A laser beam the size of a quarter fired from the back of a truck successfully shot down football-size mortar rounds and took small drones out of the sky.
In the world of directed-energy weapons, this was a milestone achievement, government and industry officials said. It happened between Nov. 18 and Dec. 10 during tests of the Army “high energy laser mobile demonstrator” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
Laser beams that can replace bullets and missiles have been a tantalizing prospect for decades, but the Pentagon has been less than enthusiastic. Directed-energy is what experts consider a “disruptive” technology that upsets the status quo. The notion that military forces would ditch proven kinetic weapons and take chances with light beams has made lasers a tough sell so far.
The Army tested a 10-kilowatt laser and beam director mounted on an eight-wheel 20-ton truck. It engaged more than 90 60mm mortar rounds and several unmanned aerial vehicles from less than two miles away. A surrogate radar was used to queue the laser.
The Boeing Co. is the prime contractor for the demonstration program. The Army has spent about $13 million to $20 million a year on the project since 2006. The 10-kilowatt commercial laser — packaged in a 5x4-foot box — is made by IPG Photonics in Massachusetts.
The recent tests mark a “big step in the proof of high-energy lasers,” said Terry Bauer, program manager at the Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, Ala.
The program office has ambitious plans to build 50-kilowatt and 100-kilowatt lasers in the coming years, which, if successful, would offer the military the option of using lasers to defeat larger and faster weapons such as artillery shells and cruise missiles.
Doug Engelbart, working at an NLS workstation in the 1960s.
It was December 9, 1968, and as Kay watched from audience, Douglas Engelbart and his fellow computer scientists from Silicon Valley’s Stanford Research Institute unveiled NLS, an online system that included the world’s first computer mouse and presaged so much of today’s online software, including everything from window-like interfaces to what we now call hyperlinks.
Many didn’t understand it, but Kay did, and so did the research team he would soon join at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center. There, inspired by NLS, they would build the Xerox Alto, and that would lead to the machine that took many of the same ideas to the world at large: the Apple Macintosh. It all began with Engelbart’s presentation in San Francisco, an event that is now called The Mother of All Demos. (via Wired)
"Dr. Grace Hopper, director, Systems Research, Remington Rand, half-length portrait, seated, smoking cigarette." The pioneering computer programmer and Navy admiral (1906-1992) is the subject of today’s Google Doodle, marking her 107th birthday. (New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection; via Shorpy)
Anyone with access to a welder and the Internet soon could make his or her own replacement parts or tools with a new 3D metal printer that can be built in any garage.
Until recently, most of the 3D printing hype has swirled around plastic 3D printers, which have been used to make everything from clothing to art. And while 3D metal printers do exist, their price tag starts at a half million dollars.
Now, scientists have built an open-source 3D metal printer that costs under $1,200, sharing their design and software with the maker community.
"We have open-sourced the plans," in the hopes of accelerating the technology by allowing others to build upon the design, said project leader Joshua Pearce, a materials engineer at Michigan Technological University in Houghton.
The snazzy device is modeled after a RepRap (short for “replicating rapid prototype”), a 3D printer that can print most of its own components. The printer uses a metal inert gas (MIG) welder to lay down thin layers of steel, much like plastic printers do, and build complex geometric objects.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency intercepted two separate medium-range ballistic missile targets simulating a small raid attack on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean during the first-ever operational test of this capability Sept. 10.
The trial was previously planned as part of the ongoing campaign to demonstrate U.S. layered missile defenses… During the trial, Flight Test Operational-01, the targets were intercepted by the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system and the Aegis equipped destroyer USS Decatur with an SM-3 Block IA missile.
A forward-based AN/TPY-2 radar and overhead assets — likely the Defense Support Program and Space-Based Infrared System satellites — detected the threats and passed track data onto the command-and-control system.
Within a year, a pair of souped-up $2.7 billion blimps (price includes R&D) will be floated 10,000 feet above the District of Columbia and act as a 340-mile-wide eye in the sky, detecting incoming missiles and the like.
The design and testing phase for JLENS—the (deep breath) Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, produced by Raytheon, a major weapons manufactuer—is over, relays Program Director Doug Burgess to Popular Mechanics. Now, it is time for implementation.
The Kite Patch is a little square sticker that emits a cloak of chemical compounds that block a mosquito’s ability to sense humans.
