November 19, 2016

US Seawolf class submarines are bigger and faster and can deploy Navy SEALS and tap undersea fiber cables

The US Seawolf class submarines are special. They are newer, bigger, faster and more heavily armed than standard attack submarines, the nearly $3-billion-per-copy Seawolfs have been fitted with hundreds of millions of dollars in unique equipment and are assigned to their own special squadron in Washington State.

The US Navy has installed high-frequency sonar for safe Arctic operations and the Raytheon Deep Siren acoustic communications system.

There was a plan to build 29 of them but only three were built

USS Jimmy Carter, third Seawolf commissioned in 2005 is roughly 100 feet (30 meters) longer than the other two boats of her class due to the insertion of a section known as the Multi-Mission Platform (MMP), which allows launch and recovery of ROVs and United States Navy SEALs forces. The MMP may also be used as an underwater splicing chamber for tapping of undersea fiber optic cables.

Compared to previous Los Angeles-class submarines, Seawolf submarines are larger, faster, and significantly quieter; they also carry more weapons and have twice as many torpedo tubes, for a total of 8. The boats are able to carry up to 50 UGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles for attacking land and sea surface targets. The boats also have extensive equipment to allow shallow water operations. The class uses the more advanced ARCI Modified AN/BSY-2 combat system, which includes a new, larger spherical sonar array, a wide aperture array (WAA), and a new towed-array sonar. Each boat is powered by a single S6W nuclear reactor, delivering 45,000 hp (34 MW) to a low-noise pump-jet.

Seawolf class hulls are constructed from HY-100 steel, which is stronger than the HY-80 steel employed in previous classes, in order to withstand water pressure at greater depths

American Seawolf class are estimated to have a test depth of 490 m (1,600 ft), which would imply a collapse depth of 730 m (2,400 ft).

Only the costs of the Space Launch System are going to the moon

NASA is requesting help to minimize the production, operations, and maintenance (POM) costs of the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems (EGS).

SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft are costing more than $3 billion per year in development costs.

The request would also look at other launch systems. Clearly Spacex offers a lower cost alternative

This request is likely a signal to the Trump administration that NASA is willing to look at other rockets instead of the ridiculously overpriced Space Launch System.

The combined development cost of the SLS and Orion will be at least $30 billion -- or about $3 billion a year spread out over at least 10 years. If you consider the operational life cycle of the program will be 30 years, similar to the Space Shuttle, then, assuming just one launch per year, the pro-rated cost is $1 billion a year.

That's just for development - it does not include operating costs.

Again at just one launch per year, the annualized development and maintenance cost of SLS - excluding any development costs for specialized cargo or Upper Stage components -- would be at least $3 billion.

And we're still missing the actual production costs of the SLS launch vehicle and the Orion capsule, estimates of which are around $1 billion each.

NASA would be looking at $5 billion per year. NASA is looking at $1 billion per launch minimum after many years of launches to amortize costs.

The most expensive version of the Spacex Falcon heavy is $135 million.

Russia near to launching hypersonic missile on top of RS-28 ICBM

Although Russia is in the midst of replacing Cold War era RS-18 (SS-19) ICBMs with the new solid fuel RS-24 it test fired a new RS-28 missile in late October. The RS-28 is meant for is the new hypersonic glide vehicle project Russia announced in 2013

Russia believes the RS-28 is essential for state security because it can carry nine or more independently targeted warheads and will be the most important weapon in its ICBM arsenal. Moreover the missile RS-28 is replacing (R-36M) is aging to the point where refurbishment is no long able to keep these four decade old missiles operational.

Experts in Russia are close to launching hypersonic nuclear weapons which can travel at continuous speeds of nearly 4,000mph and travel from Moscow to London in 23 minutes.

The country’s Tactical Missiles Corporation believes the weapon will be so fast it will be virtually impossible for current defense systems to knock it out of the skies.

Planetary Resources And The Government Of Luxembourg Announce €25 Million Investment and target 2020 asteroid mining mission

Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, announced today that it has finalized a 25 million euro agreement that includes direct capital investment of 12 million euros and grants of 13 million euros from the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the banking institution Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement (SNCI). The funding will accelerate the company’s technical advancements with the aim of launching the first commercial asteroid prospecting mission by 2020.

Planetary Resources’ Arkyd 6 is equipped with the first commercially licensed mid-wave infrared imager, an essential tool for detecting water on asteroids. Two spacecraft are completed and will test this technology on orbit. Planetary Resources’ President & CEO Chris Lewicki and Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider pictured with the Arkyd 6 in Planetary Resources’ clean room facility in Redmond, Washington.

Core hardware and software technologies developed at Planetary Resources were tested on orbit last year. The company’s next mission, now undergoing final testing, will validate the thermographic sensor that will precisely measure temperature differences of objects on Earth. When deployed on future commercial asteroid prospecting missions, the sensor will acquire key data related to the presence of water and water-bearing minerals on asteroids. Obtaining and using these key resources in space promises to fast-track the development of off-planet economic activities as the commercial industry continues to accelerate.

Mach 3 Brahmos missile could be adapted for FGFA stealth fighter

A supersonic BrahMos cruise missile may be installed on a Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) jointly developed by Russia and India, head of the Russian-Indian BrahMos Aerospace enterprise, Sudhir Mishra, said Monday. The FGFA has stealth capabilities and is based on the Russian T-50 prototype jet. The FGFA project came about following the signing of a Russian-Indian cooperation agreement on October 18, 2007.

