Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Unmanned

A concept rendering of the robotic ship of the future (Image: Rolls Royce)

Earlier this year Rolls Royce outlined a future where giant robot cargo vessels ply the world's sea lanes without a human crew on board. That scenario is now coming closer to reality as the EU project MUNIN looks into the feasibility of robotic freighters and the hurdles they must overcome.  Read More

Landing site J (pictured on the right) has been selected as Philae's primary landing site ...

The Rosetta mission's Landing Site Selection Group has selected the primary and back up landing sites for the ESA's Philae probe ahead of an attempted touchdown on 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on November 11. Selecting sites J and C as the primary and back up sites respectively was no easy task, with mission operators weighing up various factors and racing against time since the spacecraft entered orbit around the comet on August 6. Prior to this, the comet had simply been too far away to characterize.  Read More

The Orion capsule getting ready to receive its skin prior to fueling (Image: NASA/Dimitri ...

NASA’s return to manned spaceflight took a couple of major steps forward this week with the completion of the Orion crew capsule and the attachment of it and the previously-completed service module to the adapter that will connect Orion to its rocket. This marks the completion of all major components of the spacecraft, which is due to make its first test flight in December.  Read More

Project Wing is a Google X project aimed at developing self-flying delivery vehicles

Google has taken the lid off a previously secret project that is being run out of its semi-secret Google X research arm. Project Wing is focusing on the development of "a delivery system that uses self-flying vehicles." In other words, unmanned drones intended to autonomously deliver packages where and when they're needed.  Read More

Researchers have successfully paired a drone with a unmanned ground vehicle, enabling it t...

While continual improvements are allowing larger UAVs to stay in the air for longer, the lifting capacity and endurance of smaller UAVs is largely constrained by the weight and size of their batteries. In a move that could greatly expand the reach and applications of small UAVs, a team of robotics researchers propose pairing a UAV with a ground vehicle that would provide a place of respite. However, such a vision requires autonomous coordinated docking between the two vehicles, which is exactly what the team has achieved.  Read More

A K-MAX unmanned helicopter autonomously delivering an SMSS by sling load as part of a fir...

While aircraft such as the X-47B are paving the way for unmanned aircraft filling combat roles, autonomous aircraft are also being developed to tackle more mundane – but still dangerous – military operations. To this end, the first fully autonomous resupply, reconnaissance, surveillance and target-acquisition demonstration using the Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) unmanned ground vehicle, K-MAX unmanned helicopter and Gyrocam optical sensor was recently conducted at Fort Benning, Georgia.  Read More

X-47B is readied for launch along side an F/A-18 Hornet (Photo: Mass Communications Specia...

Anyone who’s seen an aircraft carrier in full operation knows that everything needs to be carried out with absolute precision by a small army of sailors as one plane lands and is hurried aside to make room for the next. To show that its X-47B Unmanned Combat Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) can work in this hectic environment alongside manned ones, the US Navy sent it to carry out landing and deck maneuvers aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in concert with an F/A-18 fighter.  Read More

Artist's concept of ISEE-3 (Image: NASA)

A chapter of space history closed today as an ambitious project by a private organization to bring a 36-year old spacecraft back to life came to an end. Despite efforts by the ISEE-3 Reboot Project to restart the ISEE-3’s propulsion system, the unmanned probe has now been hurled back into deep space after a lunar flyby.  Read More

The Rosetta spacecraft is now in orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (Image: ESA)

The list of space firsts got a little longer this week. On August 6 at 11:30 am CET, ESA's Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany received radio signals confirming that Rosetta had begun its approach and was going into orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, making Rosetta the first spacecraft to go into orbit around a comet.  Read More

Artist's impression of Venus Express skimming the Venusian atmosphere (Image: ESA–C. Carre...

Facing the alternative of a fiery death, the ESA’s Venus Express orbiter has completed a daring maneuver that extended the life of the unmanned explorer by several months. Under command from Earth, the spacecraft spent a month skimming the outer edge of the Venusian atmosphere to alter its velocity and send it into a new orbit that will keep it operating until perhaps the end of the year.  Read More

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