Usually, when someone says "this is the coolest thing I've ever seen," you know that no matter what they're looking at, they're resorting to a little hyperbole.
But today, when I saw two videos taken from the window seat of a Virgin America flight that show Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo flying alongside in tandem (give the video about 35 seconds before the spaceship appears), my reaction was, well, "this is the coolest thing I've ever seen."
And that was before hearing the audio of the person shooting the video saying … Read more
The three-year wait for a recreational jetpack may be almost over--assuming regulators give their approval.
New Zealand's Martin Aircraft said that its Martin Jetpack--which has a 200-horsepower piston gasoline engine that powers a couple of ducted fans--remained aloft for more than seven minutes in its latest test. That may not be enough time to get you to the store and back, but it represents a record.
A man on the ground flew the Martin Jetpack by radio control; a weighted dummy, "Jetson," served as the pilot. No mention yet on an updated timetable for putting a human through a rigorous series of test runs, though the company has previously said that it's on track to do just that sometime in the current quarter.
The jetpack itself is 5 feet tall and 5.5 feet wide and made of a carbon fiber composite with a pinch of Kevlar for the rotor. It uses regular gasoline and will travel a grand distance of 31.5 miles at a maximum speed of 63 mph, which should comfortably take you from home to office (and back) in a jiffy, and with a lot of noise. … Read more
Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, plans to build a commercial heavy-lift rocket that will carry more than twice the payload of existing large rockets at one-third the cost. That would lower the price of delivering cargo to low-Earth orbit to the long-sought, and so far mythical, $1,000-per-pound range, the company's founder and chief designer announced today.
Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the Falcon Heavy--made up of three Falcon 9 core stages powered by 27 upgraded Merlin engines and generating a combined 3.8 million pounds of thrust--will be ready for its initial test flight from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., late next year or early 2013.
It will be the most powerful U.S. launcher since NASA's Saturn 5 moon rocket. NASA is exploring options for an even more powerful, congressionally mandated "super heavy-lift rocket" for use in deep space exploration, but it's not yet clear when that vehicle will fly or what its mission will be.
Musk said he expects initial demand to reach 10 Falcon Heavy launches a year if the test flight and subsequent launches go well. Potential customers include commercial satellite operators, NASA, and the military. Musk added that the military currently plans to spend some $1.74 billion on four Air Force launches in 2012 at an average cost of $435 million per flight.
SpaceX's single-core Falcon 9 rocket is available commercially for between $50 million and $60 million, the company said in a statement, while the new Falcon Heavy will cost between $80 million and $125 million, depending on requirements.
"Falcon Heavy represents a huge economic advantage," Musk said. "Falcon Heavy costs about a third as much per flight as a Delta 4 Heavy, but carries twice as much payload to orbit. So it's effectively a six-fold improvement in the cost per pound to orbit. In fact, Falcon Heavy sets a new world record for the cost per pound to orbit of around about $1,000. That's a pretty huge leap in capability."… Read more
The space shuttle program may be drawing to a close, but a little bit to the south of the Kennedy Space Center, some young Puerto Ricans could represent our greatest hope for the future of the space program.
Teams from the island territory swept the top honors in NASA's 18th annual Great Moonbuggy Race held over the weekend. Teams representing Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, took the top two places in the high school division, and the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao won its second straight title in the college division.
NASA describes the competition as challenging "students around the world to build and race lightweight, human-powered buggies--demonstrating the same innovation and can-do spirit that put the first Apollo-era lunar rover on the moon four decades ago." Check out this footage:… Read more
The clean-energy geeks (definitely a term of endearment) at Stanford University have come up with a way to turn every river in the world into a power plant--no big ugly hydropower dams required.
Put simply, Yi Cui, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford, and his research team want to put a newly developed rechargeable battery at the mouths of rivers; the batteries would take advantage of the difference in salinity between salt water and freshwater to produce electricity and charge themselves.