And I want it now. (via Wired)
The Navy has awarded BAE Systems a contract to develop a next-generation launcher with higher rates of fire for its now-in-development Electromagnetic Railgun, service and industry officials explained.The Office of Navy Research is currently developing an EM Railgun which uses massive “pulses” of electricity to propel a projectile or an explosive at distances greater than 100 nautical miles.
Egyptian protestors shine laser lights on a military helicopter flying over the presidential palace in Cairo, on June 30, 2013, as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gather during a protest calling for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. (Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images; via In Focus)
(Source: The Atlantic)
[R]esearchers from Cornell University announced last year that they had successfully hidden not an object but an event in a “time cloak.” This week, scientists from Purdue University reported in the journal Nature that they’ve improved on that “temporal cloaking” technique in a way that might lead to real applications, such as securing data transmitted through optical fibers. The previous cloak hid a single event for just 50 trillionths of a second, long enough to obscure a single bit of data in a typical telecom transmission scheme. The new cloak was able to hide about 12 billion such events per second, making them invisible to an eavesdropper.
On May 14, 1973, NASA launched the Skylab Orbital Workshop atop its last Saturn V. During liftoff the workshop’s meteoroid shield broke loose and ripped off one of its two main solar panels. The problems were immediately apparent to NASA technicians monitoring the launch. Telemetry went bad soon after the ignition of the mighty Saturn’s second stage, and ground-based radars detected multiple pieces of debris coming off of the station. Skylab entered orbit and jettisoned its large payload fairing as planned, but it was severely damaged….
[W]ith limited data it was difficult to determine a path forward. More data is always useful when dealing with unknown situations, and soon an offer of help came from an unusual corner, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which managed and operated the nation’s top secret intelligence collection satellites.
Major General David Bradburn, who was then the head of the Office of Special Projects, one of the NRO’s component offices and based in Los Angeles, quickly proposed that a GAMBIT-3 spacecraft, also known as the KH-8, readying for launch on May 16, be used to take a photograph of Skylab to assist NASA in planning a repair mission. The manned Skylab 2 mission, which had now become a repair mission, was scheduled to launch on May 25. That short turnaround time meant that the first phase of the GAMBIT’s photographic mission would have to be cut short in order to return the photos earlier so they could be used for planning the repair mission….
Bradburn was able to propose this mission because, for approximately six months, a group of junior Air Force officers in the Special Projects Office had been developing computer algorithms for using a GAMBIT-3 to photograph Soviet spacecraft. Their effort had been instigated by Soviet tests of an anti-satellite capability that the Soviets had declared operational in February 1973. They wanted the capability to take a photograph of a Soviet ASAT vehicle if one ever approached an American spacecraft. Because the computer programs were ready, the NRO was able to respond quickly to the Skylab problem—something that Bradburn was able to tell his superiors, and undoubtedly contributed to them approving the mission.
Cheap, clean water may soon be available for the whole planet. According to Reuters, defense contractor Lockheed Martin has developed a filter that will hugely reduce the amount of energy necessary to turn sea water into fresh water. The filter, which is five hundred times thinner then others currently available, lets water pass through but blocks all salt molecules. It will use almost 100 times less energy than other methods for making salt water drinkable, giving third world countries another way of expanding access to drinking water without having to create costly pumping stations.
An ambitious private manned mission to Mars aims to launch a two-person crew to fly around the Red Planet and return to Earth in 501 days, starting in January 2018.
This bold undertaking is planned by the Inspiration Mars Foundation, a non-profit company founded by millionaire and space tourist Dennis Tito that was officially unveiled on Feb. 27 after early details leaked. Though the spacecraft would not land humans on Mars or even put them in orbit, it would bring people within a few hundred kilometers of the Martian surface — roughly the same distance between the International Space Station and Earth — and represent a major milestone in human spaceflight. If successful, the mission would go down in history as the first time a private company accomplished something government agencies were unable to do in space.
The mission is extremely ambitious, well beyond anything previously accomplished by the private sector and it faces plenty of obstacles. The company has an aggressive schedule to keep if it wants to hit its 2018 mark and needs to make sure the necessary technology is developed and well-tested. Despite its deep-pocketed backer, the mission has nowhere near the funding it needs to launch and will require raising greater sums than have ever been done for a private space endeavor. Its designers also need to figure out exactly how to keep the crew healthy, both physically and psychologically, for the 501-day duration of the flight as they face dangers from radiation, bone and muscle loss, fatigue, and depression. Mission designers will have to ensure they can get the crew safely to the ground when the capsule returns to Earth at a screaming 30,000 mph.