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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 5

Sylon SABRE engine could help fuel U.S. military engine development

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory is interested in learning more about British space plane engine technology that could be used for future U.S. military hypersonic aircraft. The Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) is being developed by England-based Reaction Engines for the Skylon space plane.

 

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The engine was supported by $100 million in funding from the British government and European Space Agency (ESA), with private financing matching the same figure - and millions more are expected to be invested into the program. Reaction Engines has had the next-generation engine in development for more than two decades, ensuring SABRE features both rocket and air-breathing modes.

 

"AFRL is formulating plans to look at advanced vehicle concepts based on Reaction Engine's heat-exchanger technology and SABRE engine concept," said AFRL officials, in a statement recently sent to Space.com.

Continue reading 'Sylon SABRE engine could help fuel U.S. military engine development' (full post)

Octopus helps inspire researchers developing new camouflage technology

Researchers impressed with octopuses and squid and their impressive camouflage abilities have created a color-changing camouflage technology. A study published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" journal revealed a new flexible material consisting of light sensors and temperate-sensitive dye. The technology is able to detect and adapt colors based on its surroundings, but is currently limited to black and white only.

 

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Researchers wanted to study animals in the wild, specifically cephalopods able to camouflage themselves, in an effort to create a new material from collected data. The U.S. Navy has helped fund research, but there has been a great amount of interest from private sector companies hoping to utilize this type of custom material.

 

"Real cephalopods are capable of levels of active camouflage orders of magnitude more sophisticated than our system," said John Rogers, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researcher, in a statement. "But we hope to eventually design manmade systems that rival those we see in biology."

Lockheed Martin, US Navy moving ahead with human exoskeleton testing

The U.S. Navy is currently testing the Lockheed Martin Fortis exoskeleton, designed to help Navy ship maintenance personnel carry heavier loads. Lockheed has developed two separate exoskeleton suits and will work closely with the Navy to analyze which one is better designed to help workers.

 

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Testing will be done at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington. The unpowered, lightweight Fortis exoskeleton increases the wearer's overall strength and endurance, and testing is being done as part of the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) program.

 

"Ship maintenance often requires use of heavy tools, such as grinders, riveters or sandblasters," said Adam Miller, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control director of new initiatives. "By wearing the Fortis exoskeleton, operators can hold the weight of those heavy tools for extended periods of time with reduced fatigue."

Curiosity Rover slowed down by slippery sand in Hidden Valley

NASA's Curiosity rover has been picking its way over the rocks and sand of Mars for a long time now on its way to the ultimate goal of reaching Mount Sharp in the center of Gale Crater. Curiosity was taking a path through what has been dubbed Hidden Valley, which is a sandy area about the length of a football field.

 

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However, Curiosity ran into a problem with its chosen path recently when the rover and its controllers discovered that the sand in Hidden Valley was much slipperier than expected. NASA scientists are now assessing alternative routes that would take Curiosity north of the valley and hopefully find more traction for the 1-ton rover.

 

"We need to gain a better understanding of the interaction between the wheels and Martian sand ripples, and Hidden Valley is not a good location for experimenting," Curiosity project manager Jim Erickson, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California said in a statement.

Synthetic human physiology helping blast wave defense research

The medical threat from shock waves related to improvised explosive device (IED) blasts and other explosions pose a significant threat to military personnel. Advancements in synthetic human physiology research is helping provide a glimpse of realistic blast testing, with artificial cranial bones focused on skulls of the 20- and 30-year old soldiers deployed.

 

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The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) wants to create a uniform response that can be used to develop better helmets and technology to reduce the impact of blast waves and blunt impact related to explosions.

 

"The mechanical properties of the human skull challenge with age and depend on the health of the individual," said Dr. Thomas Plaisted, ARL Materials and Manufacturing Science Division materials engineer. "Donor skulls that may be available for testing would typically come from older people, and the properties of those skulls can be highly variable and may not have the same response as the average skull of the Army Soldier population."

Self-driving truck convoys could arrive in the UK by next year

Self-driving trucks could be arriving in Britain by 2015, it has been suggested, although some critics suggest the way the trials have been proposed might not be the safest thing for the UK's roads.

