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Latest news on the defence and aerospace sector.

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    South African Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Federal Minister for Defence of Pakistan Khawaja Muhammad Asif, her department said on Monday. The MoU on “Defence and Defence Industrial Cooperation” establishes a Joint Defence Committee which will pave the way for strengthening and diversifying through formal structures, collaborative programmes, exchange of information and training of the armed forces officers or soldiers, the department said.

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    Two South African-designed and built nanosatellites, designated nSight1 and ZA-Aerosat, are set to be launched into space next week, as part of a consignment of 28 nanosatellites from 23 countries. The entire shipment of nanosatellites will, according to current plans, be lifted into space by a rocket on April 18 and flown as cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) and subsequently be launched from the ISS. All 28 nanosatellites, including the two South African examples, are part of the QB50 project, which is funded by the European Union (EU) and managed by the Von Karmen Institute. This is an intercontinental – not just EU – project to carry out research on a part of the atmosphere called the lower Thermosphere, which lies at altitudes between 200 km and 380 km.

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    The National Laser Centre (NLC), part of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is undertaking a Photonics Prototyping Facility (PPF) programme and is exploring advance manufacturing technologies, leveraging on the strong global growth of the laser technology sector. NLC PPF business area manager Khomotso Duiker tells Engineering News that PPF, based in Pretoria and commissioned in 2014/15, aims to stimulate the sector through improving the growth and competitiveness of the South African photonics industry.

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    March 31 was a red-letter day in commercial aviation when two new versions of major airliners made their first flights. They were – in alphabetical order – the Airbus A319neo and the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner. The two flights took place from Hamburg, Germany and at North Charleston in South Carolina in the US, respectively. The A319neo is a single-aisle or narrow-body airliner, while the 787 is a twin-aisle or wide-body airliner.

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    The Laser Research Institute (LRI), part of the Physics Department at Stellenbosch University, has achieved notable research outputs during the past three years, which has resulted in several innovative projects such as ultrafast laser spectroscopy, as well as infrared spectroscopy and laser projects. “The ultrashort laser pulses, which are less than 100 femtoseconds or 10-13s long, are used to produce “movies” of very fast changes in material. In ultrafast molecular spectroscopy, these short laser pulses are used to investigate and improve new types of solar cells, called dye-sensitised solar cells,” says LRI professor Dr Heinrich Schwoerer.

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    Brazilian technology company IACIT Soluções Tecnológicas S/A (IACIT), which develops and produces air traffic control and management and maritime traffic control and management systems, weather radars, telemetry systems, and integrated networks (among other products and systems) for civil, public safety and defence purposes, displayed its new OTH 0100 over-the-horizon (OTH) radar in public for the first time at the recent LAAD Defence & Security 2017 exhibition in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. A developmental model of the radar has been operating at the Albardão Lighthouse, in Brazil’s southernmost State of Rio Grande do Sul, since the end of last year. Its first results are currently being assessed.

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    US aerospace company Boeing unveiled concepts earlier in April for the deep-space gateway and transport systems that could help achieve US space agency the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa’s) goal of having robust human space exploration from the moon to Mars.

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    Private rocket company SpaceX has successfully reused one of its Falcon 9 rockets to launch a commercial communications satellite – SES-10 – for communications satellite operator SES.

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    Engineering services and aerospace systems company Honeywell recently hosted Eastern Cape resident Matthew Arnolds at its yearly aerospace training initiative, the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy.

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    In what could be the most significant development in global commercial aviation since the prototype of the first Airbus airliner (the A300) made its maiden flight in late 1972, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China’s (Comac’s) C919 single-aisle airliner made its first flight, from Shanghai Pudong International Airport, at 14.00 local time on Friday. The new aircraft is powered by two CFM International Leap-1C engines. The flight lasted one hour and 19 minutes, with the aircraft touching down at 15.19 local time. As planned, it kept its undercarriage down for the entire flight. The five-strong flight test crew were charged with checking 15 parameters during the flight, and, after the flight, Comac reported that all these tests had been successfully carried out. Chinese State television reported, before the flight, that the aircraft would not exceed an altitude of 3 000 m and not fly faster than 300 km/h.

