.  First officer 200 fight hours, the airline said. The aircraft involved was the airline's fourth 737-8 and was handed over on Nov. 15, 2018. The aircraft has been in service since Nov. 17, when it made its first revenue flight to Dubai. Flight ET302 was its first planned March 10 departure. The accident is the second of a 737-8 in just over four months. The first 737-8 accident took place on Oct. 29, 2018 near Jakarta, Indonesia. The aircraft, registered PK-LQP, had been delivered to Lion Air two months before the crash. All 189 people on board were killed when the aircraft impacted with the sea around 13 minutes after take-off. The Lion Air aircraft had a history of unreliable speed data input over the previous days but was retained in scheduled service after it had been cleared for operations by the airline’s maintenance division. The investigation is ongoing. One of the aspects being looked at is the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) Boeing introduced on the MAX.

8 March 2019: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Departs ISS and returns to Earth

The spacecraft launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida March 2, docking with the station 27 hours later after a problem-free approach. The station’s crew spent several days monitoring the spacecraft while docked to the station before closing hatches between the station and spacecraft March 7. Fifty years after humans landed on the moon for the first time, America has driven a golden spike on the trail to new space exploration feats, NASA astronaut Anne McClain said from the ISS “It won’t be long before our astronaut colleagues are aboard Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner vehicles, and we can’t wait.” SpaceX’s Crew Dragon departed from the International Space Station early March 8, splashing down to mark the end of a successful test flight for the commercial crew program. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, flying a mission designated Demo-1, undocked from the station’s Harmony module at 2:32 a.m. Eastern. It quickly moved away from the station as in preparation for its return to Earth. The spacecraft fired its thrusters at 7:53 a.m. Eastern for a 15-minute re-entry burn, which went as planned, with the spacecraft first deploying two drogue parachutes followed by its four main ones. The spacecraft splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean at 8:45 a.m. Eastern within sight of SpaceX recovery ships.

6 March 2019: Grounded Aircraft Costing Southwest Airlines Millions Weekly

Southwest Airlines is loosing millions of dollars each week caused by schedule interruptions due to unavailable aircraft.  CEO Gary Kelly said at a J.P. Morgan investors conference, “ The damage to the company runs in the millions of dollars weekly in lost revenue due to cancelled flights and millions of dollars weekly in terms of additional costs caused by delays and cancellations." The schedule interruptions started at te beginning of February when Southwest's daily out-of-service aircraft count jumped from its normal range of 15-20 to more than 60. The airline management blames on deliberate efforts by its mechanics to disrupt the carrier. The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association-represented mechanics say un-airworthy aircraft are the problem. The two sides are locked in contentious contract talks. The unavailable aircraft are forcing Southwest to cancel hundreds and delay thousands of flights each week. It operates about 4,000 departures on its peak days. It has said its schedule can absorb about 35 downed aircraft in a day before cancellations and delays kick in.

5 March 2019: Donecle Drones For Aircraft Inspections

Toulouse-based company’s interest in drones for aircraft inspections and tests began several years ago, but getting the technology and all the surrounding procedures exactly right has taken time. Donecle drones are designed to primarily be used for general visual inspections of aircraft exteriors, typically conducted inside maintenance hangars during routine A to C checks or overnight inspections. They wish to expand this scope to unscheduled maintenance tasks such as post-lightning and hail damage inspections done outside hangars on the ramp. Donecle sees three main advantages to his approach, namely 1. The speed, a drone inspection of a typical narrow-body takes under an hour, compared with five to six hours for a manual inspection. Also, a drone can cover multiple applications, like paint inspections and regulatory marking checks, with a single set of images instead of multiple job cards and inspectors as with manual methods. 2. Drones can access aircraft upper surfaces for visual checks easily, without docks, cherry-pickers and other equipment to inspect fuselage crowns or tail planes. Drones reduce inspector workload by automating image analysis, and inspectors can automatically detect, annotate and reposition damages and missing on inspection reports. 3. Drone inspections yield a complete snapshot of the aircraft at a specific moment in time, upload snapshot and data to the cloud and thus enable operators, lessor and MROs to archive results from one inspection to another..As drones must be stable enough to yield precise images, Donecle developed laser positioning with onboard sensors ‘seeing’ the environment and positioning the drone relative to the aircraft with accuracy down to centimetres. This in turn yields several benefits: full drone automation with no separate pilot; highly repeatable inspections; and precisely positioned images. Regarding safety, Donecle builds in hardware redundancy, software fail-safes and obstacle detection. In summary Donecle offers an integrated package combining drone, automated navigation, image analysis and aggregated data on a secure cloud platform.

