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DARPA Says Peeling Skin Brought Down Its Hypersonic Glider

In 2010 and again in 2011, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) suffered two setbacks when it lost both its mach 20 Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) gliders during test flights. Now, in a new report on the HTV-2's second ill-fated flight in 2011, DARPA says that they believe they know why the the craft failed -- but its not all bad news.

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DARPA’s Creepy Robotic Humanoid Becomes a Stair Master

When we last saw a robotic humanoid from Boston Dynamics, it was PETMAN strutting it's stuff on a moving walkway and doing pushups. Now, the bot's developers and the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) are showing off a robot with a new and terrifying trick: Walking up stairs. But that might just be a glimpse of what will be coming in the future.

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DARPA Cheetah-bot Sets New Legged Robot Speed Record

Careful readers will notice that the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) has a thing for robotic animals. While those were impressive in their own right, none of them were particularly quick off the mark -- until now. Working with Boston Dynamics, the maker of BigDog, DARPA has produced a robot called Cheetah that can run at speeds up to 18 miles per hour, completely shattering the 1989 legged robot speed record of  13.1 miles per hour.

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Today in Vague Headlines: DARPA Has Some Kind of High Tech Fire-Killing Wand

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known to its friends as DARPA, has announced their latest innovation: Instant fire suppression. The goal of the research project, which was part of a joint venture with Harvard University, was to find a better way to put out fires. Instead of conventional tactics, DARPA wanted a high-tech tool that would attack the very physical make up of fire using acoustics and electromagnetism.

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DARPA is Developing a Spy Satellite to Stream Real-Time Video, See Any Target

As is the case with most projects coming out of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, this starts simple and quickly becomes complicated. Here's the simple part: Currently, military planners rely on drones to get real-time information about battlefields or areas of interest. Now things get complicated, as there aren't enough drones and they don't fly high enough to enter what DARPA calls "denied territories." In order to bridge that gap, DARPA makes it really complicated by researching the possibility of capturing video from space using spy satellites fitted with enormous flexible lenses some 60 feet across.

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DARPA’s New ‘Pelican’ Promises High-Tech Airship

DARPA's ambitious Walrus airship may be dead in the water, but some of its high-tech concepts could still be taking to the air. Having received a cash infusion from DARPA, the airship company Aeros hopes that its Pelican craft could provide heavy-lifting capability from a lighter-than-air craft. One of the major selling points of the Pelican is that it could solve a key problem that has dogged airship design having to do with buoyancy. As the aircraft's motors burn fuel, it becomes lighter and starts to float upwards. To offset this, expensive helium gas is released from the airship. The Pelican would take a different approach to this problem, according to Aviation Week:
[The Pelican is] a 230-ft.-long, 600,000-cu.-ft. demonstrator for its rigid-aeroshell, variable-buoyancy (RAVB) technology. Inside the shell, comprising a load-bearing frame of carbon-fiber trusses covered by thin-gauge rigid panels, will be a membrane to contain the helium lifting gas. Inside that membrane will be pressurized pump-fed tanks. More helium under pressure in the tanks makes the vehicle heavier, and less makes it lighter.
In some of Aeros' existing craft, this has been achieved with donut-shaped compartments that fit around the airship as pictured above. Using vectored thrust propulsion, this could allow the Pelican could take off and land vertically, hover, and land with little help from a ground crew. The company claims that the Pelican could even move cargo on and off ships without having to land. Aeros is planning a demonstration flight in 2012-2013, and has (as yet unfunded) hopes for a 60-ton capacity craft in the near future. But given the tenuous nature of military research, those plans could easily float away. (Aviation Week, The Register, via Engadget)

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DARPA Wants You to Play Their Sub-Hunt Game

As unmanned drones and some ground-based robots are becoming a larger part of the Pentagon's battle strategy, naval warfare is often regarded as the next vanguard for the robotic revolution. For its part, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)  is looking to bring unmanned semi-submerged sub-hunting robots to the fray with the Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV). It's noteworthy that this is the first DARPA project I've seen that doesn't have a clever, easily pronounceable acronym. The ACTUV would loiter out in the ocean for extended periods of time, keeping an eye out for submerged enemy submarines. Once located, the ACTUV would stay on the sub's tail, sending back vital information to mission planners. But keeping on the tail of those submarines while dodging shipping traffic seems to be the rub of the project, so DARPA has rolled out a nifty video game where you (yes, you!) help crowdsource the best tactics.

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DARPA Seeks to Understand Storytelling; Weaponized Dr. Seuss Imminent

It's easy to say that of the all the organs that make up the Military Industrial Complex, none is more genuinely beloved than the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. While some of that admiration comes, no doubt, from their zany proposals, far more comes from the fact that they actually get stuff done -- like inventing the Internet. So it is quite interesting to see that DARPA is looking to learn more about the biological and literary processes behind story-telling in a project called Stories, Neuroscience and Experimental Technologies (STORyNET).

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