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    Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor reported on Monday that the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) has made significant progress in developing the country's next Earth observation (EO) satellite. She was giving the keynote address at the opening of the 37th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of the Environment, at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria. "Sansa is in the final stages of the development of an optical EO satellite to support food security and disaster management across the continent," she said. "The optical satellite is a key part of South Africa's contributions to a broader continental effort to leverage the potential of space for development. Sansa and other South African science-based organisations are primed to support the African space programme."

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    State-owned aerospace and defence technology conglomerate Denel on Tuesday said it was in ongoing talks with Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba and Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown regarding its multibillion-rand joint venture (JV) deal with VR Laser Asia, which led to the creation of Denel Asia. Media reports earlier this month stated that Gigaba had approached Denel chairperson Daniel Mantsha to not continue with the deal. Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan also refused to approve the JV.

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    Five mobile transformers were delivered to State-owned power utility Eskom’s Mkondeni unit in KwaZulu-Natal in March.  The plan to purchase the five 132/88-22/11KV mobile transformers started in 2011 and was followed by a rigorous procurement process. Industrial corporation Siemens was awarded the contract to manufacture the units. The names given to the five mobile transformers are: Inyala-Unyazi (springbok, star), Idube- Inkayimana (zebra, freighter), Ingwe-Isivuthevuthe (leopard, flames of ...

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    Over the last three years, State-owned power utility Eskom’s enterprise development programme, the Contractor Academy, trained 518 contractors from all nine provinces, with the youth accounting for about 60% of participants. The programme started as a pilot programme in 2008 and has since grown significantly. To date, it has completed 73 academies and almost 1 000 contractors have been successfully trained.

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    In what could be the most significant development in global commercial aviation since the prototype of the first Airbus airliner (the A300) made its maiden flight in late 1972, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China’s (Comac’s) C919 single-aisle airliner made its first flight, from Shanghai Pudong International Airport, at 14.00 local time on Friday, May 5. The new aircraft is powered by two CFM International Leap-1C engines.

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    Defence and aerospace company Denel will on Friday discuss the Defence Industry Strategy document, designed to provide guidelines for productive government–industry cooperation and partnership, with Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and the National Defence Industry Council. The Defence Industry Strategy is the product of wide-ranging consultations between government departments and the defence industry and contains provisions to stimulate local manufacturing including minimum requirements for procurement of goods and services from local, black-owned enterprises.

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    State-owned Denel on Tuesday said it was dead set on expanding its business in the Asia-Pacific markets, despite an affidavit, lodged by former Treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile, stating that its joint venture (JV) partner is a technically insolvent company. The aerospace and defence technology conglomerate in 2015 entered a multibillion-rand deal with Gupta-linked VR Laser Asia, which led to the creation of Denel Asia.

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    Denel on Wednesday contradicted reports that Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba had ordered the State-owned arms manufacturer to dissolve its controversial joint venture with VR Laser Asia, a company linked to the Gupta business empire, and withdraw its litigation against National Treasury for refusing to approve the deal. Denel’s chairperson Daniel Mantshe told Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises that executives had met with Gigaba and that the long-standing row with National Treasury over the venture would be resolved favourably.

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    South Africa’s Competition Commission has recommended that State-owned defence and aerospace group Denel be allowed to buy local aero-engine company Turbomeca Africa (TMA). The recommendation was given to the Competition Tribunal. The Commission announced this decision on Thursday.

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    South African private-sector space company SCS Space is looking forward to establishing the spaceworthiness credentials of its Gecko imager, which is mounted on South Africa’s nSight-1 nanosatellite and which was scheduled to have been launched from the International Space Station on May 23. nSight-1 is part of the global QB50 programme to place 36 nanosatellites in orbit (the original plan was 50), coordinated by Belgium’s von Karman Institute on behalf of the European Union. The primary aim is research into the region of the atmosphere known as the lower thermosphere. (As such, nSight-1’s main payload is the Flux-Phi Probe Experiment from the Technical University of Dresden.) nSight-1 has a mass of 2.5 kg and has dimensions of 20 cm by 10 cm by 10 cm.

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