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research and development

New Cryptographic Device Destined for Drones

October 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Navy researchers are developing a state-of-the-art encryption device for integration onto KC-130 tankers and unmanned aerial systems. An existing version of the device is being installed onto B-52 bombers, E-4s, which serve as airborne command centers for the U.S. president and other National Command Authority officials, and E-6s, which are command and control centers for nuclear weapons. The encryption system can be integrated into virtually any platform and offers backward-compatible, software-definable algorithms that can be updated during operations without downtime.

It is that ability to load algorithms without downtime that researchers tout as one of the biggest benefits of the new system. “This is critical for the ability of the warfighter to be able to replace algorithms as they become obsolete. You don’t have to take a platform offline like almost every other crypto out there now,” says Stanley Chincheck, director, Center for High Assurance Computer Systems, Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Washington, D.C. “You can do that while it is up and running. That is a unique feature that many crypto devices just don’t have.”

Chincheck cannot reveal a lot of details because of security concerns, but KC-130s and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will receive the next incarnation of the Programmable Embeddable INFOSEC (Information Security) Product (PEIP, pronounced peep). The version under development is known as PEIP III. The other aircraft—B-52s, E-4s and E-6s—are receiving the current version, PEIP II.

Exploring the
 Outer Edge of
 Space Technology

October 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

NASA’s core culture is to push the boundaries of what has been to create what can be. And within this cutting-edge organization is an entire group dedicated solely to ensuring that the revolutions continue to expand. The Game Changing Development Program exists to find the disruptive technologies available in relevant fields, then move them into the proper channels for development and deployment.

Stephen Gaddis, director of the program, describes its straightforward mission saying, “We are looking for the game changers. We either transform or disrupt the way that the country, that the agency, is doing business in space. We want to have a high impact on new missions and new capabilities. In essence, we’re looking to change the way NASA does business.”

The group has even defined what they mean by the term. Gaddis explains that most people have the right philosophy to understand a game changer, but his program explicitly explains one as an orders-of-magnitude improvement over current resources. “It’s not just incremental, not just evolutionary,” he adds. “It’s revolutionary.” The work involves both creating new technologies as well as changing how processes are followed or products are made.
 

Calling All Rocket Scientists

September 18, 2013

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking ideas and technical proposals for how to best develop a fully reusable unmanned aircraft that would provide access to space faster, easier and at a lower cost than current satellite launch vehicles. According to Jess Sponable, manager of the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program, the agency aims to build on proven technologies to create a reliable, cost-effective space delivery system that can be used to launch payloads into space, return to Earth and repeat the process the next day. Technical goals include the ability to fly 10 times in 10 days achieving speeds of more than Mach 10.

Current concepts call for a reusable first stage that would fly to hypersonic speeds at a suborbital altitude then one or more expendable upper stages would separate and deploy a satellite into low-Earth orbit. The aim is to achieve this at a cost of less than $5 million per flight for 3,000- to 5,000-pound payloads. “How it’s configured, how it gets up and how it gets back are pretty much all on the table. We’re looking for the most creative yet practical solutions possible,” Sponable states.

DARPA has scheduled an XS-1 Proposers Day for October 7 and plans to hold one-on-one discussions with potential proposers on October 8. Registration for the event must be received by noon on October 1. Additional information is available via email and on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

New Systems Seek to Connect Troops at the Tip of the Spear

September 4, 2013
By Henry S. Kenyon

Two ongoing military programs, the ready-to-deploy Solider Network Extension (SNE) and the Content-Based Mobile Edge Networking (CBMEN) program now in prototype, aim to connect troops at the very tactical edge back to larger military data and communications networks. These programs—one service-oriented, the other an agency effort—are part of the Defense Department’s thrust to make warfighters, especially individual soldiers in small units, more connected.

Government Seeks New Identity Markers

September 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

 

In the next few years, usernames and passwords could gradually fade from popular use as a way to conduct business online. A public/private coalition is working on a new policy and technical framework for identity authentication that could make online transactions less dependent on these increasingly compromised identity management tools. A second round of federal grants from the group, expected this fall, will lead to continued work on what is expected to become a private sector-operated identity management industry.

