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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 11

NASA awards Boeing $2.8bn contract for SLS rocket

NASA has awarded a contract to Boeing for a heavy duty rocket to be used on future space missions. The contract is to design and build the Space Launch System rocket that will be used to put astronauts on the moon and beyond. The new SLS rocket will be more powerful than the Saturn 5 rocket used in the past.

 

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The first SLS rocket will make its maiden flight putting an unmanned Orion capsule into space in 2017. The second flight will be a manned mission and is planned for 2021. NASA has plans to build a more powerful version of the SLS in the future to put four person crews into space and take them to asteroids and eventually to Mars.

 

The Boeing contract is worth $2.8 billion and will see the company developing avionics and the SLS core stage. Funding for early studies into a new upper stage needed for exploration missions in the future is included in the contract.

Foxconn to use robots in future assembly, starting with the new iPhone

Foxconn should be one of the first companies to deploy robots to build consumer devices, with Apple reportedly being the first company to make use of these new "Foxbots" as they're referred to.

 

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These new Foxbots will be capable of assembling an average of 30,000 devices, costing somewhere between $20,000 to $25,000 per robot to make. Foxconn CEO Terry Gou has already said that these robots are in their final testing phase, with the company ready to unleash 10,000 robots into its factories. With Foxconn being the biggest partner for Apple in assembling its iOS-based devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod, this could be big news for the Foxconn.

 

We already knew that Foxconn laid out plans to replace some of its human workers with some 1 million robots, but the time frame of this may shift. Apple is even chipping in, investing a hefty $10.5 billion on the advanced supply chain technology, with some of this investment sliding over to advanced machinery, something that includes assembly robots. Foxconn has hired an additional 100,000 new workers to help assemble the upcoming iPhone 6 for Apple, with production expected to ramp up next month for a launch in September.

U.S. Army embracing autonomous vehicles, learning from Google, others

The United States Army hopes to see it soldiers utilize autonomous vehicles that will help keep them safer while on the battlefield. In additional to heightened situational awareness, autonomous vehicles can help increase safety with vision enhancements, tip-over warnings, collision avoidance and obstacle detection while driving.

 

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Using the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center's 30-Year Ground Vehicle Strategy's autonomous technology, new generation military vehicles can become optionally-manned. Government contractor Lockheed-Martin is one company developing autonomous vehicles, and presented the following scenario: If a patrol comes under enemy fire, the autonomous features can activate so soldiers are able to focus on defending against the attack.

 

"These are disruptive ideas and capabilities," said Dr. Paul D. Rogers, U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) director, in a recent interview. "We're about harvesting their technologies and integrating them into a package that offers operational relevance to the warfighter, capabilities they don't have today."

BMW helps Munich workers ease stress with 3D printed superthumb

BMW is providing workers at a manufacturing plant in its native Germany with specially built 3D-printed thumb protectors to keep productivity up, and reduce the potential for workplace injuries or physical stress.

 

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Every single one of the "super thumbs" will be customized for the individual, essentially turning them into a kind of protective second skin - however, they firm up when the thumbs are straightened, which lets workers press with a degree of force without putting strain on the joints.

 

The thumbs were built with the help of the Department of Ergonomics at the Technical University of Munich, and they're currently on trial at a Munich plant. "Even for people with strong hand muscles, the movement requires a certain effort," a spokesperson for BMW said.

IED, suicide bomber attack civilian casualty rate rises 70%

The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), car bombs and suicide attacks have led to massive civilian casualties, with a 70 percent increase over the past three years, according to the Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) research group. The majority of car bomb explosions were located in Iraq, though global statistics of this style of attack led to an average of 25 civilian casualties each time. More than 53,000 civilians have been killed in the 66 countries studied.

 

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The use of IEDs against military target spurred an evolution of blast-protected armor on vehicles, but civilians are largely left defenseless. As terrorists continue to enjoy using "soft targets" to further raise casualty rates - and the number of IED and suicide bomb attacks increase - it's a troubling sign, especially in the Middle East and select regions of Africa.

 

"This huge increase in the number of innocent victims harmed and killed by IEDs is a terrible concern - not only to those who lives are transformed in an instant by these pernicious weapons, but to governments who have to bear the costs of the medical and security implications of these attacks," said Iain Overton, AOAV director of policy and investigations.