BrahMos is a short-range supersonic missile, which has been used by the Indian Navy since 2005. The missile has a range of 180 miles and can carry a conventional warhead of up to 660 pounds.

The jet would use its stealth and speed to get into launch position and launch the BrahMos from standoff ranges.

With its Mach 3.0 speed and 180-mile range, the BrahMos missile used in combination with the PAK-FA would enable India to hit Chinese and Pakistani targets with relative impunity. A Mach 3.0-capable cruise missile is difficult to counter. According to U.S. Navy sources, the BrahMos has a particular terminal phase that makes it particularly difficult to intercept.

The completed FGFA will include a total of 43 improvements over the T-50, including stealth, supercruise, advanced sensors, networking and combat avionics. Two separate prototypes will be developed, one by Russia and a separate one by India. The Indian version will be a two-seater for pilot and co-pilot/Weapon Systems Operator (WSO).

India wants the stealth fighter jet to be inducted into the Indian Air Force much before 2024-25 - the date that was fixed for delivery. India plans to build as many as 127 fighters at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited facility in Nashik. The Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project is estimated to cost $25 billion.

India is the worlds fourth largest military spender but over half is going to waste, inefficiency, corruption and bad purchases

India previously had a ‘finalised’ agreement to buy 126 Rafale aircraft at a total cost of US$10.2 billion but this cut down to 36 aircraft at a cost of US$8.7 billion. So India is getting 30% of the original order for 80% of the cost. Three squadrons were phased out in January 2016, the IAF has had just 32 operational squadrons against an authorized capacity of 45.

Five squadrons of the early MiG-21 variants — nearly 100 aircraft — will be phased out in early 2017. The first Rafale aircraft in the present transaction will be delivered in 2019, and the last of these two and a half years later. Around this time, unless radical steps are taken to correct the existing anomalies, the IAF may well be down to an operational strength of just 25 squadrons. Even under the most optimistic estimates, the IAF’s capacity can only rise to about 38 squadrons.

All three arms of the Indian Armed Forces are hobbled by enduring and endemic deficits. There are shortages of battleships and submarines through to fighter planes and helicopters (a combined deficit of more than 1000), even down to mundane supplies such as ammunition, assault rifles and boots. According to one estimate, the Indian military has a US$400 billion equipment deficit, and even more would be required ‘to raise the military to necessary force levels and to modern standards’.

Despite its status as the world’s fourth-largest military spender, India spends a little over 1.7 per cent of its GDP on defense.

This is in spite of the defense services Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan’s projection of at least 3 per cent — though a succession of agreements on major acquisitions may kick up the defense allocation to nearly 2.5 per cent of GDP in the current financial year.

The current share of capital expenditure in the relatively meagre Defense Budget has shrunk to about 35 per cent of total expenditure, from 36.3 per cent in 2015–16 and 41.3 per cent in 2014–15. Astonishingly for those unfamiliar with the vagaries of India’s lethargic bureaucracy, a significant proportion of these allocations remains unspent each year: about 15 per cent in 2015–16, 13 per cent in 2014–15 and 9 per cent in 2013–14.

On 20 January 2004, after years of negotiations, Russia and India signed a deal for the sale of a used Russian aircraft carrier. The ship would be free, while India would pay US$800 million for the upgrade and refit of the ship, as well as an additional US$1 billion for the aircraft and weapons systems. The announced delivery date for INS Vikramaditya was August 2008. India finally agreed to pay an additional US$1.2 billion for the project, more than doubling the original cost. However, ongoing delays with the Vikramaditya's delivery schedule, pushed the delivery to 2013.

November 18, 2016

Elon Musk claims solar roof looks better than a normal roof, lasts twice as long, costs less and generates electricity

Elon Musk says the Tesla solar roof will actually cost less to manufacture and install than a traditional roof—even before savings from the power bill. “Electricity,” Musk said, “is just a bonus.”

If Musk’s claims prove true, this could be a real turning point in the evolution of solar power. The rooftop shingles he unveiled just a few weeks ago are something to behold: They’re made of textured glass and are virtually indistinguishable from high-end roofing products. They also transform light into power for your home and your electric car.

“So the basic proposition will be: Would you like a roof that looks better than a normal roof, lasts twice as long, costs less and—by the way—generates electricity?” Musk said. “Why would you get anything else?”

The terra cotta and slate roofs Tesla mimicked are among the most expensive roofing materials on the market—costing as much as 20 times more than cheap asphalt shingles.

Much of the cost savings Musk is anticipating comes from shipping the materials. Traditional roofing materials are brittle, heavy, and bulky. Shipping costs are high, as is the quantity lost to breakage. The new tempered-glass roof tiles, engineered in Tesla’s new automotive and solar glass division, weigh as little as a fifth of current products and are considerably easier to ship, Musk said.

China will need to subsidize and import natural gas to reach target of 10% of overall energy mix

China plans to boost natural gas from 6% of its energy usage to 10% by 2020.

However, to affect a large-scale transition from coal to natural gas in China will be far more difficult than it has been in the U.S., where the price of natural gas per unit of energy output is much lower than that of coal. In China, the situation is reversed.

One approach that’s likely to significantly reduce coal use is China’s upcoming national carbon emission cap-and-trade system, a key enabler of its pledge at the 2015 UN Paris climate talks to hit two targets by 2030: to peak CO2 emissions and decrease carbon intensity (CO2 emissions per unit of GDP) by 60-65 percent below 2005 levels. But because the cap-and-trade system penalizes carbon emissions, which result from the combustion of natural gas (albeit about half as much as coal per unit of energy output), it would have the effect of decreasing natural gas consumption as well. And at the current relative prices of fuels, the policy would not result in a switch from coal to natural gas.

