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

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12 December 2019: Secret Life above Thunderstorms Uncovered

Terrestrial gamma-ray flashes are high-energy discharges of photons that propagate out into space. Scientists knew they existed because they were detected by astronomy spacecraft, but  for years not so much progress was being made in understanding them, as little new information has being gathered. Pilots reported seeing shows of light in the upper atmosphere and scientists coined names such as red sprites, blue jets and elves. Now the Atmosphere–Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) is revealing details on the elusive events that occur when lightning strikes Earth and extends upward into space. Instrument on ASIM is looking down at Earth from the International Space Station and scans the globe to pinpoint where the gamma-rays are coming from, the first high-energy instrument to generate images of our planet in gamma rays. The space-borne storm-hunter on Europe’s Columbus laboratory is continuously monitoring thunderstorms as it flies 400 km overhead on the International Space Station. The ASIM team published the first image of the Earth in gamma rays ever made earlier this year and during the first ten months in operation 217 flashes have been recorded, ASIM has pinpointed their location of origin for nearly 30 flashes. As ASIM has a better detection capability for terrestrial gamma-ray flashes it is revealing more details than ever before, as well as showing where they originate. Scientists can then pool data from other spacecraft and ground-based weather stations to complete the overview. One storm near Melbourne, Australia, revealed a wealth of information as data from ground-based stations on wind speeds, temperatures, gamma-ray intensity as well as optical pictures can be compared. The space-based storm hunter has another suite of instruments that scan our world looking for optical events in the upper atmosphere such as elves, the result of electromagnetic waves from lightning strikes that expand upward and hit the ionosphere and make rings of light. The ‘MMIA’ instruments continuously take 720 pictures of our planet a minute and store the interesting blips of activity above thunderstorms for analysis. ASIM detected 15 elves that occurred over thunderstorms that also created terrestrial gamma-ray flashes. As ASIM monitors gamma rays and has optical detectors with extremely high frequency – 100 000 times per second, the two suites of instruments are revealing surprising information about the sequence of events. Almost 100 thunderstorms have been analysed where terrestrial gamma-rays occurred and it seems that gamma-ray explosions are created before lightning strikes.

12 December 2019: 3D Printing Can Keep Aging US Air Force Aircraft Flying

Until last year, 2Is (pronounced “two eyes,” it sold off the parts business and now focuses on defence-related supply chain software.) was in the military parts business, furnishing replacement bits for assorted defence equipment. Things like aircraft and submarines spend decades in service, and the companies that made them or supplied their myriad parts often disappear long before their products retire. Thus, when something needs a new part the military often turns to companies that specialise in making them anew. These organisations work from dusty two-dimensional drawings or recreate long-lost moulds, while exactly matching the standards of the original parts. Working on very small orders, sometimes for just two or three of a given item, they don’t enjoy the economies of scale that make it reasonable to spend five figures on tooling. A fussy approval process can mean waiting years to recoup an investment. That’s a problem for the Air Force, whose fleet dates largely from the Cold War. Its C-5, B-52, and KC-135 planes average 40, 56, and 57 years old, respectively. The average Air Force aircraft is 23 years old. Every quarter, the military branch sees 10,000 part requests go unfilled, despite its readiness to pay an exorbitant amount of money to replace bits and bobs that once cost pennies. 3D printing can produce many of the parts for which the Air Force finds itself desperate, from C-5 gasket handles to F-15 longerons. However, But a novel approach means novel problems. It’s still not easy to turn a two-dimensional drawing into something a 3D printer can understand. The Air Force needs new ways to prove that these parts can handle the rigors of life in the air, that they’ll be as durable and reliable as the originals. Its scientists are exploring new techniques and creating their own mixes of metals to suit their needs.

11 December 2019: Quality Control Issue Halted F-35 Deliveries to US Governement

The Pentagon (US Government) temporarily suspended deliveries of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for 15 days because the Defence Contract Management Agency (DCMA) discovered “instances” of titanium and Inconel fastener comingling.
Lockheed Martin and the U.S. government conducted engineering analyses and determined those aircraft were safe to fly and the Pentagon began accepting aircraft. The Pentagon does not have any indication this was a systemic problem, as DCMA representatives are on the production floor working alongside Lockheed Martin personnel. This is not the first time a quality control issue stopped F-35 deliveries. Corrosion was identified in several fastener holes under the fuselage panels of a F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing aircraft that was in maintenance at Hill AFB in Utah. Other previous problems included faulty insulation that disintegrated into the fifth-generation fighter’s fuel tank and an engine rubbing problem that increased the likelihood of fire.

