HAPPY BIRTHDAY NASA

October 17, 2018


Some information for this post is taken from NASA Tech Briefs, Vol 42, No.10

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite.  I remember the announcement just as though it was yesterday.  Walter Cronkite announced the “event” on the CBS evening news.  That single event was a game-changer and sent the United States into action. That’s when we realized we were definitely behind the curve.  The launch provided the impetus for increased spending for aerospace endeavors, technical and scientific educational programs, and the chartering of a new federal agency to manage air and space research and development. The United States and Russia were engaged in a Cold War, and during this period of time, space exploration emerged as a major area of concern.  In short, they beat us to the punch and caught us with our pants down.

As a result, President Dwight David Eisenhower created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA.  NASA opened for business on October 1, 1958, with T. Keith Glenman, president of the Case Institute of Technology, as its first administrator.  NASA’s primary goal was to “provide research into the problems of flight within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere, and other purposes. “(Not too sure the “other purposes” was fully explained but that’s no real problem.  The “spooks” had input into the overall mission of NASA due to the Cold War.)

NASA absorbed NACA (National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics) including three major research laboratories: 1.) Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, 2.) Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, and 3.) the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory.  There were two smaller laboratories included with the new Federal branch also.  NASA quickly incorporated other organizations into its new agency, notably the space science group of the Naval Research Laboratory in Maryland, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed by Caltech for the Army and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama. As you recall, Dr. Werner von Braun’s team of engineers were at that time engaged in the development of very large rockets.

The very first launch for NASA was from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  It was the Pioneer I, which launched on October 11, 1958. In May of 1959, Pioneer 4 was launched to the Moon, successfully making the first U.S. lunar flyby.

NASA’s first high-profile program involving human spaceflight was Project Mercury, an effort to learn if humans could survive the rigors of spaceflight.  On May 5, 1961, Alan B. Shepard Jr. became the first American to fly into space.  He rode his Mercury capsule on a fifteen (15) minute suborbital mission.

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the goal of sending astronauts to the moon and back before the end of the decade.  To facilitate this goal, NASA expanded the existing manned spaceflight program in December 1961 to include the development of a two-man spacecraft. The program was officially designated Gemini and represented a necessary intermediate step in sending men to the moon on what became known as the Apollo Missions.  I had the great pleasure of being in the Air Force at that period of history and worked on the Titan II Missile.  The Titan II shot the Mercury astronauts into orbit.  Every launch was a specular success for our team at the Ogden Air Material Area located at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah.  The missile has since been made obsolete by other larger and more powerful rockets but it was the “ride” back in those days.

One thing I greatly regret is the cessation of maned-flight by our government.  All of the efforts expended during the days of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo have not been totally lost but we definitely have relinquished our dominance in manned space travel.  Once again, you can thank your “local politicians” for that great lack of vision.

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THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING

August 18, 2018


Are we as Americans a little paranoid—or maybe a lot paranoid when it comes to trusting the Russians?  In light of the stories involving Russian collusion during the recent presidential election, maybe we should put trust on the shelf in all areas of involvement with Putin and the “mother-land”.  Do recent news releases through “pop” media muddy the waters or really do justice to a very interesting occurrence noted just this week? Let’s take a look.

The following is taken from a UPI News release on 16 August 2018:

“Aug. 16 (UPI) — Just days after the Trump administration proposed a Space Force as a new branch of the military, U.S. officials say they’re concerned about “very abnormal behavior” involving a Russian satellite.  The satellite, launched in October, is displaying behavior “inconsistent” with the kind of satellite Russia says it is, said Yleem D.S. Poblete, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance . “Poblete suggested the satellite could be a weapon. “We don’t know for certain what it is, and there is no way to verify it,” he said Wednesday at a disarmament conference in Switzerland.

An artist’s rendition of that satellite is given below:

“Our Russian colleagues will deny that its systems are meant to be hostile,” Poblete continued. “But it is difficult to determine an object’s true purpose simply by observing it on orbit. “So that leads to the question: is this, again, enough information to verify and assess whether a weapon has or has not been tested in orbit? The United States does not believe it is.”

This release is basically saying that if we do not know what the Russian satellite is supposed to do, then it must be a weapon.  One of my favorite online publications is SPACE.com.  This group does a commendable job at assessing breaking stories and giving us the straight “poop” relative to all things in the cosmos.  Let’s take a look at what they say.