3 March 2019: SpaceX Capsule with Dummy Aboard Reaches ISS For Test Run

SpaceX, designed, built, owned and operated new vehicle, Dragon 2, with financial backing, technical expertise and oversight provided by NASA. It was launched without crew for a six-day orbital flight test at 2:49 a.m. EST on March 2 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. It approach the orbiting International Space Station (ISS)  nearly 260 miles above the Pacific Ocean and, flying autonomously, linked up on its own, without the help of the robotic arm normally used to guide spacecraft into position. The first in a series of next-generation spacecraft docked to the ISS is a key milestone in NASA’s eight-year quest to restore U.S. human transportation services to low Earth orbit

2 March 2019: 50th Anniversary of the first flight of Concorde

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the Anglo-French Concorde, the world’s first and, so far only, supersonic civil airliner to see prolonged service.
Sunday, March 2, 1969 was an emotional day for thousands of people who had contributed to the most ambitious technological project in Europe's aviation history. The flight had had to be postponed the previous day because of heavy mist. As soon as the Sun came out loudspeakers informed the waiting crowd that Concorde's crew were aboard and pre-flight checks in progress. One by one, the four Olympus engines came to life. Fire tenders and rescue vehicles moved into position. Special trucks, fitted with raucous klaxons, raced up and down the runway, scaring away great flocks of birds. The engines rumbled on and then came a crescendo of sound, and, brakes released. The white aircraft on its tall undercarriage started to move along the runway, slowly at first but gathering speed and the nose lifted followed by the rest of the slender fuselage. She climbed into the blue sky, followed by her attendant Mirage.. She dwindled to a white spot and then was gone. After a while, she came into view and for the first time, the world has seen her characteristic "sea-bird" swoop in to land. A puff of smoke confirmed that the main bogies were in contact with the runway, the nose-wheel came down, reverse thrust was engaged and the tail parachute broke from its housing to balloon out behind the aircraft. Concorde 001 taxied to a halt in front of the airport building and passenger stairs were run into position. It was a short flight, only 40 minutes, but it gave Andre Turcat and his crew a foretaste of what flying a Concorde would be like. The rest is very rich and globally memorable history that finished with very last flight to Filton, Bristol, England in November 2006.

1 March 2019: Rolls-Royce Resolving Trent 1000 Issues

Currently 31 Boeing 787 aircraft are on the ground at airports around the world, as rolls-Royce is undertaking an extensive retrofit program for both the Trent 1000 Package C and B engines for the 787-8 and -9 and the Trent 1000TEN powering the 787-10. The issues have forced airlines to readjust their timetables or bring in additional capacity to maintain their flight schedules. The Trent 1000 situation was very unusual in having multiple issues in one engine. The episode looks set to cost the company at least £1.5 billion between 2017 and 2022, with £431 million spent in 2018 and £450 million envisaged during 2019. RR is hopeful that the number of Trent 1000-powered Boeing 787s could drop to single figures by the end of 2019.