An integrated strategy combining the cap-and-trade policy with a natural gas subsidy (an estimated $5 billion paid for through the sale of emissions permits under the policy) would enable China to reach its 10 percent natural gas target in 2020 and further reduce coal use, keeping the nation on track to meet both its climate and natural gas promotion goals.

Climate Change Economics - The future of natural gas in China: Effects of pricing reform and climate policy

China probably does have the world’s largest shale gas potential with 1,115 Tcf of technically recoverable resources, but future production doesn’t seem as promising as it was just a few years ago, constrained by geological complexity, shortages of water, land access, and the limitations of infrastructure and the service industry.

China, India and Megacities have significant global influence in 2030-2050

The US has dominated military spending and still spends three times more than second place China in 2015. New projections have China defense spending in 2030 at about 66-75% of the projected US spending level. India could near 30% of the future US defense spending level.

The US will still be dominate especially as actual accumulated military hardware is based on purchases made over 10-30 years. The US will also have a training advantage, since military personal will have a lot of actual experience fighting in actual conflicts and wars.

By the 2030s America will still be the top power but a few others will have great power status.

A handful of significant countries with great power status is similar to the world of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

There will also be megacities and megaregions with 20 million to 300 million people.

China is not expected to match or exceed the US defence budget until 2025-2050. Even when it does match the annual defence budget it will take many years to develop comparable military capability. The UK will have one third of China's budget this year but the UK has superior force projection and military capabilities.

Final version of NASA EMdrive paper confirms 1.2 millinewtons per kw of thrust which is 300 times better than other zero propellent propulsion

Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio-Frequency Cavity in Vacuum (Journal of Propulsion and Power

NASA Emdrive tests consistently measured performance at 1.2 ± 0.1 mN∕kW, which was very close to the average impulsive performance measured in air. A number of error sources were considered and discussed.

Emdrive is 300 times better than light sails, laser propulsion and photon rockets on thrust to power level basis

Missions with very large delta-v requirements, having a propellant consumption rate of zero could offset the higher power requirements. The 1.2 mN∕kW performance parameter is over two orders of magnitude higher than other forms of ‘zero propellant’ propulsion, such as light sails, laser propulsion, and photon rockets having thrust-to-power levels in the 3.33–6.67 μN∕kW (or 0.0033–0.0067 mN∕kW) range.

A physics model used to derive a force was a nonlocal hidden-variable theory aka pilot-wave theory.

An experiment claims to have invalidated a decades-old criticism against pilot-wave theory, an alternative formulation of quantum mechanics that avoids the most baffling features of the subatomic universe.

The differences between Bohm and Copenhagen become clear when we look at the classic “double slit” experiment, in which particles (let’s say electrons) pass through a pair of narrow slits, eventually reaching a screen where each particle can be recorded. When the experiment is carried out, the electrons behave like waves, creating on the screen a particular pattern called an “interference pattern.” Remarkably, this pattern gradually emerges even if the electrons are sent one at a time, suggesting that each electron passes through both slits simultaneously.

Those who embrace the Copenhagen view have come to live with this state of affairs — after all, it’s meaningless to speak of a particle’s position until we measure it. Some physicists are drawn instead to the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, in which observers in some universes see the electron go through the left slit, while those in other universes see it go through the right slit — which is fine, if you’re comfortable with an infinite array of unseen universes.

By comparison, the Bohmian view sounds rather tame: The electrons act like actual particles, their velocities at any moment fully determined by the pilot wave, which in turn depends on the wave function. In this view, each electron is like a surfer: It occupies a particular place at every specific moment in time, yet its motion is dictated by the motion of a spread-out wave. Although each electron takes a fully determined path through just one slit, the pilot wave passes through both slits. The end result exactly matches the pattern one sees in standard quantum mechanics.

For some theorists, the Bohmian interpretation holds an irresistible appeal. “All you have to do to make sense of quantum mechanics is to say to yourself: When we talk about particles, we really mean particles. Then all the problems go away,” said Goldstein. “Things have positions. They are somewhere. If you take that idea seriously, you’re led almost immediately to Bohm. It’s a far simpler version of quantum mechanics than what you find in the textbooks.”

The farther the first photon travels, the less reliable the second photon’s report becomes. The reason is nonlocality. Because the two photons are entangled, the path that the first photon takes will affect the polarization of the second photon. By the time the first photon reaches the screen, the second photon’s polarization is equally likely to be oriented one way as the other — thus giving it “no opinion,” so to speak, as to whether the first photon took the first route or the second (the equivalent of knowing which of the two slits it went through).

The problem isn’t that Bohm trajectories are surreal, said Steinberg. The problem is that the second photon says that Bohm trajectories are surreal — and, thanks to nonlocality, its report is not to be trusted. “There’s no real contradiction in there,” said Steinberg. “You just have to always bear in mind the nonlocality, or you miss something very important.”

Science Advances - Experimental nonlocal and surreal Bohmian trajectories

Weak measurement allows one to empirically determine a set of average trajectories for an ensemble of quantum particles. However, when two particles are entangled, the trajectories of the first particle can depend nonlocally on the position of the second particle. Moreover, the theory describing these trajectories, called Bohmian mechanics, predicts trajectories that were at first deemed “surreal” when the second particle is used to probe the position of the first particle. We entangle two photons and determine a set of Bohmian trajectories for one of them using weak measurements and postselection. We show that the trajectories seem surreal only if one ignores their manifest nonlocality.