SPACE.com:

“This gets a bit confusing, so bear with me: Russia launched the Cosmos 2519 satellite in June 2017. This spacecraft popped out a subsatellite known as Cosmos 2521 in August of that year. On Oct. 30, a second subsat, Cosmos 2523, deployed from one of these two other craft.

“I can’t tell from the data whether the parent [of 2523] was 2519 or 2521, and indeed, I can’t be sure that U.S. tracking didn’t swap the IDs of 2519 and 2521 at some point,” McDowell said.  (NOTE: Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who monitors many of the spacecraft circling our planet using publicly available U.S. tracking data.)

These three spacecraft performed a variety of maneuvers over the ensuing months, according to McDowell and Brian Weeden, director of program planning at the nonprofit Secure World Foundation. For example, Cosmos 2521 conducted some “proximity operations” around 2519 and may have docked with the mothership in October, Weeden said via Twitter today (Aug. 16).

Cosmos 2521 adjusted its orbit slightly in February 2018, then performed two big engine burns in April to significantly lower its slightly elliptical path around Earth, from about 400 miles (650 kilometers) to roughly 220 miles (360 km), McDowell said. The satellite fired its engines again on July 20, reshaping its orbit to a more elliptical path with a perigee (close-approach point) of 181 miles (292 km) and an apogee (most-distant point) of 216 miles (348 km).

And Cosmos 2519 conducted a series of small burns between late June and mid-July of this year, shifting its orbit from a nearly circular one (again, with an altitude of about 400 miles) to a highly elliptical path with a perigee of 197 miles (317 km) and an apogee of 413 miles (664 km), McDowell calculated.

These big maneuvers are consistent with a technology demonstration of some kind, he said.

Perhaps the Russians “are checking out the [spacecraft] bus and its capability to deliver multiple subsatellites to different orbits — something like that,” McDowell said. “From the information that’s available in the public domain, that would be an entirely plausible interpretation.”

“What are they complaining about?” McDowell said, referring to American officials. Weeden voiced similar sentiments. Cosmos 2523’s “deployment was unusual, but hard to see at this point why the US is making it a big deal,” he said via Twitter today. “There are a lot of facts and not a lot of pattern,” McDowell said. “So, partly I take the U.S. statement as saying, ‘Russia, how dare you do something confusing?'” It’s possible, of course, that American satellites or sensors have spotted Cosmos 2523 (or Cosmos 2519, or Cosmos 2521) doing something suspicious — some activity that can’t be detected just by analyzing publicly available tracking data. “But they need to say a little more for us to take that seriously,” McDowell said.

CONCLUSIONS:

We just do not know and we do not trust the Russians to let us know the purpose behind their newest satellite.  Then again, why should they?    We live in a world where our own media tells us “the public has the right to know”.  That’s really garbage.  The public and others have a right to know what we choose to tell them.  No more—no less.


Space Exploration Technologies Corp., doing business as SpaceX, is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. SpaceX has flown twenty-five (25) resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) under a partnership with NASA. As you all know, NASA no longer undertakes missions of this sort but relies upon private companies such as Space X for delivery of supplies and equipment to the ISS as well as launching satellite “dishes” for communications.

BACKGROUND: 

Entrepreneur Elon Musk, founded PayPal and Tesla Motors is the visionary who started the company Space Exploration Technologies.   In early 2002 Musk was seeking staff for the new company and approached rocket engineer Tom Mueller, now SpaceX’s CTO of Propulsion.  SpaceX was first headquartered in a seventy-five thousand (75,000) square foot warehouse in El Segundo, California. Musk decided SpaceX’s first rocket would be named Falcon 1, a nod to Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon. Musk planned Falcon 1’s first launch to occurring in November 2003, fifteen (15) months after the company started. When you think about the timing, you must admit this is phenomenal and extraordinary.   Now, the fact that is was an unmanned mission certainly cut the time due to no need for safety measures to protect the crew.  No redundant systems needed other than protecting the launch and cargo itself.

In January 2005 SpaceX bought a ten percent (10%) stake in Surrey Satellite Technology and by March 2006, Musk had invested US $100 million in the company.