27 February 2019: Lost Missions of F-35 due to Bad Data in Logistics System

The Lockheed Martin-made Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) was “designed to bring efficiency to maintenance and flight operations, but it does not yet perform as intended,” according to the director of operational test and evaluation. In effect, these problems cause the military to ground aircraft that are erroneously described as not mission capable, slow down a squadron’s ability to start flying after being deployed, and create a bigger workload for maintainers. The main deficiencies fall under three categories: 1. A a high number of workarounds needed to use the ALIS system to do mission planning, repairs and supply chain management for the F-35. Functions that should be automatic often require manual input by the maintainer, 2. the data provided by ALIS is often incomplete or flat-out incorrect. The reasons for this are varied —contractors do not rely on the system for their own use, and thus do not always input information correctly or in a standardized way. Even the system’s own manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, did not start using ALIS on the F-35′s production floor to track new aircraft until March 2018 and 3. A poor user experience regarding fixings of a more complicated datasets, such as the technical information that follows a complex piece of machinery like the F-35’s ejection seat, eats up a lot of time. But more importantly, these problems result in missed sorties, with the Air Force naming this problem one of its top five drivers of non-mission capable rates.

22 February 2019: Deviations from Standard Operation Procedure Caused Damage to Embraer Business Jet

A chartered, Belgium-registered, Embraer EMB-500 departed from Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport (EBKT), Belgium, at 0738 hr. on an IFR flight plan to Berlin-Schonefeld Airport (EDDB) with three people on board: the pilot in command (PIC), the co-pilot and one passenger. The aircraft was severely damaged when it stalled during the flare phase of a final approach to Runway 07L at EDDB, impacted the ground and came to a stop at the right edge of the runway. The two pilots and the passenger were uninjured, but the accident brought attention EMB-500’s deice system and pilot training. The causes of the accident, according to German air safety investigators, were , “The crew conducted the approach under known icing conditions and did not activate the wing and horizontal stabilizer deice system, which was contrary to the Standard Operating Procedures . The aircraft entered an abnormal flight attitude during the flare phase and crashed die to ice accretion on wings and horizontal stabilizer and infringement of the required approach speed.” A major contributing factor was the crew’s “insufficient knowledge of the connection between the ice protection system and the stall warning protection system (SWPS).” The pilots stated later that the left wing had suddenly dropped and touched the runway during the flare as the aircraft crossed the threshold. Subsequently, the airplane rolled right, the right main landing gear hit hard and collapsed, and the aircraft slid along the runway toward the right runway edge where it came to a stop 447 meters from the threshold beyond the right runway edge marking but still on the asphalt area. There was no fire. The occupants evacuated safely without injury, but the aircraft was substantially damaged.

20 February 2019: Robot to Test Cockpit Controls by Lufthansa Technik

Lufthansa Technik (LHT) has developed a robotic procedure for more consistent, reliable testing of cockpit controls. According to LHT, the fully-automated procedure named RoCCET (Robot Controlled Cockpit Electronics Testing). It is expected that it could greatly reduce the time it takes employees to manually check cockpit switches and LEDs. The robot features integrated sensors to measure the forces that occur when switches are activated, and it is equipped with several industrial cameras to look for damage and measure brightness from various angles. RoCCET can be used to test for a variety of conditions, such as worn out instrument switches or LED lights that may be too dark for flight operations. According to LHT, human perception of these factors can differ, so robotic testing can make the procedure more consistent and reliable. When completed, the fully automated procedure will allow LHT to ease the burden on maintainers in the workshops and reduce the testing effort by one to two hours per component. At the same time, the new procedure provides concrete measurement data in accordance with uniform standards. Currently, LTH has physical threshold values for the brightness of LEDs, but in the future a robot will determine exactly when an LED has to be replaced. RoCCET is currently in the integration phase and will initially be used for cockpit controls on Boeing 787 and Airbus A320 and A350 aircraft..

