September 30, 2016

Production of Long March 5 rocket is underway

Batch production of Long March 5 has begun, said Meng Fanxin, manager of the industrialized base for the carrier rocket in Tianjin.

Known as the Long March 5, China's most powerful heavy-lift launch vehicle is expected to make its first test flight from Hainan's Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in November.

In the meantime, its manufacturing base in the northern port city of Tianjin is producing the second one.

"Right now, we possess the ability to batch produce rockets with diameter of both 3.35 meters and 5 meters," Meng said.

Long March 5 is a Chinese next-generation heavy lift launch system that is currently under development by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). CZ-5 is the first Chinese vehicle with new design focusing on liquid rocket propellants from the ground up. Currently, two CZ-5 vehicle configurations are planned for different missions, with a maximum payload capacity of ~25,000 kilograms (55,000 lb) to LEO and ~14,000 kilograms (31,000 lb) to GTO.

The Long March 5 is planned to roughly match the capabilities of American EELV heavy-class vehicles such as the Delta IV Heavy.

First flight of the CZ-5 rocket is scheduled for November 2016 from Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Center on Hainan island

The Long March-4C failed a few weeks ago and lost its payload which was a remote sensing satellite.

Nanocrystalline alloys could by up to eight orders of magnitude lower creep rate at high temperature which could revolutionize jet engines

Researchers stabilized a copper alloy microstructure and found it to be strong at very high temperatures. This could lead to many new materials applications, including inside turbine engines, where temperatures can soar to more than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

The team hopes to recreate the combination of properties within other types of materials like nickel, cobalt or tantalum, which would have the potential to revolutionize engine technology.

Darling said the findings are all about the "creep response" of the paper's title, which refers to how materials deform under continuous stress at elevated temperatures.

"We're seeing orders of magnitude improvements in the creep response," he said. "There is a six to eight orders of magnitude increase in creep response relative to what conventional nanocrystal materials can do."

Nature - Extreme creep resistance in a microstructurally stable nanocrystalline alloy


Nanocrystalline metals, with a mean grain size of less than 100 nanometres, have greater room-temperature strength than their coarse-grained equivalents, in part owing to a large reduction in grain size1. However, this high strength generally comes with substantial losses in other mechanical properties, such as creep resistance, which limits their practical utility; for example, creep rates in nanocrystalline copper are about four orders of magnitude higher than those in typical coarse-grained copper. The degradation of creep resistance in nanocrystalline materials is in part due to an increase in the volume fraction of grain boundaries, which lack long-range crystalline order and lead to processes such as diffusional creep, sliding and rotation. Here we show that nanocrystalline copper–tantalum alloys possess an unprecedented combination of properties: high strength combined with extremely high-temperature creep resistance, while maintaining mechanical and thermal stability. Precursory work on this family of immiscible alloys has previously highlighted their thermo-mechanical stability and strength which has motivated their study under more extreme conditions, such as creep. We find a steady-state creep rate of less than 10^−6 per second—six to eight orders of magnitude lower than most nanocrystalline metals—at various temperatures between 0.5 and 0.64 times the melting temperature of the matrix (1,356 kelvin) under an applied stress ranging from 0.85 per cent to 1.2 per cent of the shear modulus. The unusual combination of properties in our nanocrystalline alloy is achieved via a processing route that creates distinct nanoclusters of atoms that pin grain boundaries within the alloy. This pinning improves the kinetic stability of the grains by increasing the energy barrier for grain-boundary sliding and rotation and by inhibiting grain coarsening, under extremely long-term creep conditions. Our processing approach should enable the development of microstructurally stable structural alloys with high strength and creep resistance for various high-temperature applications, including in the aerospace, naval, civilian infrastructure and energy sectors.

Global middle class numbers over 1 billion based on having between $8,500 and $47,000 in net financial assets

The Allianz Global wealth report split all households/individuals into global wealth classes in order to analyze how wealth is distributed at the global level. The division is based on the average global net per capita financial assets, which came in at EUR 23,330 in 2015.

The middle wealth (MW) class encompasses all individuals with assets corresponding to between 30% and 180% of the global average. This means that for 2015, the asset thresholds for the global wealth middle class stand at EUR 7,000 and EUR 42,000.

The “low wealth” (LW) category, on the other hand, includes those individuals with net financial assets that are below the EUR 7,000 threshold, while the term “high wealth” (HW) applies to those with net financial assets of more than EUR 42,000

Although the vast majority of the five billion people living in the countries included in our analysis still belong to the low wealth class, the number is down slightly as against 2000 to 3.4 billion, meaning that only 69% of the total population (as opposed to 80% in 2000) belong to this wealth category today. Progress has also been made in terms of their share of global net financial assets, albeit at a very modest level: the people in this category now hold 5% of global net financial assets as opposed to 3% in the past – not a huge increase, but a sign of progress all the same.

