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News Briefs

Vision System Adds Color to the Night

October 17, 2008
By H. Mosher

U.S. Army soldiers soon will be equipped with an enhanced night vision system that will increase their situational awareness in combat. Developed by BAE Systems through the Army's Program Executive Office Soldier Enhanced Night Vision Goggle advanced technology development program, the digitally fused enhanced night vision goggle, ENVG (D), allows soldiers to view imagery that exploits features from visible, low-light and infrared sensors. The prototype system features a monocular eyepiece that provides several modes of fusion for varied mission needs, such as visible-only imagery, infrared-only images, monochrome fusion or colorized fusion with a user-selectable color palette.

Compound Could Improve Weapon Detection and Sensors

October 17, 2008
By H. Mosher

Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University have discovered a light-emitting compound that may assist optical communications as well as eventually help identify biological and chemical weapons at long distances. The compound structure almost went unnoticed because it grows lengthwise, creating long, thin crystals that are well suited for fiber optics but difficult for researchers to study. Scientists were able to determine the structure using the Chemistry and Materials beamline of the Center for Advanced Radiation Sources at the Advanced Photon Source.

Small Satellites Chosen for Big Mission

October 16, 2008
By H. Mosher

The National Science Foundation is funding SRI International and the University of Michigan to use CubeSats in a program called CubeSat-based Ground-to-Space Bistatic Radar Experiment-Radio Aurora Explorer. CubeSats are small satellites, typically a 10-centimeter cube weighing one kilogram, used for science missions that are dedicated to space weather and atmospheric research. The program's mission is to remotely explore small-scale ionization structures in the form of plasma turbulence that occurs in response to intense electrical currents in space. Those structures can have a negative impact on communications and navigation signals by perturbing the refractive index along signal propagation paths. The first launch is scheduled for December 2009.=

JFCOM Seeks Input on Force-Tracking Technologies

October 15, 2008
By H. Mosher

Interest is high in the area of blue force tracking capabilities for the battlespace, but the U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) also is interested in people-tracking of another kind, the kind that can help the command ensure that it is doing its job as primary conventional force provider. JFCOM is soliciting industry and academia input on existing technologies to improve the process of tracking the forces it provides to worldwide operations. A notice of the solicitation is in Federal Business Opportunities; all submissions on the topic must be made by October 30 and must contain information on how to support several business processes across all organizations that provide joint forces and several cross-cutting but common joint force-providing processes. In addition, five distinct, integrated capabilities must be detailed in the submission that show how the solutions are service-oriented-network-enabled; collaborative in direct and indirect ways; include a process workflow engine; feature enterprise content management; and incorporate decision-support reporting.

First Wikipedia, Then Intellipedia, Now DoDTechipedia

October 15, 2008
By H. Mosher

The Defense Technical Information Center and the Director of Defense Research and Engineering have launched a U.S. Defense Department science and technology wiki. DoDTechipedia, an online encyclopedia, aims at promoting transparency and communication among the department's scientists, engineers, program managers and warfighters. In addition, the department believes it will enhance its ability to collaborate across the enterprise, identify solutions for technology challenges and ensure the efficient use of resources. Operated as a live forum, DoDTechipedia allows users to see and discuss innovative technologies throughout the Defense Department and emerging technology from the academic and private sectors.

Personal Power Pack Prize Awarded

October 15, 2008
By H. Mosher

A team of researchers and engineers has won the U.S. Defense Department's $1 million Wearable Power Prize competition. The DuPont/Smart Fuel Cell team beat out six other teams by building a lightweight wearable system providing an average of 20 watts of power for more than 96 hours and weighing less than 8.8 pounds. All of the finalists used either fuel-cell or battery technologies or a combination of the two to meet the Defense Department's exacting standards. The goal of the effort is to develop a long-endurance, lightweight power pack for soldiers in the field.

JFCOM, Microsoft Extend Cooperative Agreement

June 16, 2008
By H. Mosher

The U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) has extended its cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) between Microsoft Corporation and the command's Joint Center for Operational Analysis Knowledge and Information Fusion Exchange (KnIFE) program for one year. KnIFE answers questions from and provides training materials to deployed and predeployment units using a database of the latest enemy tactics, techniques and procedures. The extension allows KnIFE and Microsoft to complete efforts initiated under the original agreement. In addition, the command hopes to explore new experiments involving service-oriented architecture and business intelligence.

Thin Disk Laser Lights Up

June 15, 2008
By H. Mosher

An experimental solid-state laser successfully passed a series of repeated test firings. Developed by the Boeing Company, the thin-disk laser is part of the company's effort to develop a weapons-capable solid-state laser as a tactical weapon. Relying on electricity rather than volatile chemicals for power, the weapon achieved power levels of more than 25 kilowatts in several-second durations. Company officials note that the successful tests demonstrate the laser's potential to scale up to 100 kilowatts, the U.S. Defense Department's threshold for a tactical energy weapon.

New Artillery Unveiled

June 15, 2008
By H. Mosher

The U.S. Army displayed its newest weapons system in Washington, D.C., this month. The non-line-of-sight cannon (NLOS-C) is the first new vehicle type in a family of eight new manned ground vehicles planned for the Future Combat Systems. The mobile artillery piece features a fully automated cannon, allowing troops to engage targets more quickly than current artillery systems. A hybrid-electric engine that requires less fuel than current vehicles powers the NLOS-C vehicle.

Space Telescope Shielding

May 7, 2008
By H. Mosher

The preliminary design of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope sunshield has reached a major milestone. The five-layer shield is the size of a tennis court and is composed of specially coated reflective membranes and a support structure. It is designed to block solar heat to keep the telescope's instruments operating at cryogenic temperatures.

The Webb telescope will feature a mirror that is 21.3 feet in diameter. Because of the large size of the mirror and sunshield, the telescope will be folded to fit into a rocket and will be opened once in space. The telescope will reside in an orbit that is approximately 1 million miles from the Earth and used to explore distant galaxies as well as nearby planets and stars at the near- and mid-infrared wavelengths.

With the preliminary design review of the sunshield now complete, the work on the detailed engineering design of the instrument will now progress toward the scheduled launch in 2013. Northrop Grumman Corporation's space technology sector, prime contractor for the telescope, built the sunshield under a design and development contract from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.

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