North Korea pledges to continue controversial missile tests

Seth Rogen and James Franco likely aren't sleeping with one eye open, but North Korea vowed plans to continue its controversial missile tests. The country has conducted three recent tests, launching projectiles into the ocean in an attempted show of force. In its latest test, two short-range projectiles were launched, as North Korea has the attention of China, South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

 

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"No matter how desperately the U.S. may find fault with the DPRK, it will continue to hold drills of launching high-precision tactical guided missiles, targeting the citadel of the gamers who go mischievous," an official North Korean government spokesman reportedly said.

 

It comes down to politics - North Korea has warned China not to forget about the country, serving as the main trade partner for the impoverished country, while Japan has lifted some sanctions against Kim Jong-Un's country. Meanwhile, South Korea and the United States are weary of North Korea's continued missile tests, with a specific interest to see if ballistic missiles are being launched.

Boston testing Soofa phone-charging solar-powered 'smart benches'

Solar-powered "smart benches" able to recharge your smartphones are being rolled out in Boston by Changing Environments. The benches, called Soofas, include a built-in solar panel and two USB ports, and includes Wi-Fi. The chair was introduced during the White House Maker Faire last week, and could quickly find homes throughout major metropolitan areas.

 

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Each bench, which can charge two phones at a time, cost $3,000 and is being described as the first step into "Smart Urban Furniture."

 

"Your cellphone doesn't just make phone calls, why should our benches just be seats?" said Boston Mayor Martin Walsh. "We are fortunate to have talented entrepreneurs and makers in Boston thinking creatively about sustainability and the next generation of amenities for our residents."

Continue reading 'Boston testing Soofa phone-charging solar-powered 'smart benches'' (full post)

North Korea launches more missiles, raising military tensions further

North Korean president Kim Jong-un's military has been busy as of late, with the country conducting another missile test. This time around, the country launched two missiles which landed in the Sea of Japan off its eastern coast, according to the South Korean government.

 

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The most recent missile test likely involved 30-millimeter shells fired with the country's multiple-rocket launchers. The projectiles have a maximum range of 110 miles, and don't violate UN resolutions that prohibit the country from developing ballistic missiles.

 

North Korea has conducted three missile tests in the past week, raising political tensions as Chinese president Xi Jinping heads to Seoul to discuss the current situation. China is a longtime North Korea ally, and is a major aid supplier to the impoverished country. The North Korean government offered this advice to China, which has growing ties to South Korea: "Don't forget us, don't sell us out."

Britain to pump millions into industrial robotics research

Britain's Technology Strategy Board is overseeing part of a 400 million pound investment into robotics, in what the plan's authors say could see the United Kingdom leading in robotic research.

 

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"Robots have often been positioned as a thing of the future, but today's strategy-launch emphasises the fact that they are very much of the here and now," Science Minister David Willets said. The Technology Strategy Board will invest cash into certain geographies like Bristol in England and Edinburgh in Scotland, which are already leading the charge in robotics. Any research will join existing technologies such as nuclear plant safety monitors and self driving cars, where the country is already excelling.

 

Experts told the BBC, however, that the UK is well behind other European nations in the use of industrial robotics. Professor Noel Sharkey from the University of Sheffield said "it's a massive market" and that the country has "already slipped well behind," but added there's a ton of talent in British universities and a lot of potential for further development.

Armed drones keeping U.S. personnel safe in Iraq, US government says

U.S. military personnel on the ground in Iraq to help try to offer guidance to stabilize the country are being protected by armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Both manned and unmanned aircraft have been flying over Iraq, conducting a few dozen reconnaissance trips each day, and drones will now be armed as U.S. boots hit the ground.

 

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There are currently 90 military advisers and 90 intelligence analysis personnel in Iraq, with an additional 120 expected to arrive soon. To help keep the Americans safe, Predator drones with Hellfire missiles are patrolling the skies, in an effort to keep the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) from launching attacks.

 

"The reason that some of those aircraft are armed is primarily for force protection reasons now that we have introduced into the country some military advisers whose object will be to operate outside the confines of the embassy," said Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, Defense Department press secretary, during a press conference.

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