Posts with «industrials» label

Surprise Soyuz thruster firing tilted and turned the ISS

The astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station had to initiate emergency protocols after the spacecraft tilted and turned by 57 degrees on Friday. All is well now, but the Roscosmos and NASA ground teams had to spring to action and alert their personnel in space after noticing the change in orientation. According to The New York Times, the incident happened while cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky was testing the engines aboard the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft that's currently docked with the station. 

NASA spokesperson Leah Cheshier told the publication that "the thruster firing unexpectedly continued" when the engine testing was scheduled to end. By 5:13 AM Eastern time, the ISS lost control of its orbital positioning. Russian controllers in Moscow immediately told Novitsky that the station turned 57 degrees, while NASA's mission control in Houston told its astronauts to begin emergency procedures. Flight controllers were able to regain control of the station around 30 minutes later. The Soyuz spacecraft that caused the incident is expected to fly a Russian fillm crew — that same one that flew to the ISS to shoot the first feature film there earlier this month — back to Earth.

"During the Soyuz MS-18 engines testing, the station’s orientation was impacted. As a result, the International Space Station orientation was temporarily changed. The station’s orientation was swiftly recovered due to the actions of the ISS Russian Segment Chief Operating Control Group specialists. The station and the crew are in no danger," Roscosmos said in its announcement.

As The Times notes, this is the second such emergency on the station. Back in July, the thrusters on Russia's Nauka module fired "inadvertently and unexpectedly" causing the ISS to tilt by about 45 degrees. At the time, NASA spokesperson Rob Navias said the ISS lost "attitude control," which is also what happened in this case, and that the event was quite rare.

MIT researchers create fabric that can sense and react to its wearer's movement

Textile production may be one of the oldest technologies known to humans, but it hasn't proven easy to adapt the advances of the information age to our garments. Sure, we've seen efforts like Google's Project Jacquard try to bring clothes into the modern era, but those haven't been particularly successful.

Not that that's stopping a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Sweden. They've created a smart fiber that can sense and respond to the movement of its wearer. Dubbed OmniFiber, the soft robotic fabric features a hollow center channel that allows a fluidic medium to travel through it. With the help of compressed air, the fibers can bend, stretch, curl and pulse on demand. That's something that allows them to provide tactile feedback in real-time, making them akin to an artificial muscle.

Artificial muscle fibers aren't a new idea; other research teams at MIT have approached the technology in their own way. However, what makes OmniFiber notable is that it doesn't need heat to change its shape. Immediately that makes it more practical since overheating the skin is not an issue. It has other advantages too. It's possible to make the fabric with relatively inexpensive materials, and the fibers don't require a delicate weaving process.

The team envisions their fabric making its way into garments that could help teach athletes and singers how to control their breathing better. Another even more exciting application could see an OmniFiber garment help someone recover their natural breathing pattern after a respiratory disease like COVID-19.

It may be some time before we see OmniFiber make its way into the real world, but that's not to suggest the project is done. Ozgun Kilic Afsar, one of the researchers who worked on the fabric, told MIT News she plans to continue working on the system. Among the things she wants to do is develop a manufacturing system that allows the creation of even longer filaments.

Boeing's next Starliner test flight moves to first half of 2022

Those murmurs of lengthy delays for Boeing's next Starliner test flight turned out to be true. Space.comreports Boeing and NASA are now targeting an Orbital Flight Test-2 launch sometime in the first half of 2022. Engineers have narrowed down the likely causes of the oxidizer isolation valve problem that forced the team to scrap the August 2021 launch, but it remains a "complex issue" that requires a "methodical approach" to solve, according to Commercial Crew Program manager Steve Stich.

Boeing has several possible solutions in the works, ranging from small tweaks to the existing crew capsule through to modifying a capsule still in production. The exact launch timing hinges on both the readiness of the hardware itself as well as the rocket manifest and access to the International Space Station.

While this does suggest Starliner is moving forward, the delay further hurts Boeing's chances to compete with SpaceX in crewed capsule missions. SpaceX has already sent two crewed missions to the ISS, and it may have sent two more by the time the Starliner OFT-2 mission lifts off — Elon Musk's outfit will be a seasoned veteran before Boeing is cleared for its first occupied Starliner flight. It could be a long while before the two companies are taking turns ferrying people to orbit.

Polestar made a working version of its electric cargo sled

Polestar's electric cargo sled now exists as more than just a pretty 3D render. The EV maker has unveiled its first working prototype of the Re:Move it introduced half a year earlier. The three-wheeler hasn't changed much since March, but it's now clear just what the machine could do.

