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Historic “Year in Space” Paves the Way for Deep Space Exploration

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko returned safely to Earth following 340 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS). During what NASA has called “the year in space,” Kelly and Kornienko participated in scientific investigations designed to capture data on medical, psychological and biomedical challenges faced by astronauts during a long trip in space.  

The one year crew mission is the latest step in the space station’s role as a spring board for deep space exploration. On a 30-month mission to Mars, astronauts can expect to experience psychological and physical strain in addition to radiation exposure. Research from the one year mission will shed new light on such issues that will help humans travel farther into space than ever before.  

Testing the Nation’s Missile Defenses

The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program provides the United States with the capability to intercept long-range ballistic missiles that could reach the American homeland.  

‎To remain robust, the Missile Defense Agency periodically tests the GMD system. By the end of January, MDA and prime contractor Boeing  will conduct a test flight over the Pacific Ocean to gather information that will support current and future enhancements to the GMD system.  

A Smarter B-52 Bomber

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The U.S. Air Force’s B-52 bombers can now take flight with a greater variety and quantity of precision munitions due to upgraded internal weapons bay launchers.  

The B-52 is America’s longest-serving heavy bomber and, with continued upgrades and maintenance support, remains a vital part of the nation’s strategic military deterrent and global reach. The bomber has been equipped to carry GPS-guided or “smart” weapons only on its external pylons, with the internal bomb bay reserved for cruise missiles, “dumb bombs,” and nuclear weapons.  

NASA Astronauts Get Advance Look at CST-100 Starliner Trainers

“We have been learning about the spacecraft displays through slideshows. It’s great to finally see what we are actually going to train on,” said astronaut Eric Boe. “It helps to work with the engineers to give input on the trainers so the devices are ready when they arrive at Johnson Space Center.”  

Astronaut Bob Behnken added that the training equipment is comprehensive.  

As Boeing Enters its Second Century, a Look Back at Highlights of 2015

From the first flight of the KC-46 tanker to the C-17 Globemaster III fleet reaching 3 million flight hours, and innovation from deep sea underwater vehicles to deep space, 2015 was a year of exploring, protecting and soaring.  

Check out these posts that highlight just some of the many milestones of 2015:  

QF-16 Raising the Bar for Aerial Combat Training

Retired F-16 jets are now providing U.S. warfighters with vital next-generation combat training and testing as unmanned aerial targets, known as QF-16s.  

The U.S. Air Force’s QF-16 has replaced the existing former QF-4 fleet, based on the F-4 Phantom, and provides a higher capability aerial target.  

Boeing, U.S. Navy Demo Growler’s New Long-Range Targeting Capability

A Naval Flight Officer from NAVAIR’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23) enters information on the Windows-based tablet, prior to flight.

Boeing, in conjunction with the U.S. Navy and industry partners, recently showcased new targeting technologies on the EA-18G Growler that increase the electronic attack aircraft’s effectiveness in the battle space, providing extremely accurate, real-time information to air and ground assets.  

The Growler-based capability, verified during a Navy exercise, Fleet Exercise 15, paired multiple Growlers with an E-2D Hawkeye to test the capabilities of the system. In the exercise, data from the aircraft was integrated and shared in near real-time.  

#C17FlyBye Signals End of Era; Legacy Lives On

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With a low approach over the Long Beach, Calif. factory in salute to the workers who built the mighty aircraft, and the community who supported it, the last C-17 Globemaster III soared toward the horizon, officially ending a two decade production run of the world’s foremost airlifter. If this seems like the end of the line for the C-17 – it isn’t.  

The C-17 was designed for a minimum of 30 years at 1,000 flight hours per year or 30,000 total hours. The design was not frozen in time with the first successful C-17 flight on Sept. 15, 1991 . Upgrades and modernization efforts have been ongoing since early production and the U.S. Air Force recently extended the C-17 service life limit to 42,750 hours. Evaluation efforts with engineers are underway that might further extend the limit to 45,000 hours per aircraft.  

Flying Ground Surveillance

Based on the 737-700 platform, the Boeing JSTARS recapitalization leverages decades of expertise transforming commercial platforms for military use. It will provide the right size platform coupled with aerial refueling capability to execute the long range JSTARS missions. A 737 modified into JSTARS aircraft offers a best platform-to-mission match, in terms of low acquisition cost, fielded capability and long term total ownership affordability. At the same time, it meets the current USAF requirements for ground surveillance and targeting missions.  

The size of the aircraft and the ability of the crew to perform the mission over long on-station times was factored into the evaluation of the size of the aircraft. And if we know one thing about platforms that have a planned life expectancy of 30 years or more, there is going to be a need to grow the capabilities. This affects not only the sensor, but communications, and computing capabilities, which tend to add weight, require more power, and need more cooling. Smaller platforms just don’t have that kind of growth potential.  

Rethink Business and Beat the Best-Case Cost Estimate for the U.S. Navy

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Seems backwards…even time-consuming and costly, doesn’t it?  And yet, that was the conversation in years past when military capabilities were added to a non-military aircraft.  

Until now.  Enter the P-8A Poseidon, a military aircraft built for the U.S. Navy.  When that product was designed, Boeing asked the question:  “How can we do this better and cheaper?”  The answer:  In-line production.  Make the military version part of the commercial production line.