CRISPR gene editing will be used in living humans to counter aggressive lung cancer

Chinese scientists have become the first in the world to use a revolutionary new gene-editing tool known as CRISPR-Cas9 on living humans.

Scientists at Sichuan University in Chengdu have injected a person with aggressive lung cancer with cells modified using the gene-splicing technology in a bid to make the patient’s immune system more effective at combating cancer cells.

It represents the first human trials of the technology with the United States expected to conduct its own cancer fighting trials next year.

CRISPR is a recently emerged technology that can be thought of as acting like a tiny pair molecular scissors that can cut and alter nucleotides which make up DNA, enabling scientists to find and modify or replace genetic defects.

The Chinese trial is expected to trigger a global race to carry out human trials of the groundbreaking medical technology throughout the world.

Gene-editing could improve the ability of immune cells to attack cancer.

Nature - CRISPR gene-editing tested in a person for the first time

On 28 October, a team led by oncologist Lu You at Sichuan University in Chengdu delivered the modified cells into a patient with aggressive lung cancer as part of a clinical trial at the West China Hospital, also in Chengdu.

Earlier clinical trials using cells edited with a different technique have excited clinicians. The introduction of CRISPR, which is simpler and more efficient than other techniques, will probably accelerate the race to get gene-edited cells into the clinic across the world, says Carl June, who specializes in immunotherapy at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and led one of the earlier studies.

CRISPR will target three genes in participants’ cells, with the goal of treating various cancers. The trial will start in early 2017. And in March 2017, a group at Peking University in Beijing hopes to start three clinical trials using CRISPR against bladder, prostate and renal-cell cancers. Those trials do not yet have approval or funding.

The researchers removed immune cells from the recipient’s blood and then disabled a gene in them using CRISPR–Cas9, which combines a DNA-cutting enzyme with a molecular guide that can be programmed to tell the enzyme precisely where to cut. The disabled gene codes for the protein PD-1, which normally puts the brakes on a cell’s immune response: cancers take advantage of that function to proliferate.

Lu’s team then cultured the edited cells, increasing their number, and injected them back into the patient, who has metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer. The hope is that, without PD-1, the edited cells will attack and defeat the cancer.

November 17, 2016

China should have a dozen J-20 stealth fighters declared combat ready by the end of the year

China's J-20 stealth fighter should be made operational for some combat roles as early as the end of this year.

Andreas Rupprecht, an aviation expert and the author of several books about Chinese warplanes, wrote that he now [after the Zhuhai air show] expects the first J-20 squadron to be ready for combat with a dozen planes or so “around the year’s end or early 2017—much earlier than expected.”

China might have dozen or so J-20s on hand when the plane is finally war-ready. The USA already possess more than 180 F-22s and about 200 F-35s. F-22 production has ended, but the Pentagon wants to buy another 1,500 F-35s over the next 20 years.


The U.S. Air Force operates 20 B-2 stealth bombers and is currently developing the new B-21 stealth bomber to complement it. The Air Force and Navy are also beginning to draw up plans for two new warplane types to eventually follow the F-35.

China is developing another stealth fighter called the FC-31 that’s apparently cheaper and less capable than the J-20 is—and would be strictly for export, as Beijing reportedly does not want to sell the J-20 abroad.

There have also been rumors that China is working on a bigger J-20 model for bombing missions, plus a separate, vertical-landing fighter similar to the F-35B.

China’s wide-ranging efforts to build a stealthy air arm puts it firmly in second place after the United States when it comes to stealth technology. Third-place Russia is struggling to get its new twin-engine T-50 fighter to work—and to afford it. Japan has just begun experimenting with a prototype plane that could evolve into a front-line, radar-evading fighting sometime in the 2020s.

Japan is depending upon forty-two F-35s that were purchased from Lockheed. The first F-35A for Japan was presented at an official rollout ceremony on Sept. 23, 2016. This jet is the first of four F-35As assembled at the Fort Worth factory. The remaining 38 F-35As for the JASDF are being assembled at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility in Nagoya, Japan.

Superearth of 5.4 earth masses found around dwarf star 32 light years away and detection instrument is being improved ten times

Researchers have discovered a “superearth” type planet, GJ 536 b, whose mass is around 5.4 Earth masses, in orbit around a nearby very bright star.

This exoplanet –the planet orbiting the star GJ 536- is not within the star’s habitable zone, but its short orbital period of 8.7 days and the luminosity of its star, a red dwarf which is quite cool and near to our Sun, make it an attractive candidate for investigating its atmospheric composition. During this research a cycle of magnetic activity similar to that of the Sun has been found, but with a shorter period, 3 years.

“So far the only planet we have found is GJ 536 b but we are continuing to monitor the star to see if we can find other companions”, says Alejandro Suárez Mascareño, who is the first author on the article. “Rocky planets are usually found in groups”, he explains, “especially round stars of this type, and we are pretty sure that we can find other low mass planets (other “superearths”) on orbits further from the star, with periods from 100 days up to a few years. We are preparing as programme of monitoring for transits of this new exoplanet to determine its radius and mean density”.

A super-Earth orbiting the nearby M-dwarf GJ 536

DARPA extends surface submarine hunting drone tests

DARPA is extending testing of its sub-hunting drone able to travel autonomously for up to 90 days using sensors and sonar technology to search for enemy submarines and other airborne and undersea threats.

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, has awarded an $8.5 million contract extension to Reston, Virginia-based Leidos for continued test phase development of the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel, or ACTUV program.

