Making progress despite pandemic
By Ben Iannotta|December 2020
I know this will sound strange, and I don’t mean to downplay the hardships many in this industry are facing, but the pages of this special issue are not starkly different from what I might have predicted back in January when the year began with such promise and the term covid-19 had yet to be coined.
Commercial Crew vehicles delivered astronauts to the International Space Station twice. Masked workers at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works factory continued assembling NASA’s X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology plane. DARPA and Dynetics flew their X-61A Gremlin drones and pressed toward proving the concept of dispatching them from C-130s and recovering them in flight. The U.S. Air Force launched an X-37B spaceplane for the first time in three years. In space exploration, China, the United Arab Emirates and the United States each launched spacecraft toward Mars. A sample of the asteroid Bennu was still collected by NASA. As of this writing, the 737 MAX aircraft remains grounded, but in November FAA completed its 20-month safety review and lifted its grounding order, clearing the way for the airlines to make the required software, wiring and training changes. Behind the scenes, new versions of computational fluid dynamics software were released; exotic propulsion technologies tested; materials studied. Overall, there were literally too many examples of progress this year for me to allude to all of them here.
Peruse this issue of Aerospace America, and you’ll sense the perseverance of the aerospace industry in the U.S. and abroad in the face of this global pandemic. Original equipment manufacturers and the airlines innovated to make flying as safe as possible, and in that way moderate the undeniably terrible effects of the pandemic on their businesses. In research and development, those who could not continue their experiments took the opportunity to assess progress, present papers virtually, plan their next experiments and propose architectures for space missions.
As dark as this winter could prove to be, this issue gives me faith that the 2020s will still roar.