Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

David Szondy

The astro-comb will try to 'rediscover' Venus by measuring its gravitational effects on th...

Astronomers looking for exoplanets are using a fine-toothed comb – a fine-toothed astro-comb, to be precise. And just to make sure it works, the first planet they’ll be looking for is Venus. Developed by astronomers Chih-Hao Li and David Phillips of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the astro-comb uses a new spectroscopic device installed in the Italian Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands that will detect the beclouded planet by its gravitational effect on the Sun as a test of a potentially valuable tool in the hunt for Earth-like planets beyond our Solar System.  Read More

Artist's concept of MAVEN in Mars orbit (Image: NASA/GSFC)

After completing its 10 month-long voyage, NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is taking its first look at the Martian atmosphere. Part of the unmanned orbiter’s commissioning phase, it limbered up its sensors by observing the effect of a massive solar event and returned its first images of the fountain-like coronas that are slowly peeling away the Red Planet's atmosphere.  Read More

The OTV-3 mission set a new record for time spent in orbit by a reusable spacecraft (Image...

A secret mission came to a public end this morning as the US Air Force’s top secret X-37B spaceplane landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The unmanned reusable spacecraft touched down on the runway like a conventional aircraft this morning at 9:24 am EDT after a record-breaking 674 days in orbit. According to the Air Force, the automatic landing was monitored by the 30th Space Wing and occurred without incident.  Read More

Lockheed sees its compact fusion reactor as ready in 10 years

Fusion reactors are a bit like buses; you wait forever for one, then two come along at once. No sooner does the University of Washington announce that it’s working on a breakthrough compact fusion reactor (CFR) than Lockheed Martin says that its Revolutionary Technology Programs unit, AKA the Skunk Works, in Palmdale, California has one that could be ready for market within ten years.  Read More

The MIT assessment indicates that the Mars One mission needs revisiting if it's to succeed...

A team of MIT researchers has completed an analysis of the Mars One mission to colonize the Red Planet that throws the feasibility of the non-profit project into question. By analyzing the mission’s details, the team found that as the plan stands, there are a number of hurdles that must be overcome if the colonists aren't to end up dead within 10 weeks of landing.  Read More

The iRobot uPoint MRC System provides simplified intuitive robot control

Having a 21st century robot doesn't help if the control is like something designed to handle a model plane circa 1965, so iRobot has come up with something that is not only up to date, but also more intuitive, so operators can worry more about the job at hand than the robot used to complete it. The iRobot uPoint Multi-Robot Control (MRC) system is a universal control system for the company’s defense and security robots that combines a touchscreen interface with a mobile robotic radio relay.  Read More

Technicians inspecting the X-37B after a 2010 landing (Image: US Air Force) The US Air Force’s reusable unmanned spacecraft, the X-37B, is scheduled to return to Earth this week. Although the exact day and time remains undetermined, preparations are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in anticipation of the arrival of the mini-shuttle as it ends its classified Orbital Test Vehicle mission 3 (OTV-3).  Read More

Artist's concept of HMS Forth, which is now under construction

BAE Systems has begun construction of the first of the Royal Navy’s three new River class Batch 3 Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV). During a ceremony at BAE Systems Surface Ships’ Govan facility in Glasgow, Bernard Gray, the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Chief of Defence Material, activated a plasma cutting machine, which sliced through first plate of steel for HMS Forth. The ship will be the first in the Royal Navy to incorporate the state-of-the-art Shared Infrastructure operating system in its construction.  Read More

Project 360° is developing a system for integrating data from a suite of onboard sensors

Driver assistance technologies are becoming more common and more sophisticated with each passing year, but despite this, their function is still to reduce accidents rather than eliminate them – at least, for now. Volvo's project 360° is going the whole hog with a new technology that the Swedish car maker believes has the potential to eliminate deaths and injuries by a Volvo car or truck by 2020.  Read More

The University of Washington's HIT-SI3 experimental reactor (Photo: University of Washingt...

In the 21st century, the world lives with two futures ahead of it – one of looming energy shortages, and another of godlike energy abundance. The key to this whether it’s possible to turn fusion reactor technology from a laboratory exercise into a real-world application. Engineers that the University of Washington are working on a fusion reactor that, when scaled up, could produce energy on a practical scale, yet at a cost rivaling that of a conventional coal-powered plant.  Read More

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