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Marines Research 
Modernization

April 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Looking past the alligators close to the boat, scientists prepare for the wars of tomorrow.

Distributed operations are the future of the U.S. Marine Corps, and its premier science and technology organization is laser focused on the capabilities to make such missions a success. Enabling communications for mobile troops across long distances is a priority as battles continue in Afghanistan while the focus shifts toward more maritime environments. Success will give lower echelons better access to command and control, enhancing the fight in any theater.

Brig. Gen. Mark R. Wise, USMC, commander of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) and vice chief of naval research, explains that people usually think of modernizing a force as working on resources to be ready in five to 10 years, but efforts at the laboratory reach much further ahead. “We are influencing the very leading edge,” he states. The research helps define what times to come should look like for Marines and what they will need to operate effectively. This aim at the future influences the requirements that influence modernization.

“The MCWL is very focused on distributed operations right now,” Gen. Wise explains. Units in current conflicts already operate at great distances from other units or their own command and control (C2) elements. As operations shift to the Asia-Pacific, such distance problems are likely to increase. The MCWL is working on methods to sustain—through enhanced logistics—and command and control such a force. Researchers are exploring material and nonmaterial solutions to find the correct enabling capabilities.

Nuclear Agency's Cloud Computing Plan Comes Together

March 20, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) began working on its Yourcloud solution about two years ago and expects to have the cloud computing solution in place by year's end. You can read more about this in "U.S. Nuclear Agency Enhances Cybersecurity With Cloud Computing
." 

One of the surprises along the way to cloud was that NNSA is not alone in the problems it needs to solve, according to Travis Howerton, NNSA chief technology officer. "When we first started putting this together, I would have thought that we were more unique than we are, but when I traveled around talking to other chief information officers and other leaders in government agencies, or even in the commercial sector, everybody's struggling with the same set of issues," Howerton observes. "In general, what surprised me is how much synergy there is in trying to solve this problem government-wide. We're happy to be part of that overall ecosystem and to share with others what we're doing that may be helpful."

Agency officials spent about a year developing a strategic plan for transformation, which includes three pillars: the NNSA Network Vision (2NV), which modernizes the current computing environment by providing a secure, mobile, agile and adaptive IT infrastructure that will allow the NNSA workforce to perform their duties from any device, anywhere, any time; the Joint Cybersecurity Coordination Center (JC3), which provides the agency a capability for understanding the health of the systems, data and network; and the Cyber Sciences Laboratory (CSL), which establishes a process through which theoretical research in IT and cybersecurity can be rapidly applied to operational computing environments.

 

 

NASA Tests Biofuels for Environmental Effects, Performance

March 15, 2013
By Max Cacas

NASA is in the midst of its first phase of flight tests to determine the effects of alternative biofuels on the emissions and performance of jet engines flying at altitude.

The program is called the Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions, or ACCESS, according to Dr. Ruben Del Rosario, project manager of NASA’s Subsonic Fixed Wing project. The goal is to investigate how biofuels perform compared with traditional jet fuel and also to measure the environmental impact of biofuels. The results of the tests are significant because of the growing popularity of biofuels for both the U.S. Air Force and Navy as well as private sector aviation.

During the ACCESS tests, the space agency’s highly modified Douglas DC-8, which normally is used as a flying laboratory, will conduct a series of flights at altitudes as high as 40,000 feet, while a NASA Falcon HU-25 aircraft follows behind at distances of between 300 feet and more than 10 miles, according to Del Rosario. The flights will take place primarily over restricted airspace over Edwards Air Force Base in California.

ACCESS is the outgrowth of earlier preliminary research on biofuels and jets. “It was born out of two previous experiments that we conducted in 2009 and 2011 at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility,” Del Rosario explains. During those tests, ground-based instruments measured the exhaust emissions of the DC-8 while the plane was parked on a ramp at the Palmdale, California, facility.

“During the ground tests, we took very detailed emission measurements, measuring CO2 [carbon dioxide], different oxides, different particulates, measuring sulfur, all the different kind of emissions we could possibly measure with many other companies and institutions joining us, as well,” Del Rosario says.

Army Hones Smart Grid Into a Tactical Advantage

March 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Significant fuel savings and operational efficiencies are some of the benefits of an intelligent power management system that includes multiple energy sources.