Almost 600 million in total, have achieved promotion to the middle wealth class – particularly in the up-and-coming economies. While the lion’s share is naturally attributable to China, other countries in Asia, almost all countries in Latin America (with the exception of Brazil) and many eastern European countries have also been writing this very same success story in recent years. This story of advancement translates directly into a bigger global middle wealth class: over the past few years, the number of people who belong to this category has more than doubled. For the last two years, this global middle class has counted more than 1 billion members

The financial assets of Canadian households grew at more than twice the rate seen in the US. One thing that the two countries have in common, however, is a slowdown in year-on-year asset growth, with the rate of growth falling from 8.8% to 6.2% in Canada and from 5.7% to 2.4% in the US.

Canadian household wealth averaged a little over half of the US per household level. Canadians were ahead of all western european countries except Switzerland.

Allianz global wealth report says the best years are over

Allianz unveiled the seventh edition of its "Global Wealth Report", which puts the asset and debt situation of households in more than 50 countries under the microscope. Based on the findings of the report, it seems that the best years are a thing of the past: global financial assets climbed by 4.9 percent in 2015, just a whisker above the growth rate of economic activity.

In the three previous years, financial assets grew at twice that pace, with an average rate of 9 percent. It is certainly no coincidence that slowing growth has hit Europe, the US and Japan the hard-est. In Western Europe (3.2 percent) and the US (2.4 percent), growth more than halved in 2015. At the other end of the spectrum is Asia (excl. Japan), where financial assets expanded by 14.8 percent. The region's lead over the rest of the world is only getting bigger. This also applies in relation to the world's other two up-and-coming regions, Latin America and Eastern Europe, where average growth was only half that in Asia. The days in which these regions were able to keep up with their counterparts in Asia are long gone. Of the total global financial assets of EUR 155 trillion, the region Asia (excl. Japan) accounted for 18.5 percent in 2015; this not only means that the proportion of assets held by this region has more than trebled since 2000 but also that the region’s share now far outstrips that of the eurozone (14.2 per-cent).

Here is a link to the 126 page report

At the global level, however, the deleveraging process appears to have come to an end. Household liabilities measured as a percentage of nominal
economic output, came in at 65.3%, on a par with the year before. This is down 9% from the high in 2009.

Global net financial assets, which came in at a new record high of EUR 116 trillion at the close of 2015.

Ten percent have immune systems that ignore HIV and thus the immune system is saved and AIDS does not develop

Ten percent of children have a "monkey-like" immune system that stops them developing Aids, a study suggests.

An untreated HIV infection will kill 60% of children within two and a half years, but the equivalent infection in monkeys is not fatal.

The findings could lead to new immune-based therapies for HIV infection.

The virus eventually wipes out the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to other infections, what is known as acquired human immunodeficiency syndrome (Aids).

The researchers analysed the blood of 170 children from South Africa who had HIV, had never had antiretroviral therapy and yet had not developed Aids.

Tests showed they had tens of thousands of human immunodeficiency viruses in every millilitre of their blood.

Their immune system is ignoring the virus as far as possible

"Waging war against the virus is in most cases the wrong thing to do."

Counter-intuitively, not attacking the virus seems to save the immune system.

HIV kills white blood cells - the warriors of the immune system.

And when the body's defences go into overdrive, even more of them can be killed.

Immune systems that avoid the HIV trap survives.

Science Translational Medicine - Nonprogressing HIV-infected children share fundamental immunological features of nonpathogenic SIV infection

US Military Research Labs will take commercial technology for a constant game changing third offset innovation

The US Army, Navy and Air Force all have dedicated research labs

The military research labs are currently pursuing what is called the third military offset strategy.

First offset - nuclear weapons

In the Cold War, the U.S. and its NATO allies sought a series of competitive advantages over the Soviet Union, a means by which to offset their very, very great conventional strength. The United States actually pursued two offset strategies. The first came with President Eisenhower's New Look Strategy in the early 1950s. When President Eisenhower came into office in 1953, the United States was heavily outnumbered by the Soviet conventional superiority on the European central front.

Eisenhower estimated it would take 92 U.S. and NATO divisions to have any chance of checking, at the time, 175 Soviet divisions. But a force that size, with Europe rebuilding itself after the Second World War, and with the United States starting to try to balance its budget for a long-term competition with the Soviet Union, it was neither politically or economically viable.