That's the simple explanation. For the explanation that includes a discussion of the relationship between voltage and the concentration of sodium and chlorine ions, check out the news from Stanford. That said, the basic concept behind the battery itself isn't too complex and is similar to other batteries--basically two electrodes immersed in water--but the Stanford team took advantage of nanotechnology, which is cool because...here, let's just let them explain it:… Read more
If a group of scientists can get their project off the ground, there's a chance U.S. air travelers may one day be able to bring aboard more liquids in their carry-on luggage again.
The team, led by Oklahoma State University chemistry professor Allen Apblett, has come up with what it says is a nanomaterial that can both detect and neutralize some dangerous explosives. If deployed in a practical manner at airports in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world, it could, in theory, make it possible once again for some people to bring more liquids with them … Read more
Robots and Bobcat loaders from Qinetiq North America have arrived in Tokyo, and workers are training with them before being deployed to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which continues to pose a serious radiation threat.
The Virginia-based defense contractor sent 20,000 pounds worth of equipment to Japan this week, including kits that can turn loaders into remote-controlled bulldozers in minutes.
One of the biggest obstacles to getting the Fukushima crisis under control is the continuing radiation threatening workers. This might be a perfect opportunity for robots to help out, but operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) didn't have its own bots to deploy.
Japan's Nuclear Safety Technology Center sent its Moni Robo A, a 5-foot-tall radiation-detecting robot developed by Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, to the plant. But debris from the March 11 tsunami and explosions that damaged buildings have prevented it from being used, TEPCO said in an IDG News report.
From Denver, Bobcat sent T300 loaders that are powerful enough to lift cars, and Bobcat staff in Japan have completed training on how to control them from laptops. Qinetiq also sent its Robotic Applique Kits, which can convert Bobcat loaders to unmanned vehicles in 15 minutes.
"You can attach anything to them, from bulldozer parts to hooks, to move debris," said Qinetiq spokeswoman Jennifer Pickett, who added that the machines should be at the plant site next week. … Read more
It's inspiring to visit a university laboratory and see fresh-faced college students working on experiments that may some day have huge impacts on our lives. And on our trip to the University of California at Berkeley this week we found just that. In the campus' Stanley Hall, there's a team of researchers working on a new blood-analysis chip or Self-powered Integrated Microfluidic Blood Analysis System (SIMBAS), that can potentially detect hundreds of diseases at once in a matter of minutes.
During my campus visit with cameraman and editor Jared Kohler, we interviewed bioengineering Professor Luke Lee and post-doctoral … Read more
Verizon Communications plans to upgrade segments of its U.S. Internet backbone to 100 Gigabit Ethernet by the end of the second quarter, the carrier said today.
The upgrade to 100G will happen in three segments: Chicago to New York, Sacramento to Los Angeles, and Minneapolis to Kansas City.
The upgraded network can offer backbone speeds of 100 gigabits per second, up to 10 times faster than is generally now available. Verizon said the upgrade can benefit business customers that increasingly depend on video streaming, cloud-based applications, and other bandwidth-intensive services.
Internet backbones use high-speed fiber-optic networks to send data … Read more
Move over, bomb-sniffing dogs and bees. You've got some serious competition in bomb-sniffing mice (the kind with four legs, not the kind you use with a mousepad).
Israeli start-up BioExplorers has created a system that relies on the rodents' keen sense of smell to detect explosives or drugs.
The system is aimed at airports, government buildings, malls, mass transit, and other public venues, though it fortunately does not require that mice scamper all over you or your bags to ascertain whether you're carrying contraband.
Instead, the person being screened walks through a passageway in the BioExplorers system, which looks a lot like a standard airport metal detector.
A fan pushes air into a biosensor receptor, and delivers the air to a chamber inhabited by four to eight mice that have been specially trained at the Bomb Sniffing Academy for Rodents. If they smell something they've been taught to recognize, they move into another chamber, which sets off an alarm. Security officials can then move in and take whatever steps they need to take next. … Read more