The U.S. Army has tested a proof of concept for a smart electrical grid that would support tactical operations in the field. The concept, which was tested last summer, could save potentially billions of dollars in fuel use at remote forward positions. By eliminating the need to transport fuel for generators at such encampments, the new Tactical Operations Smart Grid also carries with it the potential of saving the lives of warfighters.

The smart grid, which takes advantage of multiple off-the-shelf electrical energy technologies, is being developed and tested by the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command’s (RDECOM) Communications-Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC). Along with helping set specifications for a future vendor-developed system, data from the tests also are being compiled as part of the Defense Department’s longer-term program of reducing both manpower and fuel use for energy generation.

“These systems are designed to integrate existing military-standard tactical generators managed by portable electric power systems out in the field, providing the ability to intelligently work within a grid operation,” says Michael Zalewski, a project mechanical engineer with CERDEC’s Command, Power and Integration (CPI) directorate. The tactical microgrid is being developed as part of the HI Power program, for Hybrid Intelligent Power. Newly developed digital controllers allow the system to balance electrical production, storage and demand dynamically, he explains, “and by doing this, we’re able to right-size the production of power to the load and demand at that point in time.”

Storms Teach Important Lessons About Infrastructure Protection

February 26, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Senior leaders in both industry and government have learned their lessons from major storms, such as Katrina and Sandy, and are working together to improve the nation’s ability to bounce back from natural disasters.

As a member of the Critical Infrastructure Protection panel at AFCEA’s Homeland Security conference in Washington, D.C., William Bryan, deputy assistant secretary for infrastructure security and energy restoration, reported that in the aftermath of Sandy, a major storm that wreaked havoc in the Northeast, industry and government senior leaders worked closely to solve problems.

He added, however, that after the 9/11 attacks, “A lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of energy was spent on physical protection—gates, guards and guns, bio-readers at facility entrances and crash barriers and on and on and on. None of that worked during Katrina. The money invested by industry to protect their facilities did nothing to protect against the storm. So, the nation started looking at the concept of resilience,” he said. He added that the recently signed presidential directive addresses resilience.

Micrometer Materials Form 3-D Military Tools

January 9, 2013
By Rita Boland

Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Johns Hopkins University have discovered methods to control folding pathways and enable sequential folding on a millimeter scale using a low-intensity laser beam. Lasers at a low intensity worked as a trigger for tagging applications. Developers are fabricating sheets of millimeter-size structures that serve as battery-free wireless actuators that fold when exposed to a laser operating at eye-safe infrared wavelengths. The metallic structures may respond even to high-powered LED lighting. At the millimeter scale, the structures could attach, jump, apply friction and perform as mechanical switches serving a number of defense functions such as the remote initiation of energetic materials, micro thrusters for robotics and the attachment of transponder tags to fabric surfaces. They also could possibly integrate with logic/memory circuits, sensors, transponder tags and optical modules such as light emitting diodes.


Power Grid Study Cites “Inherent Vulnerability” to Terrorist Attack, Natural Disaster

November 29, 2012
By Max Cacas

A newly released study on America’s electrical power transmission system strongly suggests that the government and industry take steps to safeguard it from shortcomings that make it vulnerable to things such as terrorist attack and acts of nature. Potential solutions will require not only ingenuity and technology, but investment and political decisiveness.

New Army Energy Lab Drives the Future

July 2012
By Max Cacas, SIGNAL Magazine

The U.S. Army has opened a one-of-a-kind laboratory that gives the service unprecedented ability to research and test new energy and powertrain technologies. The goal is to develop the next generation of energy-efficient vehicles that will make troops less dependent on fossil fuels that must be delivered via supply lines that endanger soldiers.

Partly Cloudy Forecast for Solar Energy at Bases

May 2012
By Max Cacas, SIGNAL Magazine

Solar energy could help reduce the $4 billion annual electricity bill at U.S. military bases worldwide, with an output of power equivalent to seven nuclear plants possible using the land at just four bases.

Survey Sheds Light on Smart Grid Security Concerns

April 19, 2012

More than 70 percent of energy security professionals believe smart grid security standards cannot keep pace with the ever-changing technology and threats, according to a recent survey.

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