 

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A report in the Sunday Times claimed politicians in the UK had taken trips to Sweden to see how the autonomous systems work, and that tests are to follow in 2015. The Department for Transport was quick to say that it has not made an official decision on whether or not to trial the technology, and it asserted that road safety is of "paramount importance".

 

The idea is a system that can largely commandeer a vehicle by itself - but one that will retain a driver in the cab for safety reasons, in case anything goes wrong. A fleet would be directed by the driver at the head of the convoy, and each truck behind would communicate by wi-fi, as well as being monitored with infrared cameras and motion detection sensors.

Rosetta spacecraft snaps incredible images of comet's surface

If you find space to be an interesting place and have ever wondered what the surface of a comet actually looked like, the European Space Agency (ESA) has shared some images from the Rosetta spacecraft. The images are of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by Rosetta after arriving at its target only about a week ago.

 

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The ESA even generated a 3D image that can be viewed with old-school red and blue 3D glasses. The photos were taken when the spacecraft was about 65 miles away from the comet.

 

These photos are very interesting and show lots of craters, boulders, and other surface features. Some of the most interesting surface features seen in the photos are several very smooth areas. Rosetta will continue its triangular orbit around the comet for the next few weeks as it gets ready to send its lander to the surface of the comet.

hitchBOT is thumbing its way across British Columbia

A group of researchers from a university in British Columbia came up with a very odd, yet very cool project called hitchBOT. The idea was to make a robot of sorts, put it on the side of the road, and see if it could hitch a ride across the country. This isn't the sort of bot that can't walk on its own, but it is computerized enough to interact with the people who help it.

 

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So far, the bot has hitched numerous rides and ended up in some interesting places. It has hung out with folks on summer vacation, a rock band, and wound up at a wedding. During the wedding hitchBOT reportedly interrupted the groom's thank you for coming speech to say it likes to make friends.

 

HitchBOT began its cross-country trip on July 27 after being left on the side of the road near the Halifax airport. The bot has been taking photos and sharing them online as well as tweeting during its trip. The bot is expected to end its trip at the Victoria Open Space Gallery next week.

1000 strong robot swarm can make shapes on command

Researchers around the world are working on robotics to make them able to operate on their own and perform complex tasks. In the US, a group of engineers has designed a swarm of 1000 tiny robots that are able to shuffle their way into specific shapes when told to. Each of the bots is given an image of the shape controllers want and then they work together to make the shape.

 

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It's not a fast process; it reportedly takes about 12 hours for the bots to take the desired shape. This is the largest swarm of robots to ever be used in a study of this type. Researchers from the group behind the project say that each of the bots is identical and have the exact same program.

 

The throng of robots is inspired by cells that form organs or ants that are able to build bridges to span water. The team hopes that knowledge gleaned from this study will help develop self-assembling tools and structures in the future. Each of the little bots is 3cm across and said to be about the size of a sushi roll and each has three straight legs. Commands are given using an infrared light overhead and a sensor on the robots.

Continue reading '1000 strong robot swarm can make shapes on command' (full post)

Michael J Fox Foundation and Intel team for Parkinson's research

Michael J Fox's charity, the Michael J Fox foundation, has partnered with Intel to examine how wearable technology can be of benefit to people with Parkinson's disease.

 

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Michael J Fox founded the charity after he was diagnosed with the disease. Its cause is not known and there is no cure, however, the symptoms, such as shaking and trouble with co-ordination, can be treated to a degree. The wearable tech will be used to unearth more data, for example, by recording the movements of patients and volunteers. An accompanying smartphone will upload this data to an Intel system, which will then dedicate data scientists to the project.

 

 

Ex Intel boss Andy Grove has acted as adviser to the foundation since he was also diagnosed with the disease. Chief executive of the foundation, Todd Sherer, said, according to the BBC: "This opportunity really will allow us the chance to uncover novel breakthroughs in Parkinson's disease by truly understanding how people are living with the disease today, how are they responding to treatments, what are their unmet needs."

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