With the aerospace platform really taking off the past few years, there has been an uptick on who can produce the next greatest technological feat. The mystery and magnitude of space is surely becoming the next frontier. Up to this point there has been only sci-fi movies that give us a glimpse into what lays in the universe. But new ventures have been joining the forefront to compete with historical companies like Nasa to get in the space game.
There are too many technological achievements to follow so we will just go with our top ten of 2018 as named by Popular Science.
The most significant prize goes to Nasa. Nasa was formed in 1958 after Russia started a satellite program called Sputnik 1. The US Government perceived this move as a direct threat toward homeland security. Naca Director Hugh Dryden stated, “It is of great urgency and importance to our country both from consideration of our prestige as a nation as well as military necessity that this challenge [Sputnik] be met by an energetic program of research and development for the conquest of space … It is accordingly proposed that the scientific research be the responsibility of a national civilian agency … NACA is capable, by rapid extension and expansion of its effort, of providing leadership in space technology.”
On August 12, 2018 a robotic spacecraft called Parker Solar Probe was launched. It is currently in route to probe the earth’s Sun. This craft will reach an amazing 430,000 miles per hour when it encounters the Sun’s center in year 2025. This spacecraft will be the first to fly into the low solar corona. The objective of this instrument is to gather data such as the flow of energy that nears the Sun’s corona, gather intel on the structure and dynamics of the magnetic fields, and discover what mechanisms accelerate energetic particles. Another technological feat is the protection from the immense heat. It will encounter temperatures as high as 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, but the sensitive instrument suites will stay at only 85 degrees. A 160 pound heat shield made of reinforced carbon fiber protects these precious information-gathering suites. 97% of the mass is occupied by air which does not leave anything solid for the Sun to heat. This in turn keeps the craft nice and cool.
Our next achievement was created by none other than IBM and Airbus. It is called the CIMON (Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN). At this point everyone has probably worked in school on an IBM computer (International Business Machines). The company was founded in 1911 and renamed in 1924 and never looked back. With some of the biggest accomplishments in the industry, IBM has become one of the most prominent computer brands in the world. They have invented ATM machines, floppy disk, hard drives, and the magnetic stripe card just to name a few. Nicknamed the Big Blue, IBM is one of the largest global employers with over 380,000 employees and 70% of them work outside the United States. India has the largest number of IBM employees.
Airbus is a multinational aerospace corporation that is the byproduct of consolidated entities founded in 1970. Its primary focus are the manufacturing and design of civil and military components. It currently markets the world’s largest passenger airliner, the A380. This global fleet has carried 12 billion passengers over 215 billion kilometres.
CIMON weighs 11 pounds and is about the size of a sports ball. It is designed to behave like a personal assistant in space. You can compare this device to Siri or Alexa. This floating AI assistant can help you make repairs, run data experiments, or even save a life with basic medical procedures. Where space compartments are marginal and need to be efficient, this little helper can fit and go anywhere to really benefit a crew member on their mission.
So no need to be surprised here for our 3rd place finisher, but again the Nasa takes the bronze. They have created a satellite called TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite). This satellite will basically orbit space and search and find thousands of new planets. Known as Exoplanets, these are planets beyond our own solar system. Thousands have been discovered by Nasa’s older generation satellite called the Kepler. But the TESS will search an area 400 times larger for only half the price, a cool $337 million. This will give scientists the necessary data to determine how worlds our formed, and what are the commonalities between them like water, temperature, and signs of life.
For our next top concept, Nasa has developed InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport). I had to google geodesy really quick, but it is the branch of mathematics that deals with the shape and area of the earth. In November a 1,340 pound instrument was sent to the planet Mars to test its volcanic activity, seismic quakes, and meteorite collisions. This unit can set up scientific instruments, and sets up a probe that burrows 16 feet down to take a true depth temperature. These new findings will help us to learn more about our co-existing planets and how we can learn from their history and geography.
Airbus is again on our list with one of the safest helicopters in the industry. The H160 by Airbus can be used for dangerous search-and-rescue missions, high level transports, or carrying up to 12 passenger crews. The Helo uses a unique two-level rear horizontal stabilizer that minimizes downdraft vibration, improves low-speed stability, and autopilot that can return the craft to a straight position with the push of a button. If the pilot becomes disoriented a single red button can level the flight and prevent a rollover or catastrophic crash.
Our next innovation is the V-280 Valor developed by Bell Helicopter. Bell Helicopter is headquartered out of Fort Worth, Texas. It was founded in 1935 by Lawrence Bell in Buffalo, New York. Its main focus is on the design and build of fighter aircraft. The Bell 30 was their first full-size helicopter and became the first in the world rated by a civil aviation authority. This major success propelled the company into a broader economic platform.
The V-280 Valor is part helo, part plane, and looks straight out of a Sci-fi movie. It can fly farther and faster than a helo, with speeds over 320 miles per hour. In comparison a Black Hawk can only reach 183, so this is almost double the top speed. It has a tiltrotor aircraft, which means the propellers can move horizontally and vertically. It can take off and land vertically like a helicopter naturally would, but maintains the speed advantages of an airplane with the wings and forward-facing propellers. I can honestly say this is probably my favorite innovation as it relates more to aviation as opposed to space exploration.
Our next featured product is a Low Power Radar (LPR) by Raytheon. Raytheon was established in 1922. As of 2017 the company has over 64,000 employees worldwide. They are the world’s largest producer of guided missiles. Most of their annual revenue stems from government contracts and it is the fifth largest military contractor in the world. Based out of Waltham, Massachusetts, Raytheon has expanded recently to other core fields such as homeland security, missile defense, and intelligence and surveillance.
The LPR can detect low-flying vehicles that seem to dip under the radar as they say. This instrument can cover below 3,200 feet, which most radars can’t seem to get a sensor on. The unit is only one-meter square and scans for objects using a radar system that fighter jets have access to. These devices can be set up on cell phone towers for example, and be much more cost effective than moving satellite dishes in the sky.
With only two innovations left our next award goes to Airbus again, with the Zephyr S HAPS (Solar High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite). This lightweight airplane set a record in 2018 by staying afloat for more than 25 days. Its highest altitude was 70,000 feet. It has a 82 foot wingspan and weighs only 165 pounds. This plane has the benefit of being solar-powered and a power-management system that maintains its battery temperature to optimize energy.
And for our final 2018 innovation of the year we had to give it to a Gravity Jet Suit made by Gravity Industries. This company was founded only 2 years ago, by Richard Browning on March 2017. Inspired by his late father, Browning wanted to connect man and machine, and created a jet propulsion suit much like you see in today’s Marvel Movies. He has been labeled the real “Iron-Man” by the media. The Gravity Jet Suit can reach speeds over 200 miles per hour and a few thousand feet. Known as the Daedalus Mark 1, the jet pack consists of mini jet engines to provide the thrust needed for lift off. You can use your arms to control the direction and speed of your flight pattern, while a head-up display is shown inside the helmet for fuel analysis. If you have $340,000 Euros you can go get one yourself, or a new Ferrari.
I hope you all have enjoyed a quick snapshot of the smartest technology out there. Please leave us a review or comment in the section below.