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News Briefs

University Teams Participate in Deep-Space Habitat Challenge

July 11, 2013

Seven projects from six universities will be put to the test in NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation’s 2014 Exploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge, a program designed to heighten students’ interest in spaceflight-related disciplines and complement NASA’s current research and development on deep-space habitats.

The teams of undergraduate students will face a series of milestones throughout the 2013-2014 academic year to design, manufacture, assemble and test systems and concepts that could be used in future deep-space habitats, working closely with the NASA Advanced Exploration Systems program’s Deep Space Habitat Project team. Participants are encouraged to explore multidisciplinary approaches, outreach efforts and partnerships with experts and industry through the challenge. The teams are to produce prototypes, which may be integrated onto an existing NASA-built operational habitat prototype in May to June 2014.

U.S. Navy Gathers Efficiency Ideas

July 11, 2013

The Chief of Naval Operations' Reduce Administrative Distractions (RAD) team is collecting input about how to streamline or eliminate administrative processes. With an interface similar to social media platforms, the U.S. Navy website, created by IdeaScale, enables visitors to share their observations about training, administrative tasks, procedures and instruction, and then propose their ideas for efficiencies.

Open to all ranks and any duty status as well as naval civilians, it also features comment and voting capabilities. To encourage participation, users are rewarded with merit badges based on their activity on the site. Since the RAD team launched the site on July 1, discussion topics have ranged from anti-terrorism force protection to electronic routing.

Data collection is the first in a three-phase approach to address cumbersome administrative processes in the fleet. During phase two, the information will be analyzed, and the RAD team will propose automation, elimination, reduction or other actions to those responsible for the administrative programs identified for improvement during phase one. Phase three will be the execution of the reduction measures and must be complete by September 30, when the RAD team will announce the progress made to date, monitor the impact and plan for the next cycle.

Data Collectors Increase Intelligence

June 27, 2013

Robots slightly shorter than the average human may be able to connect portions of the offline world to the online world digitally. Knightscope Incorporated will soon be testing the K5 and K10 robots, which can autonomously prowl through large areas and small spaces, collecting significant amounts of data from their immediate surroundings. Applications include perimeter surveillance of military bases and inspection of power plants.

An integrated machine operating system autonomously guides each robot through defined boundary conditions; the sensor operating system collects data from the immediate surroundings. During beta testing scheduled for the end of this year, this data will be fed into the company’s network operations center. Use of the robots will be offered to customers through a machine-as-a-service subscription business model.

The K5 and K10 feature omnidirectional cameras, microphones, optical character recognition, thermal imaging and air quality detection.

Robots Rumble

June 20, 2013

Civilian and military bomb squad teams from across the country are participating in the 7th Annual Western National Robot Rodeo and Capability Exercise this week. Hosted by Sandia National Laboratories, the event pits these experts against each other to determine who can most effectively defuse dangerous situations with the help of robots.

The rodeo and exercise comprises 10 events that enable the teams to practice using robots and new technology in a low-risk but competitive environment. In previous events, one scenario included identifying, locating and disposing of suspected hazardous material stored in a residential garage and moving simulated fuel rods from a nuclear reactor damaged by a tornado.

This year’s competitors include local and state law enforcement departments from a number of U.S. cities as well as the Kirtland Air Force Base Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.
 

Communications Migration on the Move

June 17, 2013

The initial steps have been taken to transition soldiers from Army Knowledge Online to next-generation enterprise services. Secretary of the Army John McHugh authorized the move, which will support enterprise systems for collaboration, content management and unified online capabilities. Army military retirees and family members will continue to have access to Defense Department online self-service sites such as Tricare and MyPay through DOD Self-Service Logon.

This latest phase of the modernization follows the Army’s migration of 1.4 million email accounts to Department of Defense Enterprise Email, an initial step in moving toward modernizing the service’s communications infrastructure during the next several years to make it interoperable across the U.S. Defense Department and compatible with emerging Joint Information Environment architectures, including cloud-based services. A transition timeline for AKO services and accounts is being developed and will include military and civilian retirees and Army family members. Details will be published by September in an Army execution order and will include how thee Army will remain connected with military retirees and families.