The Re:Move demo unit is about as fast a typical e-bike with a 15MPH top speed and a 2.2kWh battery. However, it can haul a lot more. The 400lbs maximum load isn't as heavy as the 600lbs Polestar claimed early on, but that still makes it a viable alternative to delivery vans in some cases. It's nimbler than vans, too, with a 29-inch width (easily enough for a bike lane) and a 23-foot turning radius.

You can also expect always-on lighting, brake lights and a horn, although indicators are optional in Polestar's vision. The Re:Move should be more eco-friendly thanks to composite frame covers that replace the usual plastic and flax.

Polestar still hasn't said how likely it is to produce the Re:Move, let alone offer pricing or availability. The automaker certainly has roles in mind for the Re:Move, however. It pictures the sled filling in for lighter delivery duties, such as online orders. The machine might also help in rural areas where there isn't much infrastructure for conventional vehicles. Don't be surprised if you see this or vehicles like it in villages where more 'conventional' EVs just wouldn't be an option. 

FAA grounds Virgin Galactic space flights during anomaly investigation

Virgin Galactic is having a particularly bad day. Reutersreports the Federal Aviation Administration has barred Virgin from flying SpaceShipTwo while the agency investigates an anomaly in the descent of Richard Branson's spaceflight. The regulator wants to be sure the "mishap" leading to the aircraft's deviation from its cleared route won't hurt public safety. Officials didn't estimate when Virgin might resume flights.

We've asked Virgin for comment. The space tourism firm previously acknowledged that the flight went off-course, dipping below the intended airspace for one minute and 41 seconds. However, it also maintained that it didn't fly outside the "lateral confines" of the allowed airspace.

This comes at an unfortunate time for Virgin. The company just announced its first flight carrying commercial research, with a launch due in late September or early October — that schedule might be in doubt if the FAA probe lasts long enough or prompts significant changes to the plan. It could also add another delay to Virgin's first space tourist flights, now slated for early 2022. That's concerning for a company that's bleeding cash and might not turn a profit until it's carrying passengers.

NASA's latest space station cargo includes a 3D printing system for lunar soil

NASA has edged one step closer to building Moon and Mars colonies using the celestial bodies' soil. Universe Todaynotes that NASA's latest International Space Station resupply mission included a machine meant to demonstrate 3D printing regolith (that is, loose soil or rock) on the Moon and similar extraterrestrial surfaces.

The Redwire Regolith Print (RRP) project will work in tandem with an existing printer system (ManD) to try 3D printing simulated regolith. If that succeeds, the ISS crew will gauge the strength of the resulting material to see if it can handle the harsh conditions beyond Earth.

If all goes well, RRP could lead to colonists printing at least some of their habitats on-demand. That, in turn, could reduce the volume of construction supplies NASA brings to the Moon and Mars. Scientists have envisioned soil-based habitats for years, but this test is relatively realistic — it's an attempt at 3D printing soil in lower gravity. While there will still be much work to do, the long-term goals for Artemis and future Mars missions may be that much more achievable.

Rocket Lab will launch its first Moon mission from New Zealand in late 2021

Rocket Lab is narrowing down the details for its first Moon launch. The private spaceflight firm has revealed that its CAPSTONE mission will lift off from the company's original launch complex in New Zealand sometime in the fourth quarter of 2021. The mission was originally slated to launch in early 2021 from NASA's Wallops facility in Virginia.

The CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) cubesat will serve as a vanguard for NASA's Artemis program. It will verify the propulsion needs for a highly elliptical lunar orbit, test spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation systems and show the potential for private support in future missions. A successful mission would help NASA's future Gateway spacecraft safely approach and orbit the Moon.

The launch should also represent a technical breakthrough for Rocket Lab. While the Electron rocket will serve a familiar role in carrying the mission into space, this will be the first time the company uses its Photon platform to put a satellite on a lunar trajectory.

CAPSTONE could serve as redemption for the company. Rocket Lab has dealt with two prominent rocket failures, and only recently resumed launches following its May incident. A successful Moon launch would both reinforce that return to form and show that Rocket Lab can handle particularly ambitious projects.

