A Fast Helicopter's Slow Revival

David Jenney, a key developer of the Black Hawk helicopter, sees his high-speed ambitions fulfilled

2 min read

Ask David Jenney about his career in helicopters and he'll likely tell you that he worked on the Black Hawk for 15 to 20 years. What he'll probably neglect to say is that he conjured the key innovation—a funny-looking tilt to the tail rotor—that made the Black Hawk one of the most successful and ubiquitous helicopters in history.

He may also fail to mention his many rotorcraft patents, or his time as the engineering director in charge of some 400 employees at Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., in Stratford, Conn. What he will talk about, with a wistful smile, is 1980, which he spent shuttling between his home in Stratford and an airfield outside West Palm Beach, Fla., where he was flight-testing an experimental aircraft that he hoped would claim the helicopter speed record [see "The Fastest Helicopter on Earth," in this issue].

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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