 

 

Nominate a Heroine in Technology

June 13, 2013

Women who use technology in their professional lives as well as make significant contributions to their communities will be honored at the 13th Annual Heroines in Technology Gala, on November 8, 2013 at the Hilton McLean of Tysons Corner, Virginia. Award winners will be announced in five categories: Rising Heroine, Individual Heroine, Corporate Heroine, AFCEA International Government and Lifetime Achievement.

Nominations for the awards are now being accepted online. The deadline for submissions is July 12, 2013.

The AFCEA NOVA Chapter and the March of Dimes sponsor and present the awards. Tickets can be purchased on the March of Dimes Maryland-National Capital Area website.

 

Research Paves Possible Path to Better Batteries

June 13, 2013

Research at the Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California, has revealed part of the mechanism by which particles of lithium ions move in and out of lithium iron phosphate (LFP). The findings could lead to improved performance in lithium ion batteries used in aircraft, electric vehicles and electronic equipment.

LFP is the newest, most recent material being used for lithium ion batteries and is considered safer and longer lasting than previously used materials such as lithium cobalt oxide. Until now, scientists did not understand how lithium ions move in and out of LFP while storing and releasing electrical energy. But now, X-ray microcoscopy has revealed that the lithium ions in LFP behave much like popcorn, in that they absorb the lithium one particle at a time as they are discharged. Researchers believe that this observed and recorded behavior explains, in part, the improved performance of LFP. The finding is important to a better understanding of how to construct improved lithium ion batteries using LFP. The research was funded internally by the U.S. Department of Energy and is reported in the journal Nano Letters.
 

 

White House Flips the Switch on Electric Grid Modernization

June 11, 2013

As part of his effort to build a 21st century infrastructure, U.S. President Barack Obama on June 10 signed a presidential memorandum designed to speed the modernization of the nation’s electric grid. The initiative will help make electricity more reliable, save consumers money on their energy bills and support homegrown American clean energy jobs and industries by making renewable energy easier to access across the country, say White House officials.

The memorandum directs federal agencies to create an integrated pre-application process across the federal government to help identify and address issues before the formal permit application process begins. It also calls for streamlined coordination of permitting processes across the federal, state and tribal governments. In addition, it directs agencies to identify and improve the use of energy corridors on federal lands that are most suitable for electric transmission projects sites, which will help expedite permits while improving environmental and community outcomes. Furthermore, it prioritizes engagement with stakeholders and the public to arrive at the best quality projects with the least conflicts and most support.

Navy Triton UAS Spreads Its Wings

May 30, 2013

The U.S. Navy’s latest unmanned aircraft designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) collection and dissemination hit a milestone this month, completing its first flight. The event marks the start of a series of tests to validate the system for future fleet operations. The MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System reached 20,000 feet altitude during the 80-minute flight in restricted airspace while Navy and Northrop Grumman personnel controlled it from the ground below.

According to the Navy, the aircraft platform is critical to the future of naval aviation, as it will serve as a major part of the military’s surveillance strategy in the Asia and Pacific regions. It can fly for long periods of time, transmit information in real time to units in the air and on the ground, and use fewer resources than previous surveillance aircraft. The MQ-4C Triton will be based at five locations around the globe.

Government Lab Helps Choose Future Warfighting Vehicles

May 21, 2013

U.S. soldiers are expanding the use of the Capability Portfolio Analysis Tool (CPAT) across the Army’s modernization program after its success in shifting the paradigm for conducting analysis. CPAT offers an advanced combination of modeling, simulation and optimization decision support software. Currently, the Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS) is its primary user, employing it to analyze potential scenarios as technology advances and changes occur in the global environment and the federal budget as well as other factors that could influence future purchases.

Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, asked Sandia National Laboratories personnel to brief other Army PEOs. As a result, Sandia is working with Enterprise Information Systems to apply CPAT to complex decision-making processes.

Eventually, CPAT could be adapted to other military branches or applied to entirely different, complex decision-making processes in other large organizations.“The challenge is each organization has different things that they are managing. Conceptually you are making decisions about how you invest your money, but the details of what goes into it are very, very different,” Craig Lawton, lead for Sandia’s PEO GCS projects, says. “The sky’s the limit.”

Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories, the U.S. Army and other organizations developed the CPAT about two years ago; last year it won the Military Operations Research Society’s Richard H. Barchi Prize.

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