So to counter Soviet superiority without bankrupting the West, Eisenhower directed a top-level strategic review which resulted in what was called the New Look. And that said the U.S. would reduce military manpower and would rely instead on its nuclear arsenal, where we had a big advantage at the time, for deterrence. We had a very substantial lead at the time, and that technological advantage in nuclear weapons and their delivery systems provided the most effective offset to Soviet strength and their geographical advantage.

Second offset -precision weapons

Soviets built up their tactical and nuclear -- strategic nuclear forces. By the 1970s, the dangers of nuclear escalation were just too high.

In the 1970s, the US developed a second offset strategy. In 1973, what became DARPA launched a project called the Long-Range Research and Development Planning Program.

Precision conventional weapons were developed which had near zero miss.

Assault breakers were developed with aircraft using light area sensor cueing and surface-to-surface ballistic missiles that could dispense a blanket of anti-armor submunitions. And it culminated in a very successful demonstration in 1982 at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The USA had actually picked a competitive advantage that the Soviets, could not duplicate, and therefore injected uncertainty in their minds, changing their war-fighting calculus.

The Assault Breaker Program was picked up by the joint force. Army and the Air Force started to talk about air-land battle.

Third offset - constant significant military innovation

There's going to be three key differences between what is happening in this offset strategy and the earlier ones.

1. First, it's going to have a much more trying temporal component. In 1975 and in the 1950s, we knew our adversary and we said, "We can pick something where we will have an enduring advantage." We don't think we're in that type of environment right now.

Look for promising technologies that can be implemented in the FYDP, the future years defense program which is generally about five years out. Identify long-range advances that we can pull up and hopefully field in the '20s, and then plant the seeds for R and D, which will give us an advantage for the '30s.

The US will be constantly updating this strategy, rather than trying to pick the one single unitary field theory that's going to make that work.

2. US face multiple potential competitors, from small regional states like North Korea and Iran, to large advanced states like Russia and China, to non-state adversaries and actors with advanced capabilities.

3. The third big difference is that in the 1950s and the 1970s, generally these advances were military capabilities that were brought along by military labs. But now with robotics, autonomous operating guidance and control systems, visualization, biotechnology, miniaturization, advanced computing and big data, and additive manufacturing like 3D printing, all those are being driven by the commercial sector.

Hypersonic weapons


Water purification

Air Force Research Lab

Air Force research lab (AFRL) budget in 2017 is about $2.5 billion, a 4.5-percent increase over 2016

September 29, 2016

Landing drones on a manned aircraft is the hard part of new motherships

General Atomics, which builds the iconic Predator, has rolled out its offering for DARPA’s Gremlins program, blandly called the Small Unmanned Air Vehicle (SUAS). The goal: Build drones — and equally critical, a launch and recovery system — that can take off from a manned aircraft, conduct a mission and come back aboard the plane.

Getting the drone back is “the DARPA-hard part,” said Chris Pehrson, General Atomics VP for Strategic Development in an interview at the Air Force Association conference here last week.

General Atomics also has a more “elegant” solution, a mechanism mounted under the C-130’s wing that reels out a cable on which the drone can catch, then reels it back in. It’s similar to the hose-and-drogue system used by the US Navy and many allies to refuel in mid-air.

But the reel-in-reel-out mechanism doesn’t meet the Gremlins requirement, Pehrson acknowledged, because you can’t fit very many drones under an aircraft’s wings. Gremlins wants to pack the cargo bay with drones, 16 of them, to make the mothership a kind of airborne aircraft carrier. The only way to get drones in and out of the cargo bay is with a mechanical arm.

AETP program should boost F-35 and B-21 bomber engines by 10-20% thrust and 25% fuel efficiency in mid-2020s

Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, who heads the F35 joint program office, said at last week’s Air Force Association conference that the “mid-2020s” is when the power plant on the joint strike fighter could be refreshed, whether through improvements to the Pratt & Whitney F135 design currently used or through a new engine design from another competitor.

“I would expect ... that somewhere in the mid-2020s much of the work being done in the labs right now with our industry partners will find its way onto the F-35,” Bogdan told an audience Sept. 21. “Whether it finds its way onto the F-35 in the current engine or some modified engine remains to be seen, but we do fully expect in the mid-20s to include some advanced technologies on engines.”