On August 4, 2008 SpaceX accepted a further twenty ($20) million investment from Founders Fund.   In early 2012, approximately two-thirds of the company was owned by its founder Must with seventy  (70) million shares of stock estimated to be worth $875 million on private markets.  The value of SpaceX was estimated to be at $1.3 billion as of February 2012.   After the COTS 2+ flight in May 2012, the company private equity valuation nearly doubled to $2.4 billion.

SATELLITE LAUNCH:

The latest version of SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket lifted off for the second time on July 22, lighting up the skies over Florida’s Space Coast in a dazzling predawn launch.  The “Block 5” variant of the two-stage Falcon 9 blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 1:50 a.m. EDT (0550 GMT), successfully delivering to orbit a satellite for the Canadian communications company Telesat.     Less than nine (9) minutes after launch, the rocket’s first stage came back down to Earth, a with a successful landing aboard the SpaceX drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” a few hundred miles off the Florida coast.  The Falcon 9 may be seen with the JPEG below.

The Block 5 is the newest, most powerful and most reusable version of the Falcon 9.  Musk said the Block 5 first stages are designed to fly at least ten (10) times with just inspections between landing and liftoff, and one hundred (100) times or more with some refurbishment involved.

Such extensive reuse is key to Musk’s quest to slash the cost of spaceflight, making Mars colonization and other bold exploration efforts economically feasible. To date, SpaceX has successfully landed more than two dozen Falcon 9 first stages and re-flown landed boosters on more than a dozen occasions.

The only previous Block 5 flight occurred this past May 2018 and also involved a new rocket configuration.  The satellite lofted is called Telstar 19V, is headed for geostationary orbit, about 22,250 miles (35,800 kilometers) above Earth. Telstar 19V, which was built by California-based company SSL, will provide broadband service to customers throughout the Americas and Atlantic Ocean region, according to a Telesat fact sheet.

The booster’s first stage, sporting redesigned landing legs, improved heat shield insulation, upgraded avionics and more powerful engines with crack-resistant turbine hardware, flipped around moments after falling away from the Falcon 9’s second stage and flew itself back to an on-target landing on an offshore drone-ship.

It was the 25th successful booster recovery overall for SpaceX and the fifth so far this year, the latest demonstration of SpaceX’s maturing ability to bring orbit-class rockets back to Earth to fly again in the company’s drive to dramatically lower launch costs.

CONCLUSION:

I think the fact that Musk has taken on this project is quite extortionary.  Rocket launches, in times past, have represented an amazing expenditure of capital with the first and second stages being lost forever.  The payload, generally the third stage, go on to accomplish the ultimate mission.  Stages one and two become space debris orbiting Earth and posing a great menace to other launches.  Being able to reuse any portion of stages one and two is a great cost-effective measure and quite frankly no one really though it could be accomplished.


I feel that most individuals, certainly most adults, wonder if anyone is out there.  Are there other planets with intelligent life and is that life humanoid or at least somewhat intelligent?  The first effort would be to define intelligent.  Don’t laugh but this does have some merit and has been considered by behavioral scientists for a significant length of time.  On Earth, human intelligence took nearly four (4) Billion years to develop. If living beings develop advanced technology, they can make their existence known to the Universe. A working definition of “intelligent” includes self-awareness, use of tools, and use of language. There are other defining traits, as follows:

  • Crude perceptive abilities: Like concept of a handshake (sending a message and acknowledging receipt of one sent by you)
  • Crude communication abilities: Some primitive language and vocabulary
  • Sentience: Should be able of original thought and motivation, some form of self -awareness
  • Retention: Ability to remember and recall information on will
  • Some form of mathematical ability like counting

Please feel free to apply your own definition to intelligence. You will probably come as close as anyone to a workable one.

TESS:

NASA is looking and one manner in which the search occurs is with the new satellite TESS.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is an Explorer-class planet finder.   TESS will pick up the search for exoplanets as the Kepler Space Telescope runs out of fuel.

Kepler, which has discovered more than 4,500 potential planets and confirmed exoplanets, launched in 2009. After mechanical failure in 2013, it entered a new phase of campaigns to survey other areas of the sky for exoplanets, called the K2 mission. This enabled researchers to discover even more exoplanets, understand the evolution of stars and gain insight about supernovae and black holes.

Soon, Kepler’s mission will end, and it will be abandoned in space, orbiting the sun, therefore:  never getting closer to Earth than the moon.