DARPA's PROTEUS program gamifies the art of war

The nature of war continues to evolve through the 21st century with conflict zones shifting from jungles and deserts to coastal cities. Not to mention the rapidly increasing commercial availability of cutting-edge technologies including UAVs and wireless communications. To help the Marine Corps best prepare for these increased complexities and challenges, the Department of Defense tasked DARPA with developing a digital training and operations planning tool. The result is the Prototype Resilient Operations Testbed for Expeditionary Urban Scenarios (PROTEUS) system, a real-time strategy simulator for urban-littoral warfare.

When the PROTEUS program first began in 2017, “there was a big push across DARPA under what we call a sustainment focus area, and that included urban warfare,” Dr. Tim Grayson, director of DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office, told Engadget, looking at how to best support and “sustain” US fighting forces in various combat situations until they can finish their mission.


The PROTEUS program manager (who has since departed DARPA), Dr. John S Paschkewitz, “came to the realization that the urban environment is really complex, both from a maneuver perspective,” Grayson said, “but also going into the future where there's all this commercial technology that will involve communications and spectrum stuff, maybe even robotics and things of that nature.”

Even without the threat of armed UAVs and autonomous killbots, modern urban conflict zones pose a number of challenges including limited lines of sight and dense, pervasive civilian populations. “​​There's such a wide range of missions that happen in urban environments,” Grayson said. “A lot of it is almost like peacekeeping, stabilization operations. How do we… help the local populace and protect them.” He also notes that the military is often called in to assist with both national emergencies and natural disasters, which pose the same issues albeit without nearly as much shooting.

“So, if someone like the Marines or some other kind of sustainment military unit had to go conduct operations in a complex urban environment,” he continued, “it'd be a limited footprint. So, [Paschkewitz] started looking at what we refer to as the ‘what do I put in the rucksack problem.’”

“The urban fight is about delivering precise effects and adapting faster than the adversary in an uncertain, increasingly complex environment,” Paschkewitz said in a DARPA release from June. “For US forces to maintain a distinct advantage in urban coastal combat scenarios, we need agile, flexible task organizations able to create surprise and exploit advantages by combining effects across operational domains.”

PROTEUS itself is a software program designed to run on a tablet or hardened PDA and allow anyone from a squad leader up to a company commander to monitor and adjust the “composition of battlefield elements — including dismounted forces, vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), manned aircraft and other available assets,” according to the release. “Through PROTEUS, we aim to amplify the initiative and decision-making capabilities of NCOs and junior officers at the platoon and squad level, as well as field-grade officers, commanding expeditionary landing teams, for example, by giving them new tools to compose tailored force packages not just before the mission, but during the mission as it unfolds.”

But PROTEUS isn’t just for monitoring and redeploying forces, it also serves as a real-time strategy training system to help NCOs and officers test and analyze different capabilities and tactics virtually. “One of the beauties of [PROTEUS] is it's flexible enough to program with whatever you want,” Grayson said. It allows warfighters to “go explore their own ideas, their own structure concepts, their own tactics. They're totally free to use it just as an open-ended experimentation, mission rehearsal or even training type of tool.”

But for its design flexibility, the system’s physics engine closely conforms to the real-world behaviors and tolerances of existing military equipment as well as commercial drones, cellular, satellite and Wi-Fi communications, sensors and even weapons systems. “The simulation environment is sophisticated but doesn't let them do things that are not physically realizable,” Grayson explained.

The system also includes a dynamic composition engine called COMPOSER which not only automate the team’s equipment loadout but can also look at a commander’s plan and provide feedback on multiple aspects including “electromagnetic signature risk, assignment of communications assets to specific units and automatic configuration of tactical networks,” according to a DARPA press release.


“Without the EMSO and logistics wizards, it’s hard to effectively coordinate and execute multi-domain operations,” Paschkewitz said. “Marines can easily coordinate direct and indirect fires, but coordinating those with spectrum operations while ensuring logistical support without staff is challenging. These tools allow Marines to focus on the art of war, and the automation handles the science of war.”

Currently, the system is set up for standard Red vs Blue fights between opposing human forces though Grayzon does not expect PROTEUS to be upgraded to the point that humans will be able to compete against the CPU and even less likely that we’ll see CPU vs CPU — given our current computational and processing capabilities. He does note that the Constructive Machine-learning Battles with Adversary Tactics (COMBAT) program, which is still underway at DARPA, is working to develop “models of Red Force brigade behaviors that challenge and adapt to Blue Forces in simulation experiments.”

