IAI and GECAS to convert 777 into Freighter Planes

GECAS (a GE’s company) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) plan to perform the fist conversion of the passenger plane Boeing 777-300ER to freighter. Dubbed “The Big Twin”(denoting 777 as the largest ever twin-engined freighter) the initiative is jointly funded by GECAS and IAI. According to the agreement between the two, GECAS will commit fifteen firm orders and has fifteen additional options for the 777-300ERSF.GECAS and IAI believe that The Big Twin has the capability to seamlessly replace aging 747-400 and MD11 freighters.

The 777-300ER is the most successful widebody variant in aviation history, with almost 850 sold. The 777-300ERSF STC development and prototype conversion is estimated to take over three years from the start of the program to achieving CAAI/FAA STC Approval, while subsequent aircraft will average four to five months to convert. The conversion of initial aircraft is expected to take place in Tel Aviv with further conversion lines contemplated in other locations outside of Israel from 2023.

The Program will also see IAI enter into conversion agreements for the 777-300ERSF directly with airlines as well as other lessors around the world. Entering service in 2022, the Big Twin will offer operators 25% more capacity than today’s smaller twin-engined long-haul freighters and is expected achieve up to 21% lower fuel-burn per tonne than 4-engine freighters. This new agreement marks a continuation of a twenty-plus year partnership between GECAS and IAI.

IAI’s experience in conversion programs includes the Boeing 747, 767, 737NG and the 737 Classic. IAI has completed more than 70 conversions of GECAS’ aircraft, including 747, 767 & 737 freighters. The program will also be supported by GE Aviation. The GE90 is the sole-source engine on this aircraft type and GE Aviation has worked with GECAS to create unique engine solutions dedicated to the support of freighter operators.

Firefly to get Lunar Lander Technology from IAI

Photo above: Beresheet Moon Lander at IAI’s integration facility in Israel

Firefly Aerospace Inc. (Firefly) announced that it has signed an Intellectual Property and Engineering Support Agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for technology based on its Beresheet Lunar Lander. Firefly Aerospace is one of the nine companies selected by NASA to participate in the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to deliver science payloads to the surface of the Moon.

Firefly CEO Dr. Tom Markusic,said that the agreement with IAI will allow Firefly “to create a U.S.-built version of IAI’s historic lunar lander.  Having access to flight proven lunar lander technology and the expertise of IAI engineers makes Firefly well placed to gain a foothold in the cislunar market.” Shea Ferring, Firefly Vice President of Mission Assurance, added that the cooperation agreement provide the only NASA CLPS program flight-proven lander design.

The  development of the spacecraft Beresheet (“Genesis” in Hebrew) by SpaceIL and IAI started in 2015 and lasted until 2018. The spacecraft, which weighs only 600 kilograms, is considered the smallest to land on the moon. The height of “Beresheet” is 1.5 meters, it is about two meters wide and it carries fuel which is approximately 75 percent of its weight. In the end it did not reach the moon. On April 4, 2019 it had entered a lunar orbit, but during the landing procedure on April 11, the vehicle crashed on the lunar surface.

The cooperation agreement between Firefly Aerospace and IAI aimed to answer the needs of NASA in its CLPS program. As part of its plan to return astronauts to the Moon, NASA is currently working with nine American companies (including Firefly) on delivery services to the lunar surface through CLPS contracts. They will bid on delivering science and technology payloads for NASA, including payload integration and operations, launching from Earth and landing on the surface of the Moon. CLPS budgets valued of $2.6 billion during the next 10 years.

IAI to build Space Drones for Maintenance Missions

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Effective Space  agreed on a technology and financial cooperation to bring new kind of maintenance satellites to space, in order to extend the service period of communication satellites by 15 years and more. The companies announced that they have signed a term sheet for cooperation, under which Effective Space will appoint IAI as the primary contractor of its Space Drone spacecraft, while IAI will work to complete the necessary approvals for equity investment in Effective Space. The term sheet follows more than a year of cooperation, during which both companies have been jointly working on the Space Drone spacecraft design.

Effective Space is developing a unique, small spacecraft called Space Drone to extend the life of satellites in orbit. It employs a unique and patented technology for rendezvous and docking to satellites in space. After docking with existing satellites in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit that are reaching the end of their normal life expectancy, Space Drone will provide the engines needed for attitude-control, relocation, de-orbiting, orbit and inclination correction, and thus to provide up to 15 years of overall life-extension service.

Effective Space’s first contract, signed in 2017 with an international satellite operator, will see two Space Drone spacecraft launched in 2020 to extend the life of two existing satellites, and is expected to generate revenues of more than US$100 million. “IAI is globally recognised as a leader in the development and construction of commercial satellite technologies, and in particular, those with high performance and a small form factor,” said Arie Halsband, Founder and CEO of Effective Space. “IAI’s intention to directly invest in Effective Space is a strong endorsement of our program and an indication of the potential return for investors from this new era of logistics in space and in-space robotics.”

Effective Space was founded in 2013 and has raised US$15 million from investment funds in previous rounds of financing.