The spaceborne all-sky transit survey, TESS will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, orbiting a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. The principal goal of the TESS mission is to detect small planets with bright host stars in the solar neighborhood, so that detailed characterizations of the planets and their atmospheres can be performed. TESS is only one satellite used to determine if there are any “goldy-locks” planets in our solar system. TESS will survey an area four hundred (400) times larger than Kepler observed. This includes two hundred thousand (200,000) of the brightest nearby stars. Over the course of two years, the four wide-field cameras on board will stare at different sectors of the sky for days at a time.

TESS will begin by looking at the Southern Hemisphere sky for the first year and move to the Northern Hemisphere in the second year. It can accomplish this lofty goal by dividing the sky into thirteen (13) sections and looking at each one for twenty-seven (27) days before moving on to the next.

The various missions launched to discover exoplanets may be seen below.

As mentioned earlier, TESS will monitor the brightness of more than two hundred thousand (200,000) stars during a two-year mission, searching for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. Transits occur when a planet’s orbit carries it directly in front of its parent star as viewed from Earth. TESS is expected to catalog more than fifteen hundred (1,500) transiting exoplanet candidates, including a sample of approximately five hundred (500) Earth-sized and ‘Super Earth’ planets, with radii less than twice that of the Earth. TESS will detect small rock-and-ice planets orbiting a diverse range of stellar types and covering a wide span of orbital periods, including rocky worlds in the habitable zones of their host stars.  This is a major undertaking and you might suspect so joint-ventures are an absolute must.  With that being the case, the major parterners in this endeavor may be seen as follows:

The project overview is given by the next pictorial.

In summary:

TESS will tile the sky with 26 observation sectors:

  • At least 27 days staring at each 24° × 96° sector
  • Brightest 200,000 stars at 1-minute cadence
  • Full frame images with 30-minute cadence
  • Map Southern hemisphere in first year
  • Map Northern hemisphere in second year
  • Sectors overlap at ecliptic poles for sensitivity to smaller and longer period planets in JWST Continuous Viewing Zone (CVZ)

TESS observes from unique High Earth Orbit (HEO):

  • Unobstructed view for continuous light curves
  • Two 13.7-day orbits per observation sector
  • Stable 2:1 resonance with Moon’s orbit
  • Thermally stable and low-radiation

The physical hardware looks as follows:

You can’t tell much about the individual components from the digital picture above but suffice it to say that TESS is a significant improvement relative to Kepler as far as technology.  The search continues and I do not know what will happen if we ever discover ET.  Imagine the areas of life that would affect?

 

 

OOPS

January 14, 2018


‘He feels really bad’: Civil Defense employee who sparked terror in Hawaii by accidentally triggering ballistic MISSILE warning will be ‘retrained’ say officials after thousands fled to bomb shelters.”

  • The alert was issued to residents’ phones at 8.07am on Saturday morning
  •  It told them to seek shelter and warned of an ‘inbound ballistic missile threat’   
  • It took 38 minutes for a second phone alert to be issued across the state 
  • By then, terrified residents had flocked to shelters and into their garages 
  • Civil Defense employee accidentally hit alert, was unaware until his phone got it
  •  An FCC investigation into the incident is underway, officials said.

A Civil Defense employee is set to be retrained after a shocking blunder on Saturday morning, when a mistaken alert warning of an inbound ballistic missile sent thousands fleeing for shelter. The false alarm was caused by a Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee who ‘pushed the wrong buttons’ during an internal drill timed to coincide with a shift handover at 8.07am. The all-clear phone alert was not sent until 38 minutes later.  Incredibly, officials said the employee who made the mistake wasn’t aware of it until mobile phones in the command center began displaying the alert. ‘This guy feels bad, right. He’s not doing this on purpose – it was a mistake on his part and he feels terrible about it,’ said EMA Administrator Vern Miyagi in a press conference Saturday afternoon. Miyagi, a retired Army major general, said the employee had been with the agency for ‘a while’ and that he would be ‘counseled and drilled so this never happens again’ – but stopped short of saying whether there would be disciplinary measures.

