Currently, laser scientists at Lockheed Martin, an advanced technologies company, are in the process of working on their version of the phaser, a classic weapon and tool that has been used in Star Trek for everything from stunning an enemy to cutting through a rock wall.
To infinity, and beyond!
NASA's test of the Orion deep space crew capsule had a rough start with a failed launch yesterday, but today's retry was a complete success. Any successful space mission is exciting by itself, but for this one in particular, the really exciting part is what it means for the future.
NASA has a plan to wrangle an asteroid and park it in lunar orbit, or as we've come to know it -- the plan to to give the Moon a moon. One step in that plan is to send astronauts into space to visit the Moon's moon, and to do that, they'll need the Orion space capsule. To kickstart the mission, NASA has set an inaugural launch date for the Orion of September 2014, and they've been working double shifts to meet that goal. Why the rush? It might be that the whole plan could get scrapped if the proposed NASA budget doesn't get approved.
The last of the world's first fifth-generation jet fighter, the F-22 Raptor,
rolled off the assembly line in December of last year. Back in 1994, there were meant to be 750 of the stealthy high-tech fighters built, but that number has dwindled over ballooning costs and concerns that the conflict the F-22 was designed for just hasn't materialized. In the end, 187 operational fighters were built. The last Raptor, number 4195, took its first flight this past Wednesday in Georgia.
After spending the better part of four months on the ground, Lockheed-Martin's F-22 Raptor
superjets have been cleared to fly again as of today. Originally grounded in May
after reports of oxygen
issues, the jets have been the focus of a months long study by the Air Force and aeronautics experts. Frequent readers may have noticed that this is a story we've been following for some time now
The concern sprung from pilots returning from flights with hypoxia
-like symptoms, a condition which occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen. The condition, while temporary, is extremely dangerous as it can potentially affect decision making and reaction time -- two things the pilot of an extremely fast and extremely expensive aircraft cannot afford to loose. Further studies found antifreeze in the blood of Raptor pilots
, which only deepened the mystery of what was going on with the aircraft.
are so passe. At just ten inches long and a mere 1.5 pounds, Lockheed Martin's
called the Samarai
is a surprising little aircraft. Taking power from a single rotor, the craft spins at high speed with lift from its lone wing using the same principle as a maple seed
Capable of taking off from the ground or after being tossed in the air, the Samarai can hover and maneuver well in confined spaces. An onboard camera takes advantage of the craft's constant spin to provide a 360º view, streaming back to operators in real-time.
Though the Samarai is only a proof of concept, Lockheed Martin hopes to someday get a monocopter UAV into the wild. The compact design would be ideal for soldiers looking to get added surveillance in a particular area. Size is one area the developers hope to continue to improve upon, telling Popular Mechanics
they hope to get it down to the size of a fingernail.
Read on below for video of Samarai taking flight.
In a reminder that other networks beyond Sony's are targets for cyber attack, Reuters is reporting that major Department of Defense contractor and aeronautics giant Lockheed-Martin, and possibly other weapons makers, have been hacked. There is no word yet as to whether any data was compromised as a result of the alleged attack, and Lockheed-Martin has not confirmed the breach.
Confirmed information remains scant, but according to Reuter's sources, the attack appears to be a direct result of a confirmed security breach at EMC, which provides the SecurID tokens for Lockheed-Martin. These tokens produce a new passcode minute by minute, providing an additional layer of security on top of the personal identification numbers assigned to Lockheed-Martin employee. During the attack on EMC this past March, hackers were apparently able to steal information which allowed them to produce their own passcodes. This breach was followed by a string of phishing and malware attacks designed to match tokens to users, and thus circumvent the system.
As of yet, the motivations behind the attacks remain unknown.
With the Space Shuttle's imminent retirement, much of the discussion about the future of American spaceflight has centered on private companies like SpaceX. But NASA
will have a spacecraft for deep-space missions, and Lockheed Martin
recently unveiled the first of these craft called Orion
Originally designed as part of the now-defunct Constellation project, Orion is the craft that is hoped will carry astronauts to Asteroids and beyond. Reusable and highly durable, the Orion crew module looks like a larger Apollo-era capsule but with a slew of high-tech improvements.
NASA hopes to have a manned mission flying by 2016, and it certainly seems like they are well on their way.
, image credit Lockheed Martin)
Today in incremental developments towards SKYNET: Lockheed Martin is working on developing a totally autonomous spy robot that avoids detection by hiding when it 'thinks' it is in danger of being discovered. To do this, it creates an internal 3D map of the world around it using an invisible laser scanner, detects nearby footsteps and their direction using a microphone, and even models human lines of sight. In essence, Metal Gear Solid is coming to real life and becoming a spy robot.
"Lockheed Martin's approach does include a sort of basic theory of mind, in the sense that the robot makes assumptions about how to act covertly in the presence of humans," says Alan Wagner of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, who works on artificial intelligence and robot deception.
But the level at which the robot's software operates is probably limited to task-specific instructions such as, "if you hear a noise, scurry to the nearest dark corner", he says. That's not sophisticated enough to hide from humans in varied environments.
"Significant AI will be needed to develop a robot which can act covertly in a general setting," Wagner says. "The robot will need to consider its own shape and size, to have the ability to navigate potential paths, [to be aware of] each person's individual line of view, the impact that its movement will have on the environment, and so on."
The U.S. Department of Defense is interested
Most people probably assume that when nations go shopping for the tools of war that it is not entirely unlike a trip to the grocery store. Yes, there are complex contracts involved, but it boils down to the buyer giving the seller money in exchange for the seller's wares. This is apparently not always the case.
report indicates that in 2005, Lockheed Martin
was prepared to sell F16 fighter jets
. Except that cash-strapped nation did not intend to pay with money, instead offering 80,000 tons of frozen chicken
for the jets. Unbelievably, Lockheed Martin was ameinable to the exchange, perhaps hoping to make a killing in the frozen poultry markets. Sadly, it was not to be; a coup in Thailand ended the deal.
Lockheed Martin's willingness to swap advanced aircraft for dead, frozen birds makes me wonder if this kind of deal wasn't anything new to them. Perhaps foodstuffs for weapons is completely normal in the military industrial complex. Tanks for turkeys, bombs for burgers, flan for flame-throwers -- the possibilities are endless!
, image via Wikimedia
STOVL (Short Take Off and Vertical Landing) planes have been in development and use since 1951, though only two planes have ever reached operational status. On Thursday, Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II test plane made its very first vertical landing.
To quote the late, great Douglass Adams: It "hung in the air in exactly the same way that bricks don't."
Video after the jump.