aerospace

By Susmita Mohanty of Earth2Orbit

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, is suing the US Air Force for awarding a no-bid military contract to United Launch Alliance, a 50-50 venture of Boeing and Lockheed. The contract, for 36 rockets to launch defence payloads such as satellites, went to ULA on a sole-source basis last December. By 2030, the Pentagon expects to spend almost $70bn on the program. While the two old aerospace monopolies sulked, many in the industry quietly cheered Musk, a California-based new generation immigrant entrepreneur, for challenging the lucrative contract awarded without open competitive bidding.

But Musk’s actions may have grave and unintended consequences. Read more

A general election in India is a busy time for the media, it’s a busy time for the gambling industry – and it’s also a busy time for the private aviation market, as would-be leaders scurry across the vast nation hoping to win over voters.

This year, electioneering has focused on corruption and good governance but it seems this hasn’t stopped politicians from borrowing jets from friends to cover the campaign trail. Read more

Poland’s troubled Lot Polish Airlines is getting a helping hand from Boeing: the US aircraft manufacturer stuck an agreement with the carrier, which had complained about losses incurred after two of its 787 Dreamliner planes were pulled from service due to faulty batteriesRead more

By Susmita Mohanty of Earth2Orbit

India’s Mangalyaan spacecraft has made its slingshot from the Earth’s orbit and is on its way to Mars. No doubt we will again hear the familiar refrain: why would a country struggling to ensure a fifth of its population gets a square meal a day want to go to Mars? It is not very different from asking why would NASA spend nearly $18bn on its space programme when nearly a fifth of the US population lacks decent healthcare. That kind of reasoning is myopic. A nation needs to do both – ensure basic human necessities and niceties, and also inspire its people to reach for the stars. Read more

By Susmita Mohanty of Earth2Orbit

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, or Mangalyaan (meaning Mars-craft), is orbiting the Earth in readiness to make its leap to Mars next month at an all-in cost of a meagre $72m. This is the kind of money an Indian metropolis spends in a major festival week, or how much it costs to make a few Bollywood blockbusters – small change these days, even by Indian standards.

Compare that with NASA’s Maven mission, which took off for Mars this week. It will cost the American taxpayer $671m, nearly nine times as much the Indian mission. Use purchasing power parity (not really appropriate here) and the Indian mission still clocks in at less than half the cost of its global equivalent. Read more

In China, military license plates are even better than diplomatic ones. In addition to bestowing blanket immunity from all manner of traffic violations, they also inspire fear in the hearts of other drivers.

A similar sense of entitlement has long been enjoyed by Chinese military pilots. The People’s Liberation Army air force controls 80 per cent of the country’s not so friendly skies, leaving just 20 per cent of the ether for the fast-growing civil aviation sector. In the US, the airspace split is the other way round: 20 per cent military, 80 per cent civilian. Read more

Russia’s auto industry has been given a new lease of life by foreign car assembly ventures but it remains to be seen whether the same sort of technology transfer could rejuvenate civilian aerospace. Moscow-based Vityaz Avia is giving it a go with a plan to assemble Canadian Twin Otter regional jets at a plant on the River Volga. Read more

The ‘Ahrlac’ jet may not be an aircraft that you have heard of, but it has its place in aerospace history: it’s the first defence aircraft to be completely designed and manufactured in Africa.

Ivor Ichikowitz, founder and chief executive of its maker, Paramount Group, says proudly: “It’s 100-per-cent homegrown – it’s a big story for Africa, for realising that we don’t have to rely on the west to do things.” Read more

Hungarian diplomatic successes are rather scarce on the ground these days – Budapest has contrived to upset neighbours to east and west of late.

But Tuesday’s announcement that Hungarian air traffic control (ATC) is to direct the upper air space of Kosovo appears a genuine achievement, even if the Magyar Nemzet headline “We occupy Kosovo airspace” might appear a little triumphalist. Read more

Dreadful news for the Russian aviation industry. A Sukhoi SuperJet 100, the first new Russian passenger plane since the collapse of communism, went missing on Wednesday during a promotional flight in Indonesia with 50 people on board.

Reuters reported thathe plane disappeared from the radar over high ground in west Java. Searchers have yet to establish what has happened to it – but they fear the worst. The Sukhoi was on a six-day marketing trip in Asia. Read more

More than half a century since the Constitution of India came into force, it’s no surprise that the Republic Day celebrations have taken on a distinctly modern twist: this year, a Youtube video with 3m hits (and counting).

What is surprising is that the video came from a Finnish airline.

 Read more

Call it one small step for man, one giant leap for financial scandal.

As people close to the government told beyondbrics, a government-backed panel has recommended that ministers should ban the former head of India’s space programme, Madhavan Nair, and three other eminent former space scientists from government jobs. The panel has alleged that the four were involved in the leasing of underpriced space spectrum to private telecom operators.

Nair has denied any wrongdoing and has vowed to fight to clear his name. Read more

As economies grow, so does their need to move goods and people about – by road, rail, and of course air. But with transport comes safety concerns. Where is it safest to fly among in EMs? And is Russia as dangerous as many stories this year have suggested?

Chart of the week looks at the safety records of some of the bigger emerging markets. It’s not as clear cut as you might think. Read more

By Neil Munshi and James Fontanella-Khan

Looks like the market, at least provisionally, is ready to believe in the King of the Good Times again. Now they have more to think about, as the embattled Indian billionaire tells the FT he is close to sealing a last-minute deal to keep his debt-ridden Kingfisher Airlines airborne. Read more

By Neil Munshi and James Fontanella-Khan

Is it time for the ‘King of Good Times’ to come down to earth?

Or will India’s government swoop in to save his majesty from some decidedly bad times? Read more