He feels terrible about it.  Give me a break.  I do not want to be unkind here and we all make mistakes but this is a big one.   At one time in our history, we had the DEW Line or Distant Early Warning Line.  The DEW Line was a system of radar stations in the far northern Arctic region of Canada, with additional stations along the North Coast and Aleutian Islands of Alaska, in addition to the Faroe Islands,

Greenland, and Iceland.   The DEW line was replaced by The North Warning System and is presently composed of forty-seven (47) unmanned long and short-range radar stations extending across the Northern portion of the North American continent from Labrador to Alaska.  In 1985, it replaced the DEW Line.

In 2014, Raytheon won a five (5) year contract for the North Warning System.  The “system” is basically shown by the following digital:

The system now supports air surveillance under the North American Aerospace Defense Command.  The Federal government says Raytheon had the lowest bid, and provides the best economic benefits for Inuit.

If we take a look at distances and trajectory, we see from the following global map:

The Taepo Dong 3 ICBM missile has a range of approximately 13,000 miles which means the travel times from North Korea to the following sites is within a virtual “blink of an eye”. Based on this link, taking the more conservative speed estimate :

10,500 meters/sec = 23,400 mph (This may be optimistic – 23,000 mph is Mach 30, which is way above the usual ICBM top speed of around Mach 20 at reentry.)

DISTANCES FROM PYONGYANG TO:

To New York = 6,800 miles

To Los Angeles = 5,900 miles

To Houston = 7,000 miles

SO, TIME TAKEN TO REACH:

New York = 17 minutes

Los Angeles = 16 minutes

Houston = 18 minutes

Add maybe ten to fifteen (10 –15) additional minutes to the above times for the rocket to accelerate to max speed, then decelerate on reentry.  With that being the case, we are looking at thirty (30) minutes or less for impact.

What I’m saying; North American Aerospace Defense Command would detect a missile launched from North Korea, provide (hopefully) an almost immediate alert to Hawaii, Guam and the North American continent, THEN the respective individuals in each state or area would sound the alert to their citizens.  WE ABSOLUTELY MUST NOT ALLOW ONE “ALMOST TRAINED” INDIVIDUAL THIS RESPONSIBILITY.  What were we thinking?  What were we thinking.  Our level of complacency in this area is shameful.  Luckily, no one was injured or died of a heart attack as a result of this HUGE error.  The governor of Hawaii seemed to sluff this off as just an OOPS. OOPS is when I lock my keys in my car.  OOPS is when I forget to bring in the mail.  OOPS is when I miss a dental appointment.  This is not really an OOPS.  This is DUMB. We need to fix DUMB.

GOTTA GET IT OFF

January 6, 2018


OKAY, how many of you have said already this year?  “MAN, I have to lose some weight.”  I have a dear friend who put on a little weight over a couple of years and he commented: “Twenty or twenty-five pounds every year and pretty soon it adds up.”  It does add up.  Let’s look at several numbers from the CDC and other sources.

  • The CDC organization estimates that three-quarters (3/4of the American population will likely be overweight or obese by 2020. The latest figures, as of 2014, show that more than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults age twenty (20) and older and seventeen percent (17%) of children and adolescents aged two through nineteen (2–19) years were obese.
  • American ObesityRates are on the Rise, Gallup Poll Finds. Americans have become even fatter than before, with nearly twenty-eight (28%) percent saying they are clinically obese, a new survey finds. … At 180 pounds this person has a BMI of thirty (30) and is considered obese.

Now, you might say—we are in good company:  According to the World Health Organization, the following countries have the highest rates of obesity.

  • Republic of Nauru. Formerly known as Pleasant Island, this tiny island country in the South Pacific only has a population of 9,300. …
  • American Samoa. …
  • Tokelau
  • Tonga
  • French Polynesia. …
  • Republic of Kiribati. …
  • Saudi Arabia. …
  • Panama.

There is absolutely no doubt that more and more Americans are over weight even surpassing the magic BMI number of 30.  We all know what reduction in weight can do for us on an individual basis, but have you ever considered what reduction in weight can do for “other items”—namely hardware?