10 December 2019: A380 Ram Air Turbine Checks Mandates by EASA

Airbus A380 operators are requested to perform repetitive inspections of ram air turbines to ensure water is not accumulating in gearbox fluids, which could freeze and prevent the back-up power-generation source from working when needed. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued a proposed airworthiness directive (PAD) Dec. 6 that would mandate the checks. The PAD is based on a Nov. 15 Airbus service bulletin. The phenomenon was discovered when Airbus received an in-service report of a ram air turbine (RAT) failing a ground-torque check "with the RAT gearbox drain hole plugged”.  The investigation performed by the RAT manufacturer (previously Hamilton Sundstrand Corporation, currently Collins Aerospace), shown a significant amount of water, oil and metallic particles were found in the gearbox. Collins issued a follow-up service bulletin calling for checks of a limited number of aircraft, which EASA mandated. Results from those checks “revealed several cases” of excess water, the agency said. "This condition, if not detected and corrected, could lead to water ingress into the gearbox, surrounding the turbine shaft gear and freezing at altitude, possibly preventing RAT operation”. Thus, Airbus followed up with the new bulletin, leading to EASA’s directive. The new instructions order repetitive checks of gearbox oil for evidence of water in the system. Findings of a “calculated water ingress rate” of 4ml or more per month will require “approved instructions” from Airbus that may include more stringent checks or modifications, EASA said. Initial inspection intervals vary based on aircraft age. A380s delivered before 2019 must be inspected within three months or 2,000 flight hours, whichever comes first. If the service bulletin was accomplished, the intervals are six months or 6,000 hours. Aircraft delivered in 2019 before the directive face intervals of three months or 2,000 flight hours, and the intervals for unbuilt aircraft will be six months or 4,000 hours. The EASA mandate would only apply to European-registered aircraft, but would likely be adopted globally. Airbus reports 238 A380s in service—all but six of them delivered before 2019. The remaining backlog is 11 aircraft, as the production of A380 would end in 2021.

6 December 2018: Boeing Knowingly Installed Faulty 737 Parts

A $4 million fine is facing Boeing for failing to ensure a supplier was delivering airworthy 737 slat tracks and then not rejecting them once the issue came to light. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) issued an airworthiness directive to ensure the defective parts were removed from in-service aircraft, the agency said. In the latter to Boeing the FAA revealed that a plating process done by Southwest United Industries (SUI) introduced weakness, or hydrogen embrittlement, in 233 sets of slat tracks made in mid-2018. SUI informed slat track manufacturer Kencoa Industries, which told Spirit AeroSystems. Spirit contacted Boeing in September 2018 and recommended the OEM accept the parts “as-is,”.  However, Boeing rejected this and told Spirit to file a “notice of escapement,” or declaration by a supplier of a problem with its products. During its work, SUI followed the wrong part-marking procedure, which meant a required protective coating was not applied. This caused some of the markings to be “partially or completely obscured,” according to the FAA. Nevertheless, the parts ended up on Boeing’s 737 production line in Renton, Washington and some were apparently installed on 133 737NGs delivered from Aug. 16, 2018, to May 2, 2019, including at least one that went to a military customer. The rest may have ended up on 737 MAXs, according to Boeing. In an alert service bulletin issued on June 4 Boeing told operators to inspect their aircraft for the defective slat tracks. The FAA mandated the checks in a June 10 directive that said the parts could be on 133 NGs and 179 MAXs. The directive did not explain why Boeing could not positively identify which aircraft had the parts. In the response to the FAA’s civil letter Boeing said that “all affected 737NGs have been inspected” and parts replaced where required. “Further, we will ensure that all inspections and any necessary part replacements are performed on all 737 MAXs before they return to service,” it added. Neither the letter nor Boeing’s statement explain how the parts got into the 737’s production system once the manufacturer realized they did not conform.