The Air Force is currently funding the early stages of the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP) competition, with both Pratt and General Electric Aviation participating. The goal of AETP is to see if the companies can successfully add a third stream of air inside the engine. The program’s goal is to “demonstrate 25 percent improved fuel efficiency, 10 percent increased thrust, and significantly improved thermal management,” according to an Air Force statement.

Both companies received contracts worth $1.01 billion over the summer to fund the research under AETP, with a period of performance ending in September 2021

Theoretically, engine improvements could also be rolled into the B-21 Raider bomber, which is expected to enter production by the mid-2020s. Pratt & Whitney is the engine supplier on the program; and although neither they nor Northrop Grumman, the prime on the B-21, have said what engine is being used, speculation is that some form of the F135 engine will power the bomber.

IBM Neuromorphic chip hits DARPA milestone and has been used to implement deep learning

IBM delivered on the DARPA SyNAPSE project with a one million neuron brain-inspired processor. The chip consumes merely 70 milliwatts, and is capable of 46 billion synaptic operations per second, per watt–literally a synaptic supercomputer in your palm.

Along the way—progressing through Phase 0, Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3—we have journeyed from neuroscience to supercomputing, to a new computer architecture, to a new programming language, to algorithms, applications, and now to a new chip—TrueNorth.

Fabricated in Samsung’s 28nm process, with 5.4 billion transistors, TrueNorth is IBM’s largest chip to date in transistor count. While simulating complex recurrent neural networks, TrueNorth consumes less than 100mW of power and has a power density of 20mW / cm2

Deep learning efforts today are run on standard computer hardware using convolutional neural networks. Indeed the approach has proven powerful by pioneers such as Google and Microsoft. In contrast neuromorphic computing, whose spiking neuron architecture more closely mimics human brain function, has generated less enthusiasm in the deep learning community. Now, work by IBM using its TrueNorth chip as a test case may bring deep learning to neuromorphic architectures.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) in August (Convolutional networks for fast, energy-efficient neuromorphic computing), researchers from IBM Research report, “[We] demonstrate that neuromorphic computing, despite its novel architectural primitives, can implement deep convolution networks that approach state-of-the-art classification accuracy across eight standard datasets encompassing vision and speech, perform inference while preserving the hardware’s underlying energy-efficiency and high throughput.”

The impact could be significant as neuromorphic hardware and software technology have been rapidly advancing on several fronts. IBM researchers ran the datasets at between 1,200 and 2,600 frames/s and using between 25 and 275 mW (effectively >6,000 frames/s per watt). They report their approach allowed networks to be specified and trained using backpropagation with the same ease-of-use as contemporary deep learning. Basically, the new approach allows the algorithmic power of deep learning to be merged with the efficiency of neuromorphic processors.

“The new milestone provides a palpable proof of concept that the efficiency of brain-inspired computing can be merged with the effectiveness of deep learning, paving the path towards a new generation of chips and algorithms with even greater efficiency and effectiveness,” said Dharmendra Modha, chief scientist for brain-inspired computing at IBM Research-Almaden, in an interesting article by Jeremy Hsu on the IBM work posted this week on the IEEE Spectrum (IBM’s Brain-Inspired Chip Tested for Deep Learning.)

PNAS - Convolutional networks for fast, energy-efficient neuromorphic computing

IBM has first cloud based platform for AI-Powered Decision-Making

- Tapping into cognitive capabilities, Project DataWorks automates the intelligent deployment of data products on the IBM Cloud using Machine Learning and Apache Spark
- Provides one environment for collaboration among data professionals and business users of all types on the IBM Cloud
- Ingests data faster than any current solution in market, from 50 to hundreds of Gbps, and all endpoints: enterprise databases, Internet of Things, streaming, weather, and social media

IBM unveiled “Project DataWorks,” a Watson initiative that is the industry’s first cloud-based data and analytics platform to integrate all types of data and enable AI-powered decision-making. Project DataWorks is designed to make it simple for business leaders and data professionals to collect, organize, govern and secure data, so they can gain the insights needed to become a cognitive business.

Businesses today understand the competitive advantage of gaining insights from data. However, obtaining those insights can be increasingly complex, and most of this work is done by highly skilled data professionals who work in silos with disconnected tools and data services that may be difficult to manage, integrate, and govern. Also, because data is never static, businesses must continually iterate their data models and products—often manually—to benefit from the most relevant, up-to-date insights.

Project DataWorks can help businesses break down these barriers by connecting all data and insights for their users. All data-driven professionals can work together on an integrated, self-service platform, sharing common datasets and models in a trusted manner that helps ensure governance, while rapidly iterating data projects and products. Now, instead of spending time finding and preparing data for analysis, users can focus their efforts on the core mission – uncovering business-changing insights.