  • Using light-weight components, (composite materials) and high-efficiency engines enabled by advanced materials for internal-combustion engines in one-quarter of U.S. fleet trucks and automobiles could possibly save more than five (5) billion gallons of fuel annually by 2030. This is according to the US Energy Department Vehicle Technologies Office.
  • This is possible because, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, The Department of Energy’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility has a capacity to produce up to twenty-five (25) tons of carbon fiber per year.
  • Replacing heavy steel with high-strength steel, aluminum, or glass fiber-reinforced polymer composites can decrease component weight by ten to sixty percent (10-60 %). Longer term, materials such as magnesium and carbon fiber-reinforced composites could reduce the weight of some components by fifty to seventy-five percent (50-75%).
  • It costs $10,000 per pound to put one pound of payload into Earth orbit. NASA’s goal is to reduce the cost of getting to space down to hundreds of dollars per pound within twenty-five (25) years and tens of dollars per pound within forty (40) years.
  • Space-X Falcon Heavy rocket will be the first ever rocket to break the $1,000 per pound per orbit barrier—less than a tenth as much as the Shuttle. ( SpaceX press release, July 13, 2017.)
  • The Solar Impulse 2 flew 40,000 Km without fuel. The 3,257-pound solar plane used sandwiched carbon fiber and honey-combed alveolate foam for the fuselage, cockpit and wing spars.

So you see, reduction in weight can have lasting affects for just about every person and some pieces of hardware.   Let’s you and I get it off.

THE BONE YARD

January 24, 2017


I entered the Air Force in 1966 and served until 1970.  I had the great fortune of working for the Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC) headquartered out of Write Patterson Air Force Base in Cleveland, Ohio.  Our biggest “customer” was the Strategic Air Force Commend or SAC.  SAC was responsible for all  ICBMs our country had in its inventory.  My job was project engineer in a section that supported the Titan II Missile, specifically the thrust chamber and turbopumps.  I interfaced with Martian, Aerojet General, Raytheon, and many other great vendors supporting the weapons system.   Weapons were located at the following sites:

  • 308 Missile Wing—Little Rock Air Force Base
  • 381 Missile Wing—McConnel Air Force Base
  • 390 Missile Wing—Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
  • 395 Strategic Missile Squadron—Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Little Rock, McConnel, and Davis-Monthan each had two squadrons or eighteen (18) per site.  There were fifty-five (55) operational Titan II missiles in the SAC inventory, each having atomic war heads.  This, by the way, was also the missile that launched the Gemini astronauts.

During my four years in AFLC, I had an opportunity to visit Little Rock AFB and Davis-Monthan AFB for brief TDY (temporary duty assignments). Each time the “mission” was to oversee re-assembly of turbopumps that had been repaired or updated. The seals between the turbopumps and the thrust chamber were absolutely critical and had to be perfectly flat to avoid leakage during liftoff.  Metrology equipment was employed to insure the flatness needed prior to installation.  It was a real process with page after page of instruction.

An underground missile silo is a remarkable piece of engineering.  A city underground—living quarters, kitchen, adequate medical facilities, communication section, elevators, etc.  You get the picture.   All of the Titan II sites were decommissioned as a result of the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) during the mid 1980s.

OK, with that being said, one remarkable area located at Davis-Monthan AFB is the “resting place” for many, if not most aircraft that are no longer in the operational inventory.  This is where they go to retire.  While at Davis-Monthan, I had an opportunity to visit the boneyard and it was a real “trip”.

THE BONEYARD:

Davis-Monthan AFB’s role in the storage of military aircraft began after World War II, and continues today. It has evolved into “the largest aircraft boneyard in the world”.

With the area’s low humidity– ten to twenty percent (10%-20%) range, meager rainfall of eleven inches (11″) annually, hard alkaline soil, and high altitude of 2,550 feet, Davis-Monthan is the logical choice for a major storage facility.  Aircraft are there for cannibalization of parts or storage for further use.

In 1965, the Department of Defense decided to close its Litchfield Park storage facility in Phoenix, and consolidate the Navy’s surplus air fleet into Davis-Monthan. Along with this move, the name of the 2704th Air Force Storage and Disposition Group was changed to Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center (MASDC) to better reflect its joint services mission.

In early 1965, aircraft from Litchfield Park began the move from Phoenix to Tucson, mostly moved by truck, a cheaper alternative than removing planes from their protective coverings, flying them, and protecting them again.

The last Air Force B-47 jet bomber was retired at the end of 1969 and the entire fleet was dismantled at D-M except for thirty (30) Stratojets, which were saved for display in air museums.  In 1085, the facilities’ name was changed again, from MASDC to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) as outdated ICBM missiles also entered storage at Davis-Monthan.  In the 1990s, 365 surplus B-52 bombers were dismantled at the facility.

