Category Archives: Aerospace

Astronauts to don skin-tight suit to prevent spine growth

13 January 2014

British scientists have helped develop a suit to prevent astronauts developing back problems while in space.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) “Skinsuit” was developed to stop astronauts’ spines from lengthening by replicating the force usually provided by gravity to hold the vertebrae together tightly.

Without this force, visitors to space can grow in height by up 7cm, a process that gradually reverses once they return to Earth but also causing backache and a fourfold increased chance of slipping a disc.

The Skinsuit, created by the Space Medicine Office of ESA’s European Astronaut Centre and tested by scientists at Kings College London and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, effectively squeezes the body from shoulders to feet to prevent this problem.

‘We needed to create a suit that is both tight-fitting but comfortable to wear, while creating the right amount of force in the right places,’ said Simon Evetts, Medical Projects and Technology Unit team leader at the European Astronaut Centre.

The current prototype is made from spandex with a specially designed bi-directional weave to replicate the force of the Earth’s gravity but the scientists are examining the use of other materials for future versions.

ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen will be the first to wear the suit in space during his mission in 2015.

The Skinsuit also has potential for use on Earth as well as for astronauts, said Evetts. ‘If the technology is effective in space, it could help the elderly and many people with lower-back problems on Earth. Additionally, Skinsuit technology could improve the support garments currently used for conditions like cerebral palsy.’

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National Aeronautical Centre aimed at developing UK’s UAS potential

13 September 2013 | By Jason Ford

A new centre has been launched that is expected to put the UK at the forefront of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).

The National Aeronautical Centre (NAC) is the world’s first private facility for UAS development that has been created through a partnership between West Wales Airport and Newquay Cornwall Airport.

NAC will enable the UK to capitalise on what is recognised by the global aerospace community as one of the world’s major economic growth opportunities. It will do this by letting military and civilian UAS developers test, evaluate, train and demonstrate unmanned systems that can operate beyond line of sight in non-segregated airspace whilst satisfying the requirements of regulatory authorities.

‘Industry must develop…systems and subsystems that can contribute to safe and reliable operations that the regulator requires and – as soon as possible – develop standards as a basis for future regulation,’ said Ray Mann, head of the NAC who added that the new facility has the capacity to deliver the necessary services and accommodation for all sizes of UAS envisaged for production and development over the next 20 years.

‘We are, in this country, technically capable of flying large unmanned systems but confidence is still lacking in a number of different areas and one of those is command and control,’ said Mann at the launch of NAC on September 9, 2013. ‘This, amongst other things, needs to be demonstrated and that confidence needs to be built.’

Mann added that flying beyond line of sight can be defined as systems controlled from one country and ‘literally operated’ in another.

Clearing this technical hurdle will present UAS businesses with a myriad of opportunities, said Mann. Unmanned freight carriers could, for example, tap into a market currently worth $6.4 trillion, or 35 per cent of the world’s trade. Similarly, shipping lines currently spend around $133bn a year transiting from the Horn of Africa to the Cape, yet none of them use UAS as part of their security operations, said Mann.

He said, ‘Applications abound….we just need to be able to access it. Military applications today are considered to be worth £30bn per annum by 2020. The civilian applications are considered to be worth nearly £100bn.’

Facilities at West Wales Airport include a 1,200m runway and 2,000 square miles of capability over the sea and 500 sq miles over land, whilst Newquay boasts a 3,000m runway with 3,000 square miles of airspace.

‘With the NAC now established, the UK has a necessary…environment where regulated operations can be carried out with development capacity for years to come.

‘What we need is government…to encourage and incentivise all parts of industry to recognise and participate in the business potential. The window is wide open but for how long? We must recognise that this won’t be forever.’

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