“Building a commander’s insight and judgment is driven by the fact that there’s a live opponent,” Paschkewitz said in June. “We built ULTRA [the sandbox module that serves as the basis for the larger system] around that concept from day one. This is not AI versus AI, or human versus AI, rather there is always a Marine against an ADFOR (adversary force), that’s another Marine, typically, forcing the commander to adapt tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) and innovate at mission speed.”

“PROTEUS enables commanders to immerse themselves in a future conflict where they can deploy capabilities against a realistic adversary,” Ryan Reeder, model and simulation director, MCWL Experiment Division, said in a statement. “Commanders can hone their battlefield skills, while also training subordinates on employment techniques, delivering a cohesive unit able to execute in a more effective manner.

Technically, DARPA’s involvement with the PROTEUS program has come to an end following its transfer to the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab where it is now being used for ADFOR training and developing new TTPs and CONOPS. “My guess is they will mostly use it for their own purposes, as opposed to continuing to develop it,” Grayson said. “The Warfighting Lab is less focused on technology and more focused on our future force, concepts and what are our new tactics.”

Heatworks opens pre-orders for its plumbing-free countertop dishwasher

Heatworks has at long last opened pre-orders for the Tetra, a countertop dishwasher the company unveiled to some fanfare at CES 2018. Since the Tetra doesn't require any plumbing, the only thing you need to connect it to is an electrical outlet. The appliance has a three-liter tank you fill with water manually. Once the cycle (which takes less than an hour on the shortest setting) is complete, you disconnect the greywater tank and pour out the used water.

The dishwasher can wash and dry three place settings worth of dishes per load. On the surface, it might seem wasteful compared with cleaning those plates, cups and utensils manually, not to mention the counter space the machine will hog. However, Heatworks claims the machine requires less water than handwashing and rinsing the dishes. 

There are several settings, including a "fruit" one for washing produce. In addition, the dishwasher uses recyclable cartridges with concentrated detergent in an attempt to reduce waste.

THE TETRA COUNTERTOP DISHWASHER PREORDER BEGINS NOW. Click to save $100 off the retail price. Limited quantities available. Reserve yours before they're gone.

— HEATWORKS (@myheatworks) August 4, 2021

The Tetra also requires less power than a standard dishwasher, according to the company. To heat up water, Heatworks uses Ohmic Array Technology, as Gizmodo notes. The Tetra takes a microwave-style approach to heating water rather than harnessing traditional metal elements. It uses graphite electrodes and "advanced electronic controls" to excite natural minerals in water. That setup allows the Tetra to efficiently heat water and maintain precise temperature control, according to Heatworks.

While there are other countertop dishwashers that don't need a plumbing connection, the Tetra has a smaller water tank than many of its rivals. Farberware's FDW05ASBWHA model (which is currently $340) has a five-liter capacity. The Tetra may heat water more efficiently than other models as well.

The Tetra will typically cost $499, but Heatworks is offering a $100 discount to those who lock in a preorder now. The detergent cartridges will cost around $6 each and they should be good for 20 loads depending on the setting and load capacity. Heatworks expects to start shipping the Tetra by May 18th, 2022, which is No Dirty Dishes Day.

Boeing and NASA delay Starliner launch due to unexpected valve problem

Boeing will have to wait yet again to prove the worth of its Starliner spacecraft. The company and NASA had planned to launch the capsule on Tuesday on top of an Atlas V rocket at 1:20PM ET, but that's not happening anymore. 

"We're standing down from today's #Starliner Orbital Flight Test-2 launch," Boeing said on Twitter. The company attributed the delay to "unexpected valve position indications in the propulsion system" engineers spotted during pre-launch preparations. It's currently unclear if the issue is related to Starliner or the Atlas V rocket that was supposed to carry the vessel to space. Boeing and NASA said they will provide an update on the situation on Wednesday, August 4th.     

We're standing down from today's #Starliner Orbital Flight Test-2 launch.

During pre-launch preparations, our engineers detected unexpected valve position indications in the propulsion system.

Read the full statement:

— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) August 3, 2021

“We’re disappointed with today’s outcome and the need to reschedule our Starliner launch,” John Vollmer, vice president and program manager for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program, said. “Human spaceflight is a complex, precise and unforgiving endeavor, and Boeing and NASA teams will take the time they need to ensure the safety and integrity of the spacecraft and the achievement of our mission objectives.”

After its first test flight went awry, Starliner was supposed to return to space on July 30th. However, NASA delayed the flight after the new Russian ISS Nauka module unexpectedly fired its thrusters, tiling the station outside of its typical orientation.