SIGNAL Online Exclusives

September 24, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
DARPA unveiled Wednesday its intention to launch the Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program, which could give prosthetic limbs a sense of feeling.

The primary research branch of the U.S. Defense Department is developing technology to make advanced arm prosthetics even more lifelike for amputees—technology that experts hope will send signals to the brain to indicate what the limb is actually feeling.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) unveiled Wednesday information on its new Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program, the first program for the nascent Biological Technologies Office, which opened in April. 

October 2, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
The tri-agency managed Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite in the cleanroom for inspection. With funding from Congress in the fiscal 2014 appropriations, it is slated to launch in January.

U.S. Congress has approved full funding for the prelaunch processes to continue on the tri-agency Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite system, developed to help monitor for potentially disastrous sun storms. The funding ensures systems are a go for a January space launch. It is set to blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9, built by the private space technology company founded by Elon Musk.

September 19, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
The $1.4 billion JPSS program includes a series of advanced spacecraft, three satellites and a versatile ground system that controls the spacecraft, processes collected data, and provides information to NOAA's National Weather Service and the National Hurricane system.

If a key weather satellite operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) goes down before its replacement launches, the agency needs to mitigate the forecasted gap in data collection by relying on commercial weather data, according to a U.S. congressman.

September 16, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

NASA has awarded its long-awaited Commercial Crew Development contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to build the next generation of spacecraft that will deliver astronauts to the International Space Station beginning in 2017. The two firms will build, deliver and launch space capsules of their own design to provide human access to low Earth orbit. Currently, U.S. astronauts can reach the space station only by purchasing seats aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft for $70 million each.

The total potential contract value will be $6.8 billion for spacecraft certification over the life of the contracts, according to Charlie Bolden, NASA administrator. Boeing will receive $4.2 billion, and SpaceX will receive $2.6 billion.

September 9, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The U.S. Defense Department is primed to take a first step toward the realization of the colossal concept of connecting its entire network system under the Joint Information Environment (JIE).

For more than a year, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), along with the Army, Air Force and defense contractor Lockheed Martin, has worked on the joint regional security stacks (JRSS), a key upgrade to streamline network operations and, officials say, improve security.

September 10, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network, or NGEN, is on schedule to complete its transition on October 1, according to Navy and contractor officials. While the transition has not been without unexpected challenges, it has been relatively seamless to the user, the officials note. The transition has reached 74 percent of its seats and more than 90 percent of its overall activity, they add.

As implemented, the NGEN program should be “flexible and agile” enough to address changing Navy missions and force structure, the officials offer. This agility includes the ability to modify the contract if necessary.

September 4, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker appointed five experts as new board members for the First Responder Network Authority, a nascent independent board tasked by Congress to develop the first-ever nationwide EMS network.

Better known as FirstNet, the endeavor falls under the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and will be a wireless public safety broadband network to provide better communications technology for police, fire and rescue personnel.

Pritzker appointed Thursday the following individuals:

August 27, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and U.S. Army veteran Garrett Anderson speak of the critical need for the Chez Family Foundation Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Garrett Anderson already is a statistic. He is a wounded combat veteran. He is an amputee. He suffers from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. But for his two daughters’ sake more than his own, Anderson says he’s working to avoid being counted in the daunting statistic that plagues 9.2 percent of U.S. veterans: unemployment.

Despite feeling overwhelmed, Anderson went back to school and attends the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is working toward a degree in social work.

August 21, 2014
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Navy officials have revealed that the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) program office and the Office of Naval Research are experimenting with cloud computing to help reduce hardware on ships.

August 20, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

College students of today are studying for jobs that have yet to be conceived—an insight into the rapidity at which fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics are transforming.

“The kids in school now, the jobs they’ll be doing in five years haven’t been invented yet,” says Erica Bertoli, Outreach coordinator at the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) in Maryland.

August 21, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

U.S. border patrol agents watched on surveillance videos as suspected drug smugglers chatted on cellular phones. But when agents sought phone records for investigations into the suspected nefarious activity along the Texas-Mexico divide, commercial service providers came up empty-handed. There simply were no logs. How were the smugglers evading commercial providers?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection turned to Lockheed Martin for its LUMEN Active Defense technology of sensors that can help detect rogue cellular base stations devised to circumvent cellular service providers.

August 14, 2014
By Rita Boland

Foreign fighters, general Middle East unrest and how to handle the unfolding events in Ukraine led interests during the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultation (AUSMIN) 2014 discussion this week. The issues have particular relevance for Australians recently, who lost 38 citizens in the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17, