50K business jet pilots required over the next decade

 CAE released at the 2018 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention and exhibition its 2018 CAE Airline and Business Jet Pilot Demand Outlook. This is an update to last year’s report, which provides, for the first time, a business jet pilot demand forecast. The renewed 10-year view offers fleet operators key insights on the future need for professional pilots in both business and commercial aviation, building on the markets’ key drivers, variables and trends.

The report demonstrates that the active business jet pilot population will reach 65,000 by 2028, which represents an increase of 18%, with a turnover rate of almost 100%. More specifically, 10,000 new business jet pilots will be required to sustain growth and 40,000 new business jet pilots will be needed to support retirement attrition across the segment over the next decade.

 “The CAE Airline and Business Jet Pilot Demand is a one-of-a kind report. Our 2018 update builds on last year’s analysis while introducing for the first time a business jet pilot forecast and shedding light on ways the aviation industry can cope with this demand,” said Marc Parent, CAE’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Today’s soaring pilot demand is a reality that we must all face. As the leading training organization in the world, we are honored to offer our partners the training solutions they need to face this rising demand.”

Comlux completes 11th VIP interior outfitting on its BBJ aircraft

 Comlux is pleased to announce that Comlux Completion, its Completion and Service Center based in Indianapolis IN, accomplished their 11th VIP interior outfitting on a BBJ aircraft for a private customer based in the Far East.

The luxurious cabin features at the front a spacious executive compartment, with four sets of Club-4. Instead of the traditional Hi/Lo tables, there is large pull out tables with easily attachable extensions newly designed and installed specifically for this aircraft. In the center section, a private dining/conference room features a massive table surrounded by six executive style seats. The overhead area portrays a grand ceiling dome with a handmade mother of pearl pattern. Decorated with a similar ceiling dome, the master suite at the rear includes a tranquil master bedroom and a spa-like private master lavatory. The entire aircraft has an infusion of an Asian inspired atmosphere. There is a cohesive blend of contrasting color palettes achieved by the use of supple white leather; rich warm mahogany veneer, plush taupe carpet, textured fabrics and gold accents throughout- inspiring luxury and relaxation.

 “We are very proud to have successfully delivered another beautiful nose-to-tail bespoke VIP completion,” stated Arnaud Martin, COO of Comlux. “We have been “engineering luxury” on VIP interiors since 2008, always keeping our customers wishes at heart and the technical performance in mind. The interior of the BBJ was engineered to magnify weight performance at a total weight of only 14400 lbs. We are fully prepared and up to speed for the arrival of the first ever BBJ Max 8 completion and our first ACJ320 Neo later this year.” Martin stated.

Charter flight market growth up by 4.5% in H12018

 Strong growth in charter flight activity outpaced gains in Part 91 and nominally advancing fractional operations in the US over the past year. Global charter ops also increased as a surge of consolidation among major providers redefined the marketspace. Technology was the driving and enabling force behind much of the industry news, and a primary focus among providers seeking to maximize efficiencies and opportunities—that is, virtually all of them.

Part 135-flight activity grew 4.5 percent during the first half of 2018 compared with 2017, to just over 550,000 flights, levels not seen for a decade, while Part 91 activity rose 1.3 percent and the fractional fleet gained 0.4 percent, according to Argus International.

 “I think we are back where we were pre-recession,” said Joe Moeggenberg, Argus president and CEO. “The good news is business is very good. The bad news is the industry is experiencing some issues with lift and having a hard time finding newer aircraft with all the amenities to meet the demand. That’s exactly where we were in the 2008–09 time frame.”

 Major operators far outpaced the industry’s 4.5 percent growth rate, with total hours for the top 25 rising from about 467,000 in 2017 to 535,000 in 2018, or 14.6 percent.

 “The top operators aren’t adding a lot of new airplanes, but they’re running a lot more efficiently,” said Moeggenberg. “Everybody has figured out how to fill up a lot of these empty legs. Operators have done a really good job of optimizing their fleets.”

 Indeed, the combined charter fleets of the top 25 operators grew only 2 percent— from 1,023 to 1,044 aircraft from mid 2017 to mid 2018.

 Though Part 135 activity continues to see positive growth, the rate has slowed recently, posting in June the first year-over-year (YOY) decline in activity in 25 months.

 Gama Aviation, which operates Wheels Up’s Citation Excel/XLS and King Air 350i aircraft, in addition to its managed fleet, retained the top spot in charter flight time with 72,885 flight hours. The 18 percent rise over the prior year was in line with the 18 percent growth in its charter fleet from 99 to 117 aircraft.

Marillyn A. Hewson Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Lockheed Martin Corporation

Marillyn A. Hewson is Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lockheed Martin Corporation. She previously held a variety of increasingly responsible executive positions with the corporation, including President and Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin’s Electronic Systems business area.

Ms. Hewson joined Lockheed Martin more than 35 years ago as an industrial engineer. During her career she has held several operational leadership positions, including President of Lockheed Martin Systems Integration; Executive Vice President of Global Sustainment for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics; President and General Manager of Kelly Aviation Center, L.P., an affiliate of Lockheed Martin; and President of Lockheed Martin Logistics Services. She has also served in key corporate executive roles, including Senior Vice President of Corporate Shared Services; Vice President of Global Supply Chain Management; and Vice President of Corporate Internal Audit.

Ms. Hewson has served on numerous boards and currently sits on the Board of Directors of DowDuPont, the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, the Board of Governors of the USO, and the Board of Directors of Catalyst. She is a member of The University of Alabama’s President’s Cabinet and also serves on the Board of Visitors of the Culverhouse College of Business.

Ms. Hewson is former Chairman and a current Member of the Executive Committee of the Aerospace Industries Association, a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

She serves on the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group, as a Director of the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board, and as a Vice Chair of the Business Roundtable. Ms. Hewson also serves on the Board of Trustees of both the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Khalifa University for Science and Technology in the United Arab Emirates.

In 2017, Fortune magazine identified Ms. Hewson as No. 3 on the ‘50 Most Powerful Women in Business’. She has also been recognized as a Top 10 ‘Businessperson of the Year’ by Fortune, as one of the ‘World’s 100 Most Powerful Women’ by Forbes, and was named as the ‘2018 CEO of the Year’ by Chief Executive Magazine.

Born in Junction City, Kansas, Ms. Hewson earned her Bachelor of Science degree in business administration and her Master of Arts degree in economics from the University of Alabama. She also attended the Columbia Business School and Harvard Business School executive development programs.



United orders more Boeing 787 Dreamliner advanced long-range passenger jets

Officials of United airlines recently announced that they have ordered nine more Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners for delivery from 2020. That brings Boeing’s total of 787 orders for the year so far to 105, more than were sold all of last year. 

At list prices the order is worth $2.5 billion. However, according to market pricing data from valuation of passenger jets firm Avitas, the real value after standard industry discounts is about $1.3 billion.

 United already operates a fleet of 25 of the 787-9 model and 12 of the smaller 787-8 variant. It has four more 787-9s on order in addition to the nine.

The airline also has a separate order for 14 of the largest Dreamliner model, the 787-10. United said Monday that in January it will become the first North American airline to operate that aircraft, flying it on select transcontinental flights between New York/Newark and Los Angeles and New York/Newark and San Francisco.



Turkish Aerospace, Airbus sign agreement to develop aircraft structures

Turkish Aerospace Industries and Airbus have signed a collaborative agreement on research and development in secondary structures, such as movable parts, for Airbus aircraft programs. Turkish Aerospace President/CEO Prof. Dr. Temel Kotil and Airbus Head of Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia Strategy and International Dr. Marco Miklis signed the agreement in a ceremony at the Istanbul Airshow 2018.

Underlining that the agreement is important in expanding and developing the technology and innovation research partnership between Airbus and Turkish Aerospace Industry, the President and CEO of the Turkish Aerospace Industry Prof. Dr. Temel Kotil said, "Between our technological partnerships in Turkey, we provide a new and significant contribution. The agreement we have made with Airbus, one of the world's leading companies, for future commercial aircraft technologies shows that our company is progressively advancing in its technological leaps.”

Airbus Head of Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia Strategy and International Dr. Marco Miklis, said, “We are delighted to have a new level of collaboration with the Turkish Aerospace Industries. We consider the value that Turkish aviation adds to world aviation. As Airbus, we want to contribute together with Turkish Aerospace Industries.”


CityJet leases two Bombardier CRJ900 ERs from TrueNoord

TrueNoord, the specialist regional aircraft lessor, has closed a sale-lease back transaction providing two Bombardier CRJ900 ERs to Cityjet DAC on ten year operating lease terms. TrueNoord has partly financed the transaction by the recent term loan warehouse facility underwritten by NORD/LB, Morgan Stanley and Barclays. Hogan Lovells provided legal advice for TrueNoord and Allen & Overy for CityJet. Norton Rose and Clifford Chance advised on the financing side of the transaction.

Anne-Bart Tieleman, CEO – TrueNoord, acknowledges the timely additions of these aircraft to TrueNoord’s fleet. “These are the first CRJ900s for TrueNoord – and the aircraft type is in line with our ultimate vision and long-term plan to build up a strong portfolio of young regional aircraft types with a good global spread and leased to first class operators.

“The merger announcement made at Farnborough 2018 by Air Nostrum and CityJet is indicative of how the regional aviation landscape in Europe will change over the coming years. If approved, this combination will create Europe’s largest airline with a specific focus on ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance) capacity provision, and with a merged fleet of almost 100 aircraft, the fusion of CityJet and Air Nostrum will create the first European supplier that starts to approach the scale of its North American counterparts. TrueNoord is delighted to be part of the group of suppliers of modern aircraft that will support this platform and their airline customers.”

Pat Byrne, Cityjet’s CEO, sees the sub-100 seat sector continuing as the combined fleet’s mainstay: “In recent years, operators like CityJet and Air Nostrum have separately taken strategic decisions to expand their respective ACMI offerings. CityJet has hitherto been a scheduled airline with a substantial presence at London City, but we adopted a new business model to focus on ACMI operations. We now only operate one remaining scheduled route between Dublin and London City, while all other flights are operated for major European carriers, including SAS, Air France, Hop! and Brussels Airlines. Our fleet has now grown to 46 aircraft providing greater scale and serving a more diversified customer base.

“Europe is catching up with the US in terms of operating the ACMI model in regional aircraft support – the next few years will see larger contracts coming onto the market and we intend to have the right fleet, in terms of aircraft type and size, to meet expanding demand. These two CRJ900s from TrueNoord are part of that strategy.”


Delta Private Jets sign agreement with Fort Lauderdale Boat Show

 Delta Private Jets has inked a two-year agreement with the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show to serve as the show's private jet carrier and presenting sponsor of the Windward VIP Club.

Delta Private Jets is a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines. It recently opened a new maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at Sheltair Aviation in the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. It features a 15,000-square-foot hangar and 2,200-square-foot of office space.

"As the official private jet carrier of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the Delta Private Jets brand will complement the spirit of yachting by inviting guests to learn about the luxuries of private aviation," said Kelly Love, VP of Corporate Strategy and Business Development at Delta Private Jets.

Located at the Hall of Fame Marina, the Windward VIP Club will offer an open bar and gourmet food offerings from the morning to the evening in partnership with Swiss luxury watch manufacture Ulysse Nardin.

Open during the show hours from Oct. 31-Nov. 4., the VIP Club will be across the show's yachts and the display of automobiles. It will include a concierge team to arrange yachts tours, local dining reservations, private transportation and accommodations for private aviation on Delta Private Jets.


Satcom Direct expanding secure data center for Bizav

 Business aviation connectivity solutions provider Satcom Direct has broken ground to expand its data center to 10,000 sq ft. Upon completion in December, the project will add capacity for more than 120 server cabinets at the company’s Melbourne, Florida headquarters, which will double its footprint and provide additional secure data storage for aviation and terrestrial clients.

The $3 million expansion will match the category-five hurricane-proof construction and data-compliance standards already in place at Satcom Direct’s existing center. This expansion is in response to business aviation’s growing need to mitigate the risk of cyber attacks during flight, Satcom Direct said.

More than 400 business aviation customers have already subscribed to Satcom Direct’s cybersecurity services, which deliver tailored solutions built on years of experience working with military and government sectors. The SD Data Center enables the creation of private networks for clients when connected to SD hardware, software, and satellite connectivity, allowing in-flight data security protocols identical to those available at corporate locations.

“Business aviation customers expect robust, reliable, secure connectivity to be available throughout flight. As cyber attacks on business aviation increase, we are responding by enhancing our ability to monitor and manage these threats by keeping data transfer safe through the SD Data Center,” said Satcom Direct chief commercial operator Chris Moore.

A third, future phase will support further customized solutions for aviation clients, the company said.



Comlux adds Bombardier Challenger to its fleet

 Comlux is pleased to announce that a new Bombardier Challenger 605 has just joined the fleet of its VIP operations division, Comlux Aviation. The aircraft, registered under Comlux Malta AOC and based in Madrid, will be available for charter with OneAbove, the charter sales division of Comlux.

The Challenger 605, certified for 9 passengers, features a spacious and bright cabin interior composed of executive seating with two club-2 seats and a lounge area with a comfortable sofa and another set of club-2 seats. Its positioning in Madrid allows non-stop routes to any place in Europe and the Mediterranean region, as well as the east coast of the US. 

Andrea Zanetto CEO Comlux Aviation said, “I am very pleased to add another Challenger aircraft to our charter fleet. Its size, range and ideal positioning from Spain match perfectly with our VIP charter demand from Europe.” He added, “We have accumulated 15 years of experience in managing Challengers and Globals and the entry into service with this new aircraft has been extremely smooth. We are looking forward to developing our customer base in the Mediterranean region and in Spain in particular. With our commercial AOCs in both Malta and San Marino, we are now offering a greater choice to our customers willing to register in the European region.”



 Mitch Snyder was named Bell Helicopter’s president and chief executive officer in October 2015.

Mitch joined Bell Helicopter in 2004, and has held several leadership positions with the company. Most recently he served as executive vice president, Military Business, where he was responsible for providing strategic direction, overall management and performance for all government programs.

He spearheaded several of the company’s most significant initiatives, including the V-22 Program, as well as led the manufacturing centers.

Mitch has more than 30 years experience in the aerospace and defense industry. Prior to joining Bell, Mitch held several senior leadership positions at Lockheed Martin in engineering, business development, manufacturing and program management. He also has more than a decade of international experience working with customers throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

A proud graduate of Kansas State University, Mitch holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. He is also an Alumni Fellow and Hall of Fame Inductee selected for his distinguished service throughout his career in the industry.

He has also completed the Defense Institute for Security Assistance Management Executive Course.

When he is not spending time with employees and customers, Mitch enjoys biking and tennis and spending time with his wife, Molly, and his three children.

Recently, Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. company, announced that it has signed teaming agreement with Garmin International, Inc. on the development and integration of the autonomous vehicle management computer (VMC) systems to support Bell’s vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft.

Garmin has decades of avionics experience and a strong history of collaboration with Bell in bringing vertical lift aircraft to market. Garmin’s innovative systems will provide enhanced safety and situational awareness in all weather conditions.

In this collaboration, Bell will lead the design, development and production of VTOL systems. Garmin will lead the design, development and production of the avionics hardware and software needed for ODM vehicle management, including primary flight information, navigation/communication, flight guidance and flight management systems. As previously announced, Safran will provide the hybrid propulsion system for Bell’s VTOL aircraft.

Moreover, researchers from the US Army Research Laboratory and Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc., company, together will further advance the development of a micro unmanned aerial system or UAS. A spokesperson from Bell Helicopters noted that the main mission of this collaboration is to combine the resources of both establishments to develop technologies to protect soldiers. The work between ARL and Bell is one example of the many collaboration with industry and military. The benefit of this collaboration is to bring advanced technologies and capabilities to the warfighters of tomorrow.

NASA airborne campaigns to explore snowstorms, river deltas, climate

 Five new NASA Earth science campaigns will take to the field starting in 2020 to investigate a range of pressing research questions, from what drives intense East Coast snowfall events to the impact of small-scale ocean currents on global climate.

These studies will explore important, but not-well-understood, aspects of Earth system processes and were competitively selected as part of NASA’s Earth Venture-class program. This is NASA’s third series of Earth Venture suborbital investigations, which are regularly solicited, sustained observation projects first recommended by the National Research Council in 2007. The first set of five projects was selected in 2010, and the second in 2014.

"These innovative investigations tackle difficult scientific questions that require detailed, targeted field observations combined with data collected by our fleet of Earth-observing satellites," said Jack Kaye, associate director for research in NASA's Earth Science Division in Washington.

The five newly selected Earth Venture investigations are:

Intense snowfall events – Lynn McMurdie of the University of Washington will lead the Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms project to study the formation of snow bands in East Coast winter storms. Better understanding of the mechanisms of snow band formation and the factors that influence the location of the most intense snowfall will help improve forecasts of these extreme weather events. This study will involve flights of NASA’s ER-2 and P-3B research aircraft over the northeastern United States.

Satellite image of the Mississippi River Delta

Aerosols changing clouds – Armin Sorooshian of the University of Arizona will lead the Aerosol Cloud Meteorology Interactions over the Western Atlantic Experiment to identify how aerosol particles change cloud properties in ways that affect Earth’s climate system. The investigation will focus on marine boundary layer clouds over the western North Atlantic Ocean that have a critical role in our planet’s energy balance. Two NASA research aircraft, an HU-25 Falcon and a B-200 King Air, will fly from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, to gather measurements from above, below, and within.

River deltas and sea level rise – Marc Simard of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will lead the Delta-X investigation to better understand the natural processes that maintain and build land in major river deltas threatened by rising seas. The project will improve models that predict  loss of coastal land from sea level rise by improving estimates of how deltas add land—a process that involves trapping sediments and creating organic soils as plants grow. Delta-X will focus on the Mississippi River Delta using instruments on three NASA research aircraft.

Impact of strong storms on stratosphere – Kenneth Bowman of Texas A&M University will lead the Dynamics and Chemistry of the Summer Stratosphere project to investigate how strong summertime convective storms over North America can change the chemistry of the stratosphere. These storms regularly penetrate deep into the lower stratosphere, carrying pollutants that can change the chemical composition of this atmospheric layer, including ozone levels. Flights of NASA’s ER-2 high-altitude aircraft will be based in Salina, Kansas.

Ocean heating of the atmosphere – Thomas Farrar of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute will lead the Submesoscale Ocean Dynamics and Vertical Transport investigation to explore the potentially large influence that small-scale ocean eddies have on the exchange of heat between the ocean and the atmosphere. The project will collect a benchmark data set of climate and biological variables in the upper ocean that influence this exchange. Measurements will be collected by research aircraft and shipborne instruments 200 miles off the coast of San Francisco.

A total of six NASA centers and 27 educational institutions are participating in these five Earth Venture projects. The five-year investigations were selected from 30 proposals. The Delta-X project is funded at a total cost of no more than $15 million; each of the other projects is funded at no more than $30 million.

Earth Venture investigations are part of NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder program, managed at Langley for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Competitively selected orbital missions and field campaigns in this program provide innovative approaches to address Earth science research with frequent windows of opportunity to accommodate new scientific priorities.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to understand and explore our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. The agency’s observations of Earth’s complex natural environment are critical to understanding how our planet’s natural resources and climate are changing now and could change in the future.


DARPA funds developing QI for space propulsion

 DARPA is giving $1.3 million for a four-year study of quantized inertia (QI) for possible breakthrough space propulsion.

The QI theory predicts that objects can be pushed by differences in the intensity of so-called Unruh radiation in space, similar to the way in which a ship can be pushed towards a dock because there are more waves hitting it from the seaward side.

The theory has already predicted galaxy rotation without dark matter, and the fact that if a system is accelerated enough – such as a spinning disc or light bouncing between mirrors – the Unruh waves it sees can be influenced by a shield. Therefore, if a damper is placed above the object, it should produce a new kind of upwards thrust.

Chemical rockets are very expensive because of the explosive propellant they need, so this new kind of thruster would be much cheaper and safer as it would only need a source of electrical power to accelerate the core of a thruster.

The research is being funded through DARPA’s Nascent Light-Matter Interactions (NLM) program, which aims to improve the fundamental understanding of how to control the interaction of light and engineered materials.

It will see Dr McCulloch collaborating with experimental scientists from the Technische Universität Dresden in Germany, and the University of Alcala in Spain.

Over the first 18 months, the Plymouth team will seek to develop a fully predictive theoretical model of how matter interacts with light (Unruh radiation) using the quantized inertia model. This will provide a new predictive tool for light-matter interactions.

A series of experiments will then be conducted in Germany and Spain to test whether the thrust is specifically due to quantized inertia, and whether it can be enhanced significantly.


NASA, China open to work together despite current constraints

 The administrator of NASA and his Chinese counterpart have both expressed interest in working together despite the current constraints in US law regarding bilateral cooperation.

During a panel discussion at the 69th International Astronautical Conference featuring the leaders of several space agencies, Zhang Kejian, administrator of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), said China was open to working with a wide range of international partners on projects ranging from lunar exploration to its future space station.

“CNSA is willing to join our hands with other international partners for the benefit of human civilization and progress of human society,” Zhang said, speaking through a translator.

Asked later if that included working with NASA, he said China was “very open” to working with a variety of international partners on lunar exploration. He noted he met with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine earlier in the day. “I had a very good discussion with NASA Administrator Mr. Bridenstine for bilateral cooperation in this particular area,” he said. “I think the response was very positive.”

Bridenstine, appearing on the same panel, noted that there is some cooperation with China today in areas such as aeronautics and Earth science. That cooperation takes place despite the presence of language in appropriations laws colloquially known as the Wolf Amendment, after former Rep. Frank Wolf, who first included it in spending bills several years ago. That provision prohibits bilateral cooperation between NASA and Chinese agencies without prior congressional approval.

“We do cooperate in a lot of ways, but that does not mean our interests are always aligned,” he said. “Some of these decisions are going to be made above the pay grade of the NASA administrator.”

“To the extent that agencies and countries from around the world can cooperate on space, it is absolutely in our interest to do so,” he added. “I look forward to exploring more opportunities to do that.”

“I believe that the working teams of both sides can start preparation of a cooperation list,” Zhang responded. “We can dash out those that cannot be implemented now, or are above our pay grade, and then we can start cooperating on the substantial part.” That included, he added, exchange of scientific data and space situational awareness information.

At a press conference held after the panel, Bridenstine agreed that a greater sharing of data was one area of potential enhanced cooperation with China. “They are doing some amazing scientific experiments,” he said, citing as an example China’s upcoming Chang’e-4 mission that will attempt the first landing on the far side of the moon. “We can share data and collaborate that way so that each country can learn more about science.”

He also agreed that sharing space situational awareness and space traffic management information might be another area of cooperation. “There is no issue related to space more important to for all of us to get right than that issue,” he said. “We need to preserve the space environment for generations to come. The only way we’re going to be able to do that internationally is to collaborate.”

Those initiatives, he suggested, could open the door to more ambitious joint efforts. “This could be the first confidence-building measure that is necessary to establish the kind of relationship that is necessary to go to the next step,” he said.

Bridenstine added, though, that was unlikely that the Wolf Amendment, renewed on an annual basis through new spending bills, would go away in the near future, thus creating barriers to closer cooperation. “If there comes a day when we can cooperate, that provision would simply expire and we would be able to cooperate,” he said.


Moon Express raises $12.5m to develop spacecraft for its customers

 Moon Express, a former Google Lunar X Prize competitor developing commercial lunar landers, has raised $12.5 million to further development of its spacecraft for commercial and government customers.

The company said in a recently released statement that it closed a $2.5 million bridge round led by Miami-based Minerva Capital Group. It has also raised $10 million of a planned $20 million Series B round, led by an undisclosed lead investor.

“Moon Express has a unique and well thought out economic model that we think is compelling,” said Jocelyn Cortez-Young, managing partner and founder of Minerva Capital Group, in a statement.

The Moon Express investment is the first reported investment in a space company by Minerva Capital Group, which describes itself as a fund that seeks “to enhance shareholder value while addressing the needs of underserved people and communities and drive inclusive economic growth” on its website. “Moon Express has great potential for social impact and economic return and we’re proud to be an investor,” said Cortez-Young.

Moon Express Chief Executive Bob Richards said that the funding will support redevelopment of Launch Complex (LC) 17 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a former Delta 2 launch site that the company is leasing from the Air Force to serve as a spacecraft development and test center.

“The $10 million will allow us to complete key renovations at LC-17 and pull the trigger on ordering long-lead flight hardware and building the spacecraft for our maiden flight, which will be synced to coincide with customer schedules for their payload readiness,” Richards said in an email.

Richards added that July 2020 is a “reasonable goal” for that first mission. The company hasn’t disclosed details of that mission or its launch provider. The company had booked several launches on Rocket Lab’s Electron for its entry in the former Google Lunar X Prize competition, but company officials said earlier this year they may use a larger rocket for future lander missions to meet customer requirements.

The funding announcement comes during an ongoing NASA competition to select providers to launch payloads to the lunar surface. NASA released the final solicitation for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program Sept. 6, with proposals due to NASA Oct. 9. Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said at the AIAA Space Forum in Orlando Sept. 19 that he expects to make an initial round of awards under the program by the end of the year.

“We’re excited about the new US space policy to return to the moon in a sustainable way with commercial partners and we look forward to working with NASA and other space agencies in exploring Earth’s eighth continent,” Richards said in the statement.

The funding may also ease doubts about the company’s future. There had been industry speculation that the company was struggling, exacerbated by a legal battle with a former partner, Intuitive Machines that led to a $4.1 million verdict against Moon Express early this year. That verdict is frozen pending a ruling by the presiding judge on a motion for a mistrial, Richards said.


AMD acknowledges women interest in the aviation sector

 The South African Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industry Association (AMD) is happy with the levels of interest amongst South African women and girls who want to take up careers in the aviation sector, Chairperson Florence Musengi said recenly.

"Today we were graced with the presence of our Minister of Defense, Honorable Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula - who launched the South African Women in Defense Association, where all women in defense have to come together to assist one another," said Musengi.

She was speaking to the African News Agency at the ongoing Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition (AAD2018). 

"Women can assist one another in terms of skills development and the acquisition of skills and technology.

"The good thing about the launch that we did today is to uplift women in the defense industry, both in private sector, in government and also [women] in uniform."

Numerous learners have been touring the AAD2018 in the capital Pretoria, and Musengi said there has been notable interest from female pupils - but they need to pass mathematics and science.

"In the aerospace industry, we are encouraging the young women to take maths and science seriously so that they can join after finishing university. They can join the aviation industry, defense and aerospace. There is no limitation," she said.

"We are encouraging young women.  What we will do as SAWID is to make sure that we mentor young women, we technically coach them, tell them all the skills that they need to prepare for themselves [to] join the industry."


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