26 November 2019: Widebody MRO Averaged $1,452 Per Flight Hour In 2018

Maintenance Cost Technical Group of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which surveyed 37 airlines operating 1,666 widebodies averaging 8.8 years in age, has provided the following statistics: the latest global data indicates that the world’s airlines spent an average of $1,452 per flight hour on maintaining widebodies in 2018. This worked out to $5.7 million per aircraft for the year. Equivalent estimates for narrowbodies were $824 per flight hour and $2.5 million for the year, based on reports from 50 carriers operating 2,649 jets averaging 8.9 years of age. For regional jets, MRO costs averaged slightly less, $817 per flight hour and $2.1 million per aircraft year. RJs averaged 7.5 years old and were reported by 13 airlines. Thirteen airlines reported an average of $993 MRO spend per flight hour on turboprops averaging 7.8 years of age. To speed up reports and at the request of participating airlines, the Group hopes to automate collection of data in the future by working with MRO software providers. And the Group has almost finished a manual of best practices in warranty management, which should be completed by the end of the year. For the first time in 2018 the Group collected data on technical dispatch reliability, which it hopes to report in the future as an important element of MRO performance. It is also working on a method of incorporating aircraft operational availability into its portrait of MRO efficiency.

22 November 2019: Investigators Unable To Explain Rolls-Royce Trent Panel Failures

Investigators have not pinpointed the cause of four Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engine inlet cowling panel failures. The last incident occurred in June 2017 on a China Eastern Airlines A330-200 departing from Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport. During take-off, one of the three structural acoustic panels of the aircraft’s left engine inlet cowling, and the inboard outer skin, failed. The crew landed safely at Sydney after 42 min. Most of the failed panel and other cowling debris were ingested into the engine, leaving little physical evidence. Investigators, aided by cowling supplier Bombardier and Rolls, examined the debris. As the section of the No. 1 inlet cowling acoustic panel that likely initiated the failure sequence was not recovered, the findings were inconclusive. Rolls advised that “disbond between” the panel’s exterior layer, or facing sheet, and honeycomb core “was the most likely cause, but this is impossible to confirm with most of the panel destroyed.” Manufacturing records showed that the No. 3 panel was constructed and fitted to the cowling at about the same time as the panel that failed. Thus, it was likely that both would be a similar product in terms of materials and workmanship standards. Further, both panels would have likely been exposed to the same operating loads and environmental conditions during the inlet cowlings service life. Investigators and Rolls tested the No. 3 panel as a representative of the failed panel. No anomalies were found. Hence,  it was reasonable to conclude that the manufacturing or design process likely did not contribute to the failure. Although the reason for the local disbonding could not be established, contributing factors such as maintenance activities, ground handling and foreign object debris damage could not be discounted as a possible initiation source. The cowlings have been subjected to mandatory repetitive checks since 2011, when EASA issued an airworthiness directive (AD) based on Rolls-Royce service instructions. Rolls, acting based on information gleaned from Trent 700 panel failures in October 2006 and August 2009, recommended inspections every 24 months. The China Eastern panel had undergone a routine inspection three months before it failed. No findings were recorded. Examination of maintenance records showed that other panel repairs were made, suggesting that the inspection procedure was working, ATSB found.Following the second incident, Rolls modified the panel design, reducing the honeycomb core’s cell size, doubling its density, and increasing the bond area to the outer surfaces. The new cowls were introduced on the production line in 2014. As of August 2019, about 900 engines with the older cowlings remained in service. In May 2017, a third cowling failure occurred. Like the first two and the China Eastern incident, the cowling was a pre-modification version. Probes into the first three failures were inconclusive, but investigators suspect disbonding. Following the fourth incident, Rolls and Airbus recommended halving the inspection interval, to 12 months. EASA mandated the change in February 2019 and the FAA followed suit with its own AD on Nov. 13 2019.