18 February 2019: New Ear Cup For US Air Force Pilot Helmets To Help Counter Hypoxia

As part of an expanding effort to prevent hypoxia and other related dangers in military aircraft cockpits a device invented in 2016 to help protect fire-fighters from asphyxia is about to be planted in the ear cups of helmets worn by some U.S. Air Force pilots . A real-time picture of a pilot’s physiological status is the last piece of missing data needed to develop a comprehensive solution to the rash of hypoxia-like symptoms that has plagued multiple combat and trainer aircraft fleets for nearly a decade. The Air Force and Navy have instrumented all of the other aircraft components that pressurize the cockpit and supply breathing gas to pilots, including the engine, onboard oxygen gas-generating system and environmental control system. The data gleaned from those instruments already have led to critical improvements, such as straightening a 90-deg. pipe in Navy T-6 cockpits that choked the oxygen supply during certain manoeuvres with the engine at idle speed. However, Air Force and Navy officials hope to move beyond simple mechanical fixes. They envision a future life-support system that processes data extracted from sensors monitoring both the aircraft’s systems and the human’s physiology to make subtle adjustments, ensuring the pilot always remains alert even if a particular mechanical component is not working properly. The ultimate goal is to have an almost autonomous life-support system.  Such an autonomous system would use software decision-making algorithms informed by scores of sensors monitoring the machines and humans, including some woven into the pilot’s garments. These kinds of sensors would be talking to the jet and either warning the pilot in real time or increasing their oxygen supply. 

31 January 2019: Original F-35Bs May Only Be Able To Fly Around A Quarter Of Their Expected Service Life

The Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) reported the new details about the life expectancy of early block F-35Bs, which may be as low as 2,100 flight hours, after acquiring the most recent annual review of the program. This office publicly releases reports every year on how various significant military programs are proceeding in testing, often compiling data together with information from previous years.  A new Pentagon report is warning that the U.S. Marine Corps' oldest F-35B Joint Strike Fighters may remain airworthy for just over a quarter of the aircraft's expected lifespan due to serious structural problems. This could force the service to begin grounding jets, or retiring them permanently, as early as 2026. It also remains unclear whether subsequent improvements to the aircraft's design on later models have significantly increased the durability of later production aircraft. The appalling low durability of early F-35Bs is also something that DOT&E reports have highlighted in the past, but this is the first time there has been any concrete information on how bad the problem actually is. All three F-35 models are supposed to have a life expectancy of 8,000 flight hours. This can only reignite concerns about the F-35B's basic design going back more than a decade now. In 2004, Lockheed Martin tasked a group of engineers, known as STOVL (Short Take Off/Vertical Landing) Weight Attack Team, or SWAT, with shaving pounds off the B model. This variant is still heavier than the F-35A due to the added weight of the lift fan, articulating exhaust, and other features necessary for its short- and vertical takeoff and landing capabilities. Those same features also reduce the size of its internal weapons bays compared to its cousins and give it a lower G rating compared to the A model. Lockheed Martin's SWAT cut 2,700 pounds off the F-35B. The changes they made also resulted in 1,300 pounds of weight savings on both the F-35A and C models as part of the herculean effort that effectively saved the Joint Strike Fighter program. Since then, critics had questioned exactly what had to get sacrificed to meet those goals as reports of cracking and other component failures have emerged with the B variant in particular.

31 January 2018: Parts Providers Step Up 777 Teardowns

The Boeing 777 maintenance market will be worth north of $110 billion over the next 10 years, with about a quarter of that spend earmarked for components, according to Aviation Week data. Accordingly, several parts suppliers are stepping up efforts to source 777 material, buying aircraft from carriers that are upgrading their fleets. For example GA Telesis has bought four 777s from Cathay Pacific for disassembly in the US and UK. The first disassembly has already begun and the aftermarket company has committed to take a further five 777s in 2020. It is forecasted that a quarter of 777 of the components salvaged over the next 10 years will be bound for Asia.  At the same time, the Middle East carriers will operate the largest number of 777s by 2027, when it will be home to roughly 800 of the nearly 2,000 777s in service by that year, according to Aviation Week data. However, across all regions engine maintenance will be the most important part of the 777 aftermarket, generating more than a third of overall demand. GE, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney all have engines flying on the 777.