“The fact is that the username and password are fundamentally broken, both from a security standpoint as well as a usability standpoint,” says Jeremy Grant, senior executive adviser for identity management with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the Department of Commerce. As a result of such security weakness, cybercrime is costing individuals and businesses billions of dollars every year. An estimated 11.7 million Americans were victims of identity theft of some kind, including online identity theft over a recent two-year period, according to NIST, the federal agency tasked with setting cybersecurity standards.

Identity Technology Breakthroughs Impact National Security

September 1, 2013
BY Rita Boland

Scientists are enabling DNA analysis to function as a virtual sketch artist to figure out who people are and what they look like even in situations with no eyewitnesses. The developments have particular application to counterterrorism but could affect a wider array of fields as well. Even more importantly, the personnel are developing bioinformatic software solutions databases to manage quick interpretation of data for usability.

New Innovation Awards RESONATE at Resnick Sustainability Institute

August 21, 2013

 

The Resnick Sustainability Institute at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has established an award to honor cutting-edge work that addresses some of the most difficult problems in energy and sustainability. The award winners will be announced in the spring of 2014. The RESONATE Awards will focus on innovative, paradigm-shifting work from individuals at an early stage in their careers, whose ideas are worthy of significant, widespread recognition. The work can be from many fields, including science, technology, economics and public policy, among others. The intent is to draw attention to the innovators making significant strides in some of the grand challenges facing humanity within the context of achieving global sustainability. These include meeting the world’s energy needs, providing water and food for a growing world population, cleaning the environment and improving access to the natural resources people need to live a productive life.

The deadline for nominations is October 13, 2013. For additional information, email the Resnick Institute.

Navy Surfs the Crowd

August 20, 2013

 

The U.S. Navy is turning to crowdsourcing as a possible situational awareness aid during disasters and social unrest. Data from eyewitnesses or participants would be fused with information from other sources to provide timely understanding and appreciation of an environment or location to response teams.

During the first phase of the Crowdsourcing Situational Awareness (Crowd-SA) project, a technical approach is being developed and prototype software will be demonstrated using simulated data. The goal is to design text analysis tools that extract events and entities in context, using language and patterns typically found in social media settings. This data would then be adjusted to improve fusion with information from non-crowdsourcing resources by using distributed cloud-based computing methods for processing the disparate data simultaneously.

Modus Operandi is developing the phase one software under a Small Business Innovation Research contract.

Tech Transfer Thrives

August 20, 2013

 

Investors, integrators and information technology companies this week will see eight government-developed emerging cybersecurity technologies ready for transition into the commercial sector. Capabilities to be unveiled include intrusion detection, removable media protection, software assurance and malware forensics. The technology demonstration day, which takes place in San José, California, on August 22, gives investors and the business sector the opportunity to view laboratory prototypes of the cybersecurity products in action.

Michael Pozmantier, program manager, Transition-to-Practice, Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and technology developers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories will be on hand to discuss the capabilities and their potential.

Transition-to-Practice events are held several times a year at locations around the United States.

NASA Promotes Unfunded Partnerships

August 8, 2013
By George I. Seffers

 

NASA is requesting information from U.S. companies interested in pursuing unfunded partnerships to develop integrated systems that will advance the development of commercial space products and services for human space exploration and operations. NASA officials describe the effort as a win-win-win for industry, NASA and the nation.

NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate launched the initiative, which is known as Collaborations for Commercial Capabilities. It provides opportunities for companies and non-profit organizations to access NASA’s spaceflight experience and expertise for mutually beneficial space exploration. The partnerships are designed to help companies accelerate development efforts. “I see this as benefitting all parties,” says Philip McAlister, NASA commercial space flight director. “These companies can certainly benefit from NASA’s experience. NASA is going to benefit because we get to see these innovative ideas and get to have a little better insight into what’s going on in the commercial industry so that we factor that into our deep space exploration plans.”

The benefits, however, could go beyond NASA and the companies involved. “The nation is going to benefit because we’ll see that NASA’s work is being reused for the benefit of the taxpayer multiple times. Hopefully, it will benefit our economy as well as our technological and industrial base,” McAlister adds.

Although the initial partnerships will not involve monetary contracts, companies will receive guidance and five decades of lessons learned from NASA and could eventually find the agency to be a customer. “NASA could potentially buy the services that become available that way,” McAlister states.

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