The 132-foot drone uses advanced hydro-acoustics, pattern recognition and algorithms for unmanned navigation to locate and shadow diesel-electric enemy submarines. The idea is to track them, if necessary, over a period of months so they are compelled to stay away from strategically vital areas.

DARPA ordering a second large ship launched drone aircraft that will make destroyers and frigates into mini-aircraft carriers

Tern, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), seeks to greatly increase the effectiveness of forward-deployed small-deck ships such as destroyers and frigates by enabling them to serve as mobile launch and recovery sites for specially designed unmanned air systems (UASs). DARPA last year awarded Phase 3 of Tern to a team led by the Northrop Grumman Corporation to build a full-scale technology demonstration system. The program has since made significant advances on numerous fronts, including commencement of wing fabrication and completion of successful engine testing for its test vehicle, and DARPA has tasked Northrop Grumman with building a second test vehicle.

Tern envisions a new medium-altitude, long-endurance UAS that could operate from helicopter decks on smaller ships in rough seas or expeditionary settings while achieving efficient long-duration flight. To provide these and other previously unattainable capabilities, the Tern Phase 3 design is a tailsitting, flying-wing aircraft with a twin contra-rotating, nose-mounted propulsion system. The aircraft would lift off like a helicopter and then perform a transition maneuver to orient it for wing-borne flight for the duration of a mission. Upon mission completion, the aircraft would return to base, transition back to a vertical orientation, and land. The system is sized to fit securely inside a ship hangar for maintenance operations and storage.

The system is sized to fit securely inside a ship hangar for maintenance operations and storage.

Tern has accomplished the following technical milestones for its test vehicle in 2016:

  • Wing fabrication: Since Phase 3 work started at the beginning of 2016, Tern has finished fabricating major airframe components and anticipates final assembly in the first quarter of 2017. Once complete, the airframe will house propulsion, sensors, and other commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) systems to make up the full-scale technology demonstration vehicle.
  • Engine tests: In Phases 2 and 3, Tern has successfully tested numerous modifications to an existing General Electric engine to enable it to operate in both vertical and horizontal orientations. This type of engine was chosen because it is mature and powers multiple helicopter platforms currently in use.
  • Software integration: This summer, Tern opened its Software Integration Test Station (SITS), part of the System Integration Lab that supports software development for the program. The test station includes vehicle management system hardware and software, and uses high-fidelity simulation tools to enable rapid testing of aircraft control software in all phases of flight. The SITS is helping ensure the technology demonstration vehicle could fly safely in challenging conditions such as launch, recovery, and transition between horizontal and vertical flight.

Additional tests are about to start. A 1/5th-scale version of the approved vehicle model is in testing in the 80’ x 120’ wind tunnel at the NASA Ames Research Center’s National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC). Data collected during this test will be used to better characterize aircraft aerodynamic performance and validate aerodynamic models.

“We’re making substantial progress toward our scheduled flight tests, with much of the hardware already fabricated and software development and integration in full swing,” said Brad Tousley, director of DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, which oversees Tern. “As we keep pressing into uncharted territory—no one has flown a large unmanned tailsitter before—we remain excited about the future capabilities a successful Tern demonstration could enable: organic, persistent, long-range reconnaissance, targeting, and strike support from most Navy ships.”

Tern is currently scheduled to start integrated propulsion system testing in the first part of 2017, move to ground-based testing in early 2018, and culminate in a series of at-sea flight tests in late 2018.

Where fixed wing aircraft cannot fly and helicopters cannot land new fancraft can robotically fly

In January of this year, the Air Mule took its first flight: a short, wobbly hop from the side of a parking lot to a space a modest distance away. On Tuesday, Air Mule makers Urban Aeronautics announced two major feats for the Air Mule program. The first is a new name: Cormorant, after the family of coastal birds. The second is a full, autonomous flight on a preplanned route.

Urban Aeronautics’ Fancraft™ technologies comprise an extensive portfolio of patented innovations that transform a basic ducted-fan design into the foundation for a new family of aircraft, uniquely suitable to urban environments, known as Fancraft™.

Three of the core aerodynamic breakthroughs are:
A “Vane Control System” (VCS), that is comprised of a cascade of vanes at both the inlet and outlet of the ducts that can be deflected either in unison (top and bottom) or differentially to generate either pure side force or pure rolling moment. The ducts (front and back) can also be deflected differentially to generate yaw. The bottom line is that the VCS generates 6 degrees of freedom entirely independent of one another and, for the first time, we have a vehicle that can move sideways without the need to roll and vice versa. In addition, the VCS generates such a great amount of control power that the vehicle can withstand gusts of up to 40 knots.

A set of louvers or similar devices at the front of the forward duct and rear of the aft duct that open during forward flight to allow the incoming flow to move through the duct and thereby greatly reduce drag to enable forward speeds of up to 120 knots.

Close aerodynamic tailoring between the lift rotors and the fuselage whereby the fuselage itself functions as an airfoil and generates sufficient lift at high speed (50% of what the aircraft requires) to be able to off-load 50% of the needed lift from the rotors.

In parallel to the 'standard' Fancraft™ design, Urban Aeronautics has developed a unique, patented Fancraft™ configuration that has the potential of obtaining cruise speeds in excess of 200 Kts. This high speed variant is designed in response to operational requirements in the USA and other countries for a ducted fan, high-speed, unmanned cargo delivery capability.

High speed performance is accomplished primarily through a "stagger" built into the three main components of the vehicle: forward fan, centre fuselage and rear fan. A horizontal stabilizer is also mounted at the rear of the vehicle and canted sharply upward.

