Lockheed Martin announced this week that production of a new laser weapon system has begun at the company's Bothell, Washington facility. The high-powered laser weapon modules will be used as the heart of a 60-kilowatt system designed to be fitted to a US Army vehicle.
As spacecraft for manned and planetary missions get larger, so do their heat shields – which are becoming very big indeed. To avoid the day when the shield becomes too large for any existing or planned launcher, NASA’s Ames Research Center in California is developing the Adaptive Deployable Entry and Placement Technology (ADEPT) heat shield, which uses carbon-fiber cloth and can be folded up like an umbrella. The cloth heat shield recently completed tests that simulated entering the Martian atmosphere.
Space startup Moon Express has signed a contract with Rocket Lab to help carry out three lunar missions starting in 2017. Described as the first private contract between two companies to carry out a lunar landing, the agreement will see Rocket Lab provide launch services using its Electron rocket system for the Moon Express MX-1 lunar lander as part of Moon Express's attempt win the Google Lunar Xprize.
If you're wondering what the best dressed sea turtles are wearing at the beach this season, then the University of Queensland has the answer. As part of a study to find the foraging areas of endangered loggerhead turtles, researchers there designed a bespoke swimsuit for the 120 kg (264 lb) animals that acts as a harness for a "giant nappy" to collect fecal samples.
Earth isn't the only place with seasons. Other planets and even very small celestial bodies can have them, too, as ESA's Rosetta probe has shown in its explorations of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. When the unmanned spacecraft went into orbit about the comet, it revealed that the southern hemisphere of the dumbbell-shaped nucleus is shrouded in a dark winter that lasts over five years and, according to data collected by the Rosettas's onboard spectrometer, hides ice in larger amounts than the rest of the comet.
One of the more unpleasant aspects of army life has always been guard duty. It's also very labor intensive. In the US Army, it takes four to six soldiers standing for up to 12 hours to man a single perimeter weapons system. To free up personnel for more important duties, the Army is testing the Tower Hawk System, which uses tower-mounted, remote-controlled weapons for base perimeter security.
To gain proficiency, pilots need realistic training, but they also need to avoid needless cost and risk. Real aircraft provide the most obviously realistic training, but they're dangerous in inexperienced hands. Meanwhile, simulators can reproduce much of the look and feel of actual flying without the danger of losing an aircraft or pilot, but they aren't as successful when it comes to complex maneuvers like aerial-refueling. To square the circle, NASA is developing a technology called Fused Reality, which uses a special headset that combines real flying in a real aircraft with an overlaid simulation.
How do you tag a jellyfish? It may sound like a metaphor for frustration, but it's a question that's occupying a team of scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The team has developed a new technology called Integrated Tracking of Aquatic orGanisms (ITAG), which is designed to place instruments on squid, jellyfish, and other small invertebrates as a way to provide detailed information about the animals and their habitat.
Warships are only as effective as far as they can see, so DARPA's Towed Airborne Lift Of Naval Systems (TALONS) research effort is aiming to extend their horizons by giving them a crow's nest 1,500 ft (457 m) tall by way of a towed parafoil. A TALONS prototype recently completed sea trials off the US East Coast as part of a project to provide ships of every size with better long-distance communications and situational awareness.
Powered prosthetic legs are a bit like supercars – they're brilliant pieces of engineering, but they need regular expert care to keep them at peak performance. That can be an expensive and time-consuming necessity, so biomedical engineer s at North Carolina (NC) State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are developing an algorithm that automatically tunes artificial limbs while walking.