Available on Bluemix, IBM’s Cloud platform, Project DataWorks can help to redefine how data professionals collaborate by tapping into a number of key innovations, such as Apache Spark, IBM Watson Analytics, and the IBM Data Science Experience.

D-Wave Systems Previews 2000-Qubit Quantum System and Early tests show new features have up to 1000 times performance improvement over 1000 Qubit system

D-Wave Systems Inc., the world's first quantum computing company, announced details of its most advanced quantum computing system, featuring a new 2000-qubit processor. The announcement is being made at the company’s inaugural users group conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The new processor doubles the number of qubits over the previous generation D-Wave 2X™ system, enabling larger problems to be solved and extending D-Wave’s significant lead over all quantum computing competitors. The new system also introduces control features that allow users to tune the quantum computational process to solve problems faster and find more diverse solutions when they exist. In early tests these new features have yielded performance improvements of up to 1000 times over the D-Wave 2X system.

China's next stealth fighter the FC31 Gyrfalcon will continue to close the technology gap with the USA

China is working on a second prototype of its FC31 (aka J31) fighter. It is a smaller jet than the China's J20. China should have 12 of the J20s built by 2017. The FC31 could begin deployment around 2022.

The FC-31 Gyrfalcon is a twin-engine, mid-size fifth-generation jet fighter currently under development by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation.

New scaled models displayed at the Zhuhai Airshow revealed several planned differences from the first 31001 flying prototype. The differences include a stealthier cockpit, a next-generation helmet mounted sight, holographic cockpit displays, EOTS, aerodynamic revisions and more powerful engines.

The 01 prototype powered by two indigenous WS-13E turbofan engines flew for the first time on July 1, 2016.

The National Interest has an analysis of the F35 vs the J-31

Recently revealed details concerning China’s Shenyang FC-31 fighter suggest that the aircraft not only looks like the Pentagon’s Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), but it also offers comparable aerodynamic performance. But the real question is how far along Beijing has come in the development of subsystems like radars and engines. Moreover, there is the question of how well Chinese industry can integrate all of those disparate technologies into an operational aircraft.

The Chinese FC31 jet was based on stolen JSF (F35) technology—and could eventually be more or less a match for the American jet. “I think they’ll eventually be on par with our fifth-gen jets—as they should be, because industrial espionage is alive and well,” a senior U.S. military aviator said.

The F-22 might be able to generate a kill ratio of thirty-to-one today against the Chinese J-11 Flanker, but the U.S. Air Force has only 120 combat coded Raptors. The Raptor might only generate a three-to-one kill ratio against the J-31 or J-20, which means attrition will take a serious toll on U.S. forces.

Broad Group USA targets their first USA pre-fabricated skyscraper by end of 2019

China's Broad Group presented at the Offsite Construction Expo Sept. 21 to 22 in Washington, DC.

The expo was an effort to draw more attention to permanent modular construction, the Modular Building Institute, National Institute of Building Sciences and other industry groups.

Despite the promises of a higher quality product in a shorter timeframe and growing chatter around the alternative method, permanent modular construction still faces the obstacles of an industry averse to change and concerns regarding the altered timeline of traditional construction.

Although they expect wider implementation of offsite, experts cite concerns of a change in the traditional project workflow — from the need to bring in modular builders earlier in the process to questions regarding building codes standards for prefab units.

The biggest change is decisions need to be made earlier so the project can go to fabrication and production.

Builders considering modular construction to do their research well in advance of starting the project, as they need to consider where permanent modular construction companies are located and what regions they cover, decide whether the building's design is suitable to modular construction, and ensure that all team members come together early to collaborate in the process.

Design-build is recommended as the contract type most suitable for modular projects, as it allows architects and contractors to come on board at the early stages and decide on details together, rather than the traditionally separated design-bid-build process.

During the most buzzed-about session of the expo, a representative from China-based prefab buildings maker the Broad Group explained the details behind the popular YouTube videos of a 30-story hotel in China’s Hunan Province being constructed in 15 days.

Broad Group USA general manager Sunny Wang said that 93% of the T30 Broad Sustainable Building was built with prefab components.

They have built 30 Broad Sustainable Buildings, with the majority in China and one in Mexico. They use a 2.5 million-square-foot factory with 4,000 employees to create the "mainboards" that are then assembled on-site.

Broad has its sights set on the North American market, as it envisions the building components being manufactured in the China facility and shipped to the U.S. "I hope in another two years we’ll see the first in the U.S.," Wang said. "Offsite construction is the future of the world."

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