AMARG:

The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), or Boneyard, is a United States Air Force aircraft and missile storage and maintenance facility in Tucson, Arizona, located on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. AMARG was previously Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, AMARC, the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center, MASDC, and was established after World War II as the 3040th Aircraft Storage Group.

AMARG takes care of more than 4,400 aircraft, which makes it the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world. An Air Force Materiel Command unit, the group is under the command of the 309th Maintenance Wing at Hill Air Force BaseUtah. (NOTE:  My time in AFLC was spent at Hill Air Force Base.  I was specifically assigned to the Ogden Air Material Area or OAMA.)  AMARG was originally meant to store excess Department of Defense and Coast Guard aircraft, but has in recent years been designated the sole repository of out-of-service aircraft from all branches of the US government.

In the 1980s, the center began processing ICBMs for dismantling or reuse in satellite launches, and was renamed the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) to reflect the expanded focus on all aerospace assets.  A map of the boneyard may be seen below.  The surface area is acres in size.

map

As you can see from the following digital pictures, aircraft of all types are stored in the desert at Davis-Monthan AFB.

bone-yard

The aircraft below are F-4 Phantom fighters that served in Vietnam.

f-4-phantom

The view below shows you just how many acres the boneyard requires.

bone-yard-2

 

AIRCRAFT INVENTORY USED BY AMARG:

AMARG uses the following official “Type” categories for aircraft in storage:

  • Type 1000 – aircraft at AMARG for long-term storage, to be maintained until recalled to active service. These aircraft are “inviolate” – have a high potential to return to flying status and no parts may be removed from them. These aircraft are “represerved” every four years.
  • Type 2000 – aircraft available for parts reclamation, as “aircraft storage bins” for parts, to keep other aircraft flying.
  • Type 3000 – “flying hold” aircraft kept in near flyable condition in short-term, temporary storage; waiting for transfer to another unit, sale to another country, or reclassification to the other three types.
  • Type 4000 – aircraft in excess of DoD needs – these have been gutted and every useable part has been reclaimed. They will be sold, broken down into scrap, smelted into ingots, and recycled.

STORAGE PROCEDURES:

There are four categories of storage for aircraft at AMARG:

  • Long Term – Aircraft are kept intact for future use
  • Parts Reclamation – Aircraft are kept, picked apartand used for spare parts
  • Flying Hold – Aircraft are kept intact for shorter stays than Long Term
  • Excess of DoDneeds – Aircraft are sold off whole or in parts

AMARG employs 550 people, almost all civilians. The 2,600 acres (11 km2) facility is adjacent to the base. For every one dollar ($1) the federal government spends operating the facility, it saves or produces eleven dollars ($11) from harvesting spare parts and selling off inventory. Congressional oversight determines what equipment may be sold to which customer.

An aircraft going into storage undergoes the following treatments:

  • All guns, ejection seat charges, and classified hardware are removed.
  • All Navy aircraft are carefully washed with fresh water, to remove salty water environment residue, and then completely dried.
  • The fuel system is protected by draining it, refilling it with lightweight oil, and then draining it again. This leaves a protective oil film.
  • The aircraft is sealed from dust, sunlight, and high temperatures. This is done using a variety of materials, including a high-tech vinyl plastic compound that is sprayed on the aircraft. This compound is called spraylatafter its producer the Spraylat Corporation, and is applied in two coats, a black coat that seals the aircraft and a white coat that reflects the sun and helps to keep internal temperatures low.  The plane is then towed by a tug to its designated “storage” position.

The Group annually in-processes an undisclosed number of aircraft for storage and out-processes a number of aircraft for return to the active service, either repainted and sold to friendly foreign governments, recycled as target or remotely controlled drones or rebuilt as civilian cargo, transport, and/or utility aircraft.  There is much scrutiny over who (civilians, companies, foreign governments) can buy what kinds of parts. At times, these sales are canceled. The Air Force for example reclaimed several F-16s from AMARG for the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Courses which were originally meant to be sold to Pakistan, but never delivered due to an early-90’s embargo.

CONCLUSIONS:

I have absolutely no idea as to how much money in inventory is located at D-M but as you might expect, it’s in the billions of USD. As always, I welcome your comments.

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