The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory
was launched last Thursday aboard a Japanese H-IIA rocket that blasted off from Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in southern Japan. Weighing in at 4-ton, the GPM is the largest spacecraft ever built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and will help provide a more detailed picture of the Earth's precipitation to assist climate scientists and help improve forecasting of extreme weather events.
NASA is set to launch a new satellite designed to take detailed, near real-time measurements of rain and snowfall on a global scale whilst mapping the interior of storm systems. The Core Observatory of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) has been in development since 2005 and is a collaboration project between NASA and the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA). The satellite is due to be launched on the Japanese manufactured H-IIA delivery vehicle from the Tanegashima Space Centre, Tanegashima Island, Japan, on February 27.
One of the standout oddities at the Tokyo Motor Show this year was a Hiriko fold-up electric two-seater
which received a Gundam-style makeover courtesy of Kunio Okawara, the legendary mechanical designer responsible for a veritable shopping list of mecha designs.
While you might not know who Ken Kiyoyuki Okuyama is, you've no doubt seen his creations. The Japanese auto designer has worked with Pininfarina and General Motors, overseeing the design of cars such as the Ferrari Enzo and P4/5
, the Honda NSX
, and the C5 Corvette
. He was also employed at Porsche, where he helped design the 996 and Boxster
. At this year's Tokyo Motor Show, he's showing four vehicles that he created as part of his own Ken Okuyama Design brand. Three of them are intended for the road and/or track, while the other is made for the field.
If you love cars and motorcycles, the Tokyo Motor Show
is one of those events which is always worth attending. It's home ground for 15 automakers, hundreds of automotive component manufacturers, and the highest concentration of R&D for every facet of public and personal transport in the world.
There is no better example of the rapid rate of product development than NSK's move into the area of robotics. At IREX 2011, NSK showed a prototype robot designed to safely guide the visually-impaired, with a footprint of 520 x 660 mm (20 x 26 in) and weight of 40 kg (88 lb). This week, just two years later, NSK showed two versions its Lighbot guide robot that represent a 75 percent weight reduction and an 83 percent footprint reduction. The ingenious right-or-left-hand-drive interface has been both replaced and improved, and all other aspects of the latest bots are equal to or better than the original.
Autonomous cars took to the roads of Tokyo for the first time on Saturday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as a passenger. The Prime Minister rode on the public roads in the National Diet Front Garden in a Nissan Leaf
and autonomous cars built by Honda and Toyota. According to Nissan, Saturday’s drive was meant to show the Japanese government’s support for the development of autonomous cars, as was symbolized by the venue located between Japan's parliament and the Imperial Palace.
With Nippon Moon, UNStudio is bringing more than sheer scale to the concept of the enormous observation wheel. Though the height of the wheel has not been fixed, Nippon Moon is clearly intended to put Japan on the map (the map of gigantic ferris wheels, that is), and compete with, if not surpass, the likes of the 165-m Singapore Flyer and the 135-m London Eye. However, UNStudio hints that smartphone apps or even augmented reality could be used to enhance the ride, and make it an observation wheel fit for the 21st century.
Alongside its FV2 personal transportation vehicle concept
, Toyota will also be premiering a next-generation taxi concept at the 43rd Tokyo Motor Show. Although it bears more than a passing resemblance to London's iconic black cabs, Toyota says the JPN Taxi Concept has been created with Japanese hospitality in mind.