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research and development

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.

Software Increases 
Unmanned Craft Survivability

August 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers and Robert K. Ackerman

 

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing new control software to reduce the vulnerability of unmanned systems to cyber attack. This effort is relying on new methods of software development that would eliminate many of the problems inherent in generating high-assurance software.

Unmanned vehicles suffer from the same vulnerabilities as other networked information systems. But, in addition to their data being co-opted, unmanned systems can be purloined if adversaries seize control of them. This problem also applies to human-crewed systems with computer-controlled components.

If the research program is successful, then unmanned vehicles will be less likely to be taken over by an enemy. Warfighters could trust that the unmanned vehicle on which they are relying will not abandon its mission or become a digital turncoat.

This security would extend to other vulnerable systems as well. Networked platforms and entities ranging from automobiles to supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems could benefit from the research. The vulnerability of SCADA systems is well-established, but only recently has research shown that automobiles can be co-opted through their computer-controlled systems. The program’s goal is to produce high-assurance software for military unmanned vehicles and then enable its transfer to industry for commercial uses.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program is known as High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems, or HACMS. Kathleen Fisher, HACMS program manager, says the program is aiming to produce software that is “functionally correct and satisfying safety and security policies.

“It’s not just that you’re proving the absence of a particular bad property from the security perspective,” she explains. “You’re actually positively proving that the software has the correct behavior.”

Building
 a Bigger,
 Better Pipe

August 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

 

Scientists at the U.S. Defense Department’s top research and development agency are seeking the best new ideas to provide a larger-scale mobile network to support an increasing array of bandwidth-hungry mobile computing devices for warfighters.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for new technical approaches that would expand the number and capacity of Mobile Ad Hoc Networks (MANETs) nodes available in the field.

“When we look at MANETs, it’s really tough to deliver networking services to more than about 100 users,” says Mark Rich, program manager, DARPA Strategic Technology Office. Those 100 users translate into approximately 50 nodes on a mobile wireless network operating in a forward location, generally supporting everything from tactical and operational systems to advanced video services. All of these functions are carried on a service that is largely dependent on highly secure digital radio systems. Once that limit is reached, network services begin to deteriorate in quality and effectiveness. To support larger deployments or to cover a greater area, military communications experts usually knit smaller networks using other available means, such as satellites.

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