Category Archives: Science and Technology

Sci-Tech: Update on Paul Moller, Space Sciences, UrbanAero & Aerofex

I’ve been checking in on  Paul Moller and his SkyCar project occasionally since the late 1980s when I read an article in the Economist about his project.  He has been working on flying cars since the 1960s and has made a few millions along the way with spinoff inventions such as the SuperTrapp muffler and a line of compact rotary engines. But still no flying car.  Just hovering cars as seen in these videos.

Via the Spaceports blog comes a pointer to an announcement from Moller that a Chinese based firm has agreed to provide $80M initially and up to $480M to get a VTOL vehicle in production:  Moller Forms Joint Venture with Athena Technologies, Inc. – Moller

DAVIS, Ca. January 23, 2013–Moller International, Inc. (MI) (OTC-QB: MLER), the developer of the Skycar
® and Neuera™ aircraft announced today that it has received a signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreeing to create a US-based Joint Venture (JV) with Athena Technologies Inc. of Harbor City, California. The goal of the newly formed JV is to establish co-production for its aircraft in the US and the People’s Republic of China.

Under the provisions of the memorandum, MI will team with this US company-led JV to jointly produce numerous models of its vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. The JV will initially invest $80 million (USD) of a planned $480 million investment with the objective of producing a variety of VTOL aircraft by 2014. Production will include the Skycar® 200 LS, Skycar® 400, Skycar® 600 and Neuera™ aircraft.

MI is to retain its Intellectual Property (IP) while providing the JV with aircraft designs,ready-to-install Rotapower® rotary aviation engines, and the requirements for the airframe and flight control systemhardware to be produced in China. The JV is to provide all necessary production funding, purchase a 35% ownership in MI and provide MI with 25% fixed ownership in the JV for a period of 10 years

The full text of the announcement is available at: Moller-Athena-MOU.pdf

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Meanwhile, the company Space Sciences Corporation in New Mexico has an agreement with Moller to commercialize an early version of the SkyCar. In this Moonandback interview from last October, the  co-founders of the firm  “talk about their activities over the past year in developing vertical takeoff/vertical landing (VTVL) craft – a putative Flying Saucer” : John D’Alessandro and Lindsay Quarrie – A Flying Saucer Update – Moonandback.

[Update Jan.30.13: In Part 2 of the interview they “talk about how a flying saucer excites the public and kindles the educational experience, and they look at some of the applications for a vertical takeoff and landing flying vehicle” : John D’Alessandro and Lindsay Quarrie – The Cool Factor – Moonandback.
]

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As I’ve mentioned before, I think the best hope for a practical VTOL flying car will be more along the lines of the Israeli UrbanAero AirMule. You can follow its progress via their  updates and videos & downloads. The Aerofex Tandem Duct Aerial Vehicle  takes a similar design approach:

Research to protect astronaut vision + Research into better satellite vision

NASA lays out a plan to investigate the effects of prolonged weightlessness on vision: ISS Program Takes On Astronaut Vision Problems – Aviation Week.

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DARPA is supporting a project called Membrane Optic Imager Real-Time Exploitation (MOIRE), which is developing very lightweight optical  elements that could greatly improve the resolution of imaging from geostationary orbit: DARPA Moire Project Seeks Real-Time Space Imaging – CitizensInSpace.org.

 

 

Sci-Tech: Carbon nanotube fiber in textile thread form

A multi-national team led by a group at Rice University have made “strands of carbon nanotube fibers that look and feel like textile thread”: New nanotech fiber: Robust handling, shocking performance – Rice University (via Transterrestrial Musings).

Rice University’s latest nanotechnology breakthrough was more than 10 years in the making, but it still came with a shock. Scientists from Rice, the Dutch firm Teijin Aramid, the U.S. Air Force and Israel’s Technion Institute this week unveiled a new carbon nanotube (CNT) fiber that looks and acts like textile thread and conducts electricity and heat like a metal wire. In this week’s issue of Science, the researchers describe an industrially scalable process for making the threadlike fibers, which outperform commercially available high-performance materials in a number of ways.

“We finally have a nanotube fiber with properties that don’t exist in any other material,” said lead researcher Matteo Pasquali, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and chemistry at Rice. “It looks like black cotton thread but behaves like both metal wires and strong carbon fibers.”

The research team includes academic, government and industrial scientists from Rice; Teijin Aramid’s headquarters in Arnhem, the Netherlands; the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel; and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in Dayton, Ohio.

“The new CNT fibers have a thermal conductivity approaching that of the best graphite fibers but with 10 times greater electrical conductivity,” said study co-author Marcin Otto, business development manager at Teijin Aramid. “Graphite fibers are also brittle, while the new CNT fibers are as flexible and tough as a textile thread. We expect this combination of properties will lead to new products with unique capabilities for the aerospace, automotive, medical and smart-clothing markets.”