Sci-Tech: DARPA seeking next-gen VTOL vehicles

DARPA wants better vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing vehicles, particularly in these “four areas: speed, hover efficiency, cruise efficiency and useful load capacity”.

DARPA Experimental Aircraft Program to Develop the
Next Generation of Vertical Flight

Higher speeds, increased efficiency, elegant designs are the
focus of new VTOL X-Plane

One of the greatest challenges of the past half century for aerodynamics engineers has been how to increase the top speeds of aircraft that take off and land vertically without compromising the aircraft’s lift to power in hover or its efficiency during long-range flight.

The versatility of helicopters and other vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft make them ideal for a host of military operations. Currently, only helicopters can maneuver in tight areas, land in unprepared areas, move in all directions, and hover in midair while holding a position. This versatility often makes rotary-wing and other VTOL aircraft the right aerial platform for transporting troops, surveillance operations, special operations and search-and-rescue missions.

Compared to fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters are slower-leaving them more vulnerable to damage from enemy weapons. Special operations that rely on lightning-quick strikes and medical units that transport patients to care facilities need enhanced speed to shorten mission times, increase mission range, reduce the number of refueling events and, most important, reduce exposure to the adversary.

By their very design, rotary-wing aircraft that take off and land vertically have a disadvantage achieving speeds comparable to fixed-wing aircraft. Since its invention, engineers have attempted to overcome this design barrier but have encountered lower fuel efficiency and less lift capacity, controllability, simplicity, and reliability of design. While engineers have improved the speed of fixed-wing aircraft-achieving two and three times the speeds of jets designed since the 1960s-attempts to increase efficient VTOL aircraft speed have stalled.

“For the past 50 years, we have seen jets go higher and faster while VTOL aircraft speeds have flat-lined and designs have become increasingly complex,” said Ashish Bagai, DARPA program manager. “To overcome this problem, DARPA has launched the VTOL X-Plane program to challenge industry and innovative engineers to concurrently push the envelope in four areas: speed, hover efficiency, cruise efficiency and useful load capacity.”

“We have not made this easy,” he continued. “Strapping rockets onto the back of a helicopter is not the type of approach we’re looking for. The engineering community is familiar with the numerous attempts in the past that have not worked. This time, rather than tweaking past designs, we are looking for true cross-pollinations of designs and technologies from the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds. The elegant confluence of these engineering design paradigms is where this program should find some interesting results.”

A Proposers’ Day will be held on March 14th.

The Broad Agency Announcement for the solicitation can be found at:

Scream in Space via an orbiting smartphone

India today successfully launched seven satellites on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Sriharikota Island. One of the payloads is the STRaND-1 Cubesat built by Surrey Satellite and operated by a “Google Nexus One smartphone with an Android operating system”: World’s first “phonesat”, STRaND-1, successfully launched into orbit – Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL).

The phone provides

cameras, radio links, accelerometers and high performance computer processors – almost everything except solar panels and propulsion.  During the first phase of the mission, STRaND-1 will use a number a number of experimental Apps to collect data while a new high-speed linux-based cubesat computer developed by SSC takes care of the satellite.  During phase two, the STRaND team hope to switch the satellite’s in-orbit operations to the smartphone, thereby testing the capabilities of a number of standard smartphone components for a space environment.

SSTL carried out a public contest for apps to be run on the phone and the winners included apps for magnetic field measurements, satellite telemetry display, and earth imaging,


And the fourth app is Scream in Space!

Testing the theory ‘in space no-one can hear you scream, made popular in the 1979 film ‘Alien’, the app will allow the public to upload videos of themselves screaming in a creative way to an allocated website.  The most popular videos will be played on the phone while in orbit and the scream recorded using the smartphone’s microphone.

Here is a gallery of the video screams submitted: Screams | Scream in Space!

Lunar COTS on the Space Show + Tea Party in Space + Space law roundup

Doug Plata discussed his Lunar COTS proposal on the Space Show yesterday: Dr. Doug Plata, Sunday, 2-24-13 – Thespaceshow’s Blog


A commentator has difficulty making fun of, or heads or tails of, the Tea Party In Space  organization: ‘Tea Party in Space’ is boldly going out there – Baltimore Post-Examiner.


Res Communis post the latest collection of space and aviation law, regulation and policy links: Library: A Round-up of Reading.

The Space Show this week

The Space Show this week:

1. Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 2-3:30 PM PST (5-6:30 PM EST, 4-5:30 PM CST): We welcome back DUANE HYLAND of AIAA & JOHN ROSE of Boeing to discuss the AIAA 2013 California Space Day program coming up in March.

2. Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, 7-8:30 PM PST (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST): We welcome DR. GEORGE ROBINSON, noted space attorney, back to the program for a comprehensive discussion of the justification for human space development, the role of space in the survival of humankind, and space law secularism.

3. Friday, March 1, 2013, 9:30-11 AM PST (11:30- 1 PM CST, 12:30PM-2:00 PM EST): We welcome back space attorney MARK SUNDAHL to discuss the recent FAA conference on Commercial Space Transportation in addition to the pressing issues and recent developments in the field of space law.

4. Sunday, March 3, 2013, 12-1:30 PM PST (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 PM CST). We welcome back WAYNE WHITE, Atty. Wayne as a new idea regarding IP as value enhancer instead of property rights for the Moon and elsewhere in space. We will be discussing other property rights, treaty, and space issues as well.

See also:
/– The Space Show on Vimeo – webinar videos
/– The Space Show’s Blog – summaries of interviews.
/– The Space Show Classroom Blog – tutorial programs

The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.

Everyone can participate in space