30 January 2019: Shutdown of USA Government Offices Could Mean Lost Accident Evidence Says NTSB 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says that the month-long government shutdown prevented from investigating 97 accidents, including 15 aviation accidents that resulted in 21 deaths. Following a temporary opening of the government employees returned to work and are developing plans to address the work halted by the shutdown. During the partial shutdown, 397 agency staff, including 367 employees, were furloughed. Six investigators were recalled and worked without pay to support investigations of three international aviation accidents. Weeks after accidents took place; investigators may not be able to physically visit the crash sites. Consequently, it is possible that perishable evidence may have been lost, which potentially could prevent determination of probable causes.  The furlough also stopped work on 1,815 ongoing general aviation and limited aviation safety investigations, 33 ongoing rail, pipeline and hazardous materials investigations, 44 ongoing marine investigations and 21 ongoing highway investigations.

29 January 2019: Avianca Moves Toward Drone Inspections

Colombia’s Avianca is planning to use Donecle drone and cameras to do some aircraft maintenance inspections. At present, the drone approach has not been approved for by any airframe OEM or regulatory authority for inspections. However, airlines are reviewing the state of art and waiting for the approval of different authorities and aircraft manufacturers. Avianca chose the drone approach in order to save time in inspections and improve inspection quality by being more precise about the location and evaluation of damages. It is expected that inspection by drones should also reduce maintenance costs and facilitate the execution of inspection task cards. Avianca is, like other airlines, undergoing a digital transformation and adopting new technologies. At this moment, he is working with Airbus and Donecle and testing their equipment. Donecle drones are 100% autonomous and require only a single operator, with no pilot. The company estimates that Donecle drones can reduce inspection time from eight hours to 30 minutes. Currently, these are the safest drones on the market with strong protections to prevent damage to aircraft. Laser technology positions the drone precisely, both inside maintenance hangars and outdoors, without any GPS. The Donecle drones are untethered and connected via wireless. Avianca’s next steps, along with getting those OEM and regulatory approvals, are completing the integration of the entire system as a line map, including the structural repair manual for mechanics, the 3D scanner and the drone.

28 January 2019: The Science Behind Calm Emergency Evacuation, Saf-Tglo Blu

A lot of research and science lie behind those luminescent strips passengers now see in many aircraft, aisles, but would only use in an emergency. British company STG Aerospace launched the first blue-glowing photo-luminescent floor-path marking system, saf-Tglo blu. The design was based on human-perception analysis, as in low-level light conditions, our eyes use the more sensitive rod cones in order to see. Rod cones have peak sensitivity in the blue-green region of the visible spectrum. While traditional green-glowing photo-luminescent products fall comfortably within the low-light vision]range, saf-Tglo blu has greater intensity within this responsive region. Thus, it provides a more calming, professional and aesthetically pleasing safety solution. Calming passengres is exactly the quality airlines want in the only circumstance floor markings are used, that is in emergency evacuations. The blue version of saf-Tglo has now been approved by FAA and EASA for the majority of Boeing, Airbus and Embraer aircraft, and has been retrofitted by several major airlines.  Source; www.stgaerospace.com

3 January 2019: China lifts mysterious veil by landing probe on far side of the moon

A Chinese space probe successfully touched down on the far side of the moon.  The Chang’e-4 lunar probe, launched in December, made the “soft landing” at 0226 GMT and transmitted the first-ever “close range” image of that side of the moon.  As the  moon is tidally locked to Earth, rotating at the same rate as it orbits our planet, the far side  (“dark side”) is never visible  from the earth.  Russian spacecraft have seen the far side, but none has landed on it. This landing opened a new chapter in human lunar exploration, the agency said in a statement on its website, which included a wide-angle colour picture of a crater from the moon’s surface. The probe, which has a lander and a rover, touched down at a targeted area close to the moon’s south pole in the Von Karman Crater, after entering the moon’s orbit in mid-December.  The tasks of the Chang’e-4 include astronomical observation, surveying the moon’s terrain, landform and mineral makeup, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment of its far side. The control center in Beijing will decide when to let the rover separate from the lander.

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