U.S. Air Force fire protection specialists use an inflatable raft while conducting ice rescue training at Six Mile Lake on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Dec. 29, 2021.

U.S. Air Force fire protection specialists use an inflatable raft while conducting ice rescue training at Six Mile Lake on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Dec. 29, 2021. U.S. Air Force / Alejandro Pena

The Air & Space Brief: New Year’s Day blast; Microwave-to-solar power, 2021’s ‘Top Tens’

Welcome to the Defense One Air and Space newsletter. Here are our top stories this week:  

Why do U.S. hypersonic tests keep failing? It’s because of the way the Defense Department has contractors racing to be first to develop them, Non-Proliferation Review editor Joshua Pollack argues in Defense One. “Truncated development strategy seems to require a faith that American aerospace engineering can overwhelm all the usual difficulties by force of sheer élan. The results turn out differently,” Pollack writes. 

Now that’s a firework: Pittsburgh residents reported a boom on New Year’s Day, which NASA later confirmed was a meteor about a yard wide bursting apart in the Earth’s atmosphere over that city’s suburbs. “The meteor …had an energy blast equivalent to that of 30 tons of TNT, NASA estimated in a post on Facebook.” The Hill reported Tuesday. 

Powering future bases:  The Air Force Research Lab, or AFRL, announced a breakthrough in late December on its work to collect solar power in space and stream it to Earth in the form of microwaves. AFRL and Northrop Grumman reported early success on a tile that would convert the microwaves to light energy, and estimated that 1,000 square meters of tiles would be needed to power a forward operating base. 

Air Force 2021 Top Ten: From a historic evacuation from Kabul Airport to announcing the future fighter mix, and battling Covid at home, the Air Force had a busy year. 

Space Force 2021 Top Ten: From new experimental rocket cargo to a future space superhighway, and China’s globe-orbiting hypersonic launch, the Space Force had a very full second year. 

Sign up to get The Air & Space Brief every Tuesday from Tara Copp, Defense One’s Senior Pentagon Reporter. On Jan. 4, 1954 Lockheed Martin’s supersonic F-104 Starfighter made its first official flight. 


From Defense One

Why Do US Hypersonic Missile Tests Keep Failing? They’re Going Too Fast // Joshua Pollack: If it’s so important to deploy these new missile types, development schedules should be revised to promote success.

2021 Top Ten: Air Force // Defense One staff: The emergency evacuation from Kabul, unprecedented in scope and speed, was the operational highlight of the year.

2021 Top Ten: Space Force // Defense One staff: In a year when the military's newest service turned two, there remain plenty of unsettled policy areas.

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