19 November 2019: Space Repair of ISS Equipment Not Design to be Repaired

The International Space Station (ISS) station travels from west to east around the earth on an orbital inclination of 51.6 degrees. Each orbit takes 90-93 minutes, depending on the exact altitude of the ISS. It means that the ISS is travelling around 28,000 km/h while astronauts are performing spacewalks.  While all spacewalks are a carefully planned and detailed affair, the four spacewalks for repair of, bus-sized dark matter detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) are exceptionally difficult as this equipment was designed to never be maintained in space. The cooling pumps for AMS-02 need maintenance and without them it will no longer be able to collect data on the cosmic rays that are bombarding our planet. The first task for spacewalk designers had to answer whether this was even possible. However, the first spacewalk proved it possible and easier than expected, due to successful planning and training that began as early as 2017.  All spacewalks began with “prebreathing” for up to two hours, similar to scuba divers, astronauts can suffer from the ‘bends’: quickly changing pressure can turn the nitrogen in human bodies into bubbles with serious symptoms. To avoid this, astronauts breathe pure oxygen to purge their bodies of nitrogen. The main task of this spacewalk was to remove the debris shield covering AMS, with an estimated three hours portioned for this task. The two “repair” astronauts managed to jettison the debris shield to burn up safely in Earth’s atmosphere well ahead of schedule. They also installed three handrails in the vicinity of AMS to prepare for the next spacewalks and removed zip ties on the AMS’ vertical support strut. When time permits, mission control give spacewalkers some “get ahead” tasks. Although there were no get-ahead tasks planned for this spacewalk the duo was so far ahead of schedule that mission control agreed they continue work originally planned for the second AMS spacewalk that is planned for 22 November. (source: ESA Web TV)

18 November 2019: Soyuz Launch Abort Traced to Damaged Sensor, According to NASA

The first Soyuz launch abort in 35 years, took place on Oct. 11, 2018, when the whole flight lasted 2 min. after liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Instead of sending two astronauts on their way to the ISS, the crew experienced a jarring ballistic trajectory, which subjected them up to 6.7 times normal gravity, as escape rockets fired to push their capsule away from what appeared to be a failing booster. They parachuted to safety and were relaunched to the ISS in March. The root cause was determined to be mechanical damage to a sensor that enabled pressurizing gas to activate and separate the launch vehicle stages. As a result, Roscosmos has implemented video monitoring during vehicle assembly to prevent such issues from arising in the future. A new generation of Soyuz 2.1A launchers will have an electronic backup system to ensure vehicle separation.

8 November 2019: £2.4 Billion  Redesign Cost of Failed TEN Rolls-Royce Engine

According to the latest trading update, Rolls-Royce predicts that Trent 1000 problems across all variants will cost it about £2.4 billion ($3.1 billion) from 2017-23, which is about £1 billion more than it forecast a little over a year ago. Having certified fixes for the durability problems affecting Package B and C variants of the Trent 1000, Rolls is now focusing on the newest iteration, the Trent 1000 TEN. Sadly, it was this engine, which shares just 25% parts commonality with earlier builds, that was supposed to put Trent 1000 problems to bed; instead, its issues appear to be among the most serious. The RR had hoped to start retrofitting a redesigned high-pressure turbine blade for the TEN from early 2020, only to announce this week that even the redesign “will not deliver a sufficient level of enhanced durability.” Thus, it has pencilled in the retrofits for early 2021 and taken a £1.4 billion charge to operational profit this year. To ease any servicing bottlenecks, Rolls is planning a significant expansion of its MRO capacity for the Trent 1000.

7 November 2019: Ryanair Grounds Three 737-800s Due to Pickle Fork Cracks

Three of its Boeing 737-800 aircraft has withdrawn from service after the discovery of cracks located between the aircraft’s fuselage and wing by Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair  These aircraft are a part of its all-737-800 fleet of around 450 aircraft, suffered “pickle fork cracks”--part of the airframe structure designed to strengthen the connection between the aircraft’s wing and body. Other 737NG operators, such as U.S. carrier Southwest and Australian airline Qantas, recently revealed the number of aircraft they had grounded. In late September, Boeing alerted operators of all 737NG variants that it had notified the FAA of cracking on the left and right-hand side outboard chords of the station 663 frame fitting and failsafe straps. Consequently, the FAA issued an airworthiness directive that came into effect in early October for high-time models above 30,000 flight cycles to be inspected within one week. Inspections on aircraft operating between 22,600 and 30,000 flight cycles were ordered to take place within a seven-month timeframe.