On the ground and in hover the fans are essentially horizontal to the ground. When in cruise flight the vehicle tilts forward so that the lift fans are acting partly as thrusters. Lift is distributed throughout the fuselage via a unique geometry that interacts aerodynamically both with the incoming flow and with the two fans mounted fore and aft.

The vehicle's vane control system and other company-patented aerodynamic and flight control provisions further enhance the design with regard to safety, gust capability and noise.

UrbanAero's Fancraft™ technologies are patented with 39 patents already granted and 8 additional in the process.

Urban Aeronautics Cormorant. Formerly known as the "Air Mule," this is a flying taxi, or maybe a future unmanned ambulance.

Back to the Future 2 was close on World Series Cub Win Prediction

Back to the Future 2 was close on its baseball predictions

During his visit to 2015, Marty happened to see a news report of the World Series.

On October 21, 2015, the Chicago Cubs won the series in a sweep over Miami, meaning that the Cubs won all the games. According to USA Today the next day, the win came in Game 5 of the Series. Sometime prior to 2015, the contest had gone from a "best of seven" to a "best of nine" format.

US engineering big upgrades for M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tanks starting in 2021 to match Russian Armata and other new tanks

The Army is now engineering a far-superior M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tank variant for the 2020s and beyond --designed to be more lethal, faster, lighter weight, better protected, equipped with new sensors and armed with upgraded, more effective weapons, service officials said.

Advanced networking technology with next-generation sights, sensors, targeting systems and digital networking technology -- are all key elements of an ongoing upgrade to position the platform to successfully engage in combat against rapidly emerging threats, such as the prospect of confronting a Russian T-14 Armata or Chinese 3rd generation Type 99 tank.

The SEP v4 variant, slated to being testing in 2021, will include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links, laser warning receivers and a far more lethal, multi-purpose 120mm tank round, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The lethality upgrade, referred to as an Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, is centered around the integration of a higher-tech 3rd generation FLIR – Forward Looking Infrared imaging sensor.

The advanced FLIR uses higher resolution and digital imaging along with an increased ability to detect enemy signatures at farther ranges through various obscurants such as rain, dust or fog, Bassett said.

The lethality upgrade is designed to follow on to a current mobility and power upgrade referred to as an earlier or initial ECP. Among other things, this upgrade adds a stronger auxiliary power unit for fuel efficiency and on-board electrical systems, improved armor materials, upgraded engines and transmission and a 28-volt upgraded drive system. This first ECP, slated to begin production by 2017, is called the M1A2 SEP v3 variant.

Advanced Multi-Purpose Round

The M1A2 SEP v4 will carry Advanced Multi-Purpose 120mm ammunition round able to combine a variety of different rounds into a single tank round.

The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.

France plans to shutdown four remaining coal power plants by 2023, coal generates 4% of France's power

France President Hollande is committing to getting rid of all coal power generation by 2023.

The Cordemais Power Station is the largest thermal power station in France. It is also one of the country's largest electricity producers and one of the largest thermal power plants in Europe having four generating groups, two coal-fired groups with a capacity of 600 MW each and two oil-fired groups with a capacity of 700 MW each, thus totaling an installed electric generation capacity of 2,600 MW.

The power station uses between 1.3 and 2 million tonnes of coal per year imported from South Africa, Poland, United States and Australia using the port facilities located at Montoir-de-Bretagne from where the coal is shipped by barges to the power station.

The power station is located in the western part of France at Cordemais in the department of Loire-Atlantique, Pays de la Loire. With an annual electricity production of 5.7 TWh the station supplies 25% of the electricity used by the Pays de la Loire region and represents one third of the country's thermal electricity production

Provence Power Station is an 868 MW coal-fired power station at Gardanne, France. It has a 300 metre tall chimney, which is the tallest in France. It is owned and operated by E.ON. It is going to be backfitted into a wood-fired powerstation.

Le Havre power station is a 600-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station in Seine-Maritime, France.

Emile-Huchet power station is a 618-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station in Moselle, France.

Australia developing low cost hypersonic second stage for small satellite launches

Once you get to mach 5+ hypersonic speed, then a scramjet works and it is by far the most efficient type of engine for hypersonic speeds. A scramjet needs some other form of propulsion to get it to Mach 5. As a result, scramjets have become something of a well-studied technology in search of a practical application.

To reach these hypersonic speeds, Michael Smart, professor of hypersonics at the University of Queensland in Brisbane plans to combine an uncrewed scramjet with conventional rockets. He believes his Spartan launch system could radically reduce the costs of blasting satellites into orbit.

“All conventional satellite launch systems use different stages,” says Smart. “There’ll be a first stage rocket that normally gets up to Mach 5 or 6, you’ll have a second scramjet stage that goes two thirds of the way to space and you’ll have a final upper stage that takes the satellite into orbit.”

On the launchpad, Spartan will look and launch like a conventional rocket. Once it reaches hypersonic speeds, however, the first stage will drop away and the scramjet will unfurl its wings to blast the spacecraft into the upper atmosphere. When it runs out of air, the scramjet will separate and a small conventional rocket will carry the satellite into space.

As much of the Spartan system as possible is designed to be reusable. Both the scramjet and first stage rocket will fly themselves back to a runway landing – although the scramjet will undoubtedly look sleeker.

The scramjet will primarily be used to launch satellites, but it may also take tourists into space (Credit: University of Queensland)

There are about 1300 satellites orbiting in space, but the cost to launch a single satellite is astronomical.

Stage one of the system consists of an Austral Launch Vehicle (ALV), a reusable rocket booster that lifts the upper stages of the rocket to scramjet take-over speed of Mach five, before flying back to base using wings and propellers.

The second stage SPARTAN scramjet will fly like a plane up to Mach 10, releasing the final rocket/satellite that stays in space, before it too returns to base.

The combination of the ALV and SPARTAN allows 95 per cent of the system to be reusable.

The ALV project consists of the development of four progressively more complex and expensive vehicles:

ALV-0: Small scale (1:4), aircraft mode only, ultra low cost
ALV-1: Small scale (1:4), rocket and aircraft modes, alloy construction, HAVBUS avionics
ALV-2: Medium scale (1:2), full trajectory, liquid propulsion (LOX / Methane), capable of launching micro satellites (with upper stages) and hypersonic test vehicles
ALV-3: Commercial launch vehicle

November 16, 2016

Spacex filed with FCC to operate 4400 satellites and Elon Musk Spacex shares are worth $8.1 billion

Today, SpaceX filed with the FCC to obtain the rights to operate 4,400 satellites to offer internet services from orbit, a plan that was announced last year.

Elon Musk's trust currently owns 54% of the outstanding stock of SpaceX and has voting control of 78% of the outstanding stock of SpaceX.

Google and Fidelity’s investment valued Spacex at roughly $15 billion. Therefore, Elon's shares of SpaceX are worth $8.1 billion.

Elon has 22% stake in Tesla Motors (31,100,644 shares) which are currently worth $5.7 billion at today’s close of $183.93.

A net worth of $13.8 billion would put Elon as about the 70th richest person in the world

The FCC filing is here

Space Exploration Holdings, LLC seeks operating authority (i.e., approval for orbital deployment and a station license) for a non-geostationary orbit satellite system in the Fixed-Satellite Service using the Ku and Ka frequency bands.

Elon Musk has proposed a network of some 4,000 micro-satellites to provide broadband Internet services around the globe. SpaceX is partnering with Google and Fidelity Investments, which are investing $1 billion for a 10 percent stake in the endeavor. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Qualcomm, meanwhile, are investing in a competing venture called OneWeb, which aims to build a similar network of micro-satellites.

Satellite technology has advanced, bringing the cost of deployment down significantly. Toaster-sized micro-satellites can be launched dozens at a time, and don’t have to operate at very high orbits, reducing launch costs, but they can deliver performance comparable to larger, older satellites at higher altitudes.

The speed of light is 40 per cent faster in the vacuum of space than it is for fiber. Elon plans to use optical lasers to communicate between the micro-satellites.

Elon will have 60 people working on the space Internet project initially and that could rise to 1,000 in a few years.

Novel approach for precision medicine and drug discovery on gene expression data

Insilico Medicine announced the publication of its in silico Pathway Activation Network Decomposition Analysis (iPANDA), a novel approach for analyzing signaling and metabolic pathway perturbation states using gene expression data, in Nature Communications. iPANDA is a scalable robust method for rapid biomarker development using gene expression data. In the present work Insilico Medicine team together with collaborators from the Johns Hopkins University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Boston University, Novartis, Nestle and BioTime demonstrate that iPANDA provides significant noise reduction in transcriptomic data and identifies highly robust sets of biologically relevant pathway signatures for breast cancer patients according to their sensitivity to neoadjuvant therapy.

Nature Communications - In silico Pathway Activation Network Decomposition Analysis (iPANDA) as a method for biomarker development

The US military should look to Sweden for military innovation and not just IKEA furniture

IKEA is the most influential retailer of the last 25 years.

One of seven major parts of IKEA success is they have pricing that is inexpensive but not cheap.

There are stores that sell products for less than Ikea, like dollar stores and deep discounters like Aldi. But you don’t get the feeling of overly cheap when you buy Ikea products. They are insanely inexpensive when compared to similar products at other stores.

Sweden has used the same model to become a major world supplier of weapons on a per capita basis.

Arms exports top per capita in 2014
1. Israel, $97.7 per capita ($773 million, 8.3 million)
2. Russia, $57.7 per capita ($8.3 billion, 143 million)
3. Sweden, $53.0 per capita (total $505 million, 9.8 million people)

Sweden has weapon systems that are inexpensive but not cheap. AIP diesel submarines and an affordable fighter that can defeat the best Russian planes are systems that the US should adopt to lower the cost of defense while increasing security. The US could buy twice as many submarines while saving half of the cost. The US could buy twice as many fighters while saving five times the cost.

AIP Diesel submarines can be ten times cheaper than nuclear but new AIP versions can match capabilities [inexpensive but not cheap]

Advances in modern, ultra-quiet conventional diesel-electric submarines are a serious challenge to US nuclear submarines and aircraft carrier groups

The threat of super-stealthy diesel submarines being deployed around the world has been present for decades. Still, newer boats are coming armed with advanced anti-ship weapons and are being combined with new air-independent propulsion systems (AIP) making them near impossible to find in the ocean's depths.

In 2005, The HMS Gotland, a modern AIP submarine serving in the Swedish Navy created havok in war games exercise. The Gotland virtually ‘sunk’ many U.S. nuclear fast attack subs, destroyers, frigates, cruisers and even made it into the 'red zone' beyond the last ring of anti-submarine defenses within a carrier strike group. Although it was rumored she got many simulated shots off on various U.S. super-carriers, one large-scale training exercise in particular with the then brand new USS Ronald Reagan ended with the little sub making multiple attack runs on the super-carrier, before slithering away without ever being detected.

The 1600 ton displacement Gotland Class was the first operational Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) submarines in the world. Typical cost for a Gotland class sub is $100 to 365 million. The US is paying $3 to 6 billion for the latest nuclear submarines. A large diesel AIP submarine that matched the most of the capabilities of the big US submarines could cost $500 million to 1 billion.

AIP system can utilize advanced batteries that are charged by 75kw generators. The Gotland has generators run by a pair of diesel and liquid oxygen fueled Stirling Engines. The result of this unique, yet remarkably simple system is two weeks of submerged air independent propulsion while traveling at about 6mph. Kockums' AIP system is virtually silent, even in comparison to multi-billion dollar nuclear powered boats that still have to pump high-volumes coolant to their reactors.

The small and quiet sub is even more deadly with a state of the art combat management system. It features an incredible user friendly interface. During a single attack, the system can guide multiple torpedoes at once, which can result in more than a mission kill for even very large naval combatants like aircraft carriers, with each torpedo striking in a different section of the hull if ordered to do so.

Maneuverability was a key factor in the Gotland Class design and this manifests itself in the boat's "X" shaped tailplane structure. This unique design provides four independent maneuvering surfaces at its stern and is tied to another two planes mounted on the boat's sail. These control surfaces, combined with the sub's advanced and highly automated control system, allows for incredibly tight turns, dives and ascensions even in very close quarters, such as in shallow littoral environments. Due to the boat's size, automation and maneuverability, the Gotland Class has been described as the F-16 Viper of the undersea combat world

Private Space Stations could start launching in 2020 and large multi-module stations able to hold 100 or more people by 2030

Bigelow Aerospace and Axiom Space — plan to launch habitat modules to orbit in 2020, with the aim of making some money off Earth. If all goes according to plan, private space stations will eventually form the backbone of commercial facilities that replace the International Space Station (ISS), which is currently funded through 2024.

"Hopefully, if we're successful in the private-sector community, NASA's going to save a boatload of money, on multiple locations [in orbit] — not just one — with more volume than they've ever had before," Bigelow founder and CEO Robert Bigelow said here Wednesday (Oct. 12) at the 2016 International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS). "So, whether it's Axiom or us or other people, that is the future."

A new company, named Axiom Space LLC, was incorporated in January, 2016 in Delaware but is based in Houston. Mike Suffredini (former NASA manager of the International Space Station) serves as its president and Kam Ghaffarian, the president and chief executive of SGT, is the chief executive.

Suffredini believes that there is a robust market for a commercial space station. A study commissioned by Axiom Space concluded the addressable market for such a station could be as large as $37 billion between 2020 and 2030, combining various commercial and government uses.

Axiom Space hopes to keep building, launching and linking up modules, eventually creating an industrial "space city" of 100 or so people by the mid-2030s, Baine said.

Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace builds modules that launch in a compressed configuration and then inflate upon reaching their destination. These expandables feature much greater internal volume per unit launch mass than do traditional rigid modules, such as those that make up the ISS.

The company's expandable habitats also offer greater protection against micrometeoroid strikes and space radiation than do aluminum-walled structures, Bigelow said.

Bigelow Aerospace has already tested three experimental modules in orbit. It launched the free-flying Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 habitats in 2006 and 2007, respectively, and the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was attached to the ISS this past April and inflated six weeks later.

When it comes to fully operational space hardware, Bigelow has something much bigger in mind — a module called the B330, which will offer 11,650 cubic feet of internal volume. (That's 330 cubic meters, which explains the name.) For comparison, the internal pressurized volume of the entire 440-ton, $100 billion ISS is 32,333 cubic feet (916 cubic m), according to NASA.

The company aims to build two B330s over the next four years, Bigelow said.

"Our goal is to ship those out of Las Vegas in the year 2020, and launch them in 2020," he said.

Those launches will occur atop United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets, as per an agreement between Bigelow and ULA that the two companies announced in April. The solar-powered B330 is so big that only the 552 variant of the Atlas V can loft it, Bigelow said. The Atlas 552 would be able to place 20 tons in low earth orbit.

The exterior of the B30 craft is intended to be 13.7 metres (45 ft) long by 6.7 metres (22 ft) in diameter and the module will weigh between 20,000 kilograms (45,000 lb) and 23,000 kilograms (50,000 lb)

The habitat is designed to have two solar arrays and two thermal radiator arrays for heat dissipation, as well as life support systems to sustain a crew of up to six astronauts. It will also have "a zero-g toilet with solid and liquid waste collection, semi-private berths for each crew member, exercise equipment, a food storage and preparation station, lighting, and a personal hygiene station."

The wall thickness will be approximately 0.46 metres (18 in) when the module is fully expanded. The walls are made up of 24 to 36 layers for ballistic protection, thermal protection, radiation protection and will be as hard as concrete once the craft is fully expanded. The exterior will also feature four large windows coated with a UV protection film.

Dual-redundant control thruster systems are to be used, one using mono-propellant hydrazine and the other using gaseous hydrogen and gaseous oxygen. The latter system is refillable from the on-board environmental control system. Module-specific avionics will be provided for navigation, re-boost, docking and other on-orbit maneuvering.

Bigelow Aerospace is developing the B330 module to be compatible to mate with other spacecraft such as Russian Soyuz spacecraft, SpaceX's Dragon V2, Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, and NASA's Orion spacecraft. The module's large size is particularly beneficial for lunar astronauts or the crews of other long-duration space missions, which until now have been restricted to fairly cramped quarters for the several-day flight.

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