Highlights of the Paris Air Show

Three pilotless planes, two space agencies making deals, and one huge passenger aircraft

4 min read

17 June 2005--Even though the Airbus A380 made its maiden flight more than a month ago, it was clearly the 46th International Paris Air Show's biggest star. At 560 metric tons it is truly a mammoth machine, the largest passenger aircraft in the world and the first ever to have a double passenger deck that extends over the entire length of its fuselage. Almost 73 meters from nose to tail, it has a wingspan of nearly 80 meters. Four jet engines--either General Electric and Pratt & Whitney GP7270s or Rolls-Royce Trent 970s--accelerate it to a cruising speed nearly nine-tenths the speed of sound and give it a maximum range of 14 800 kilometers.

Despite the A380's size and power, spectators were amazed at how little noise it made as it circled the field over Le Bourget Airport in Paris [QuickTime .mov file, 222.6 kb]. Airbus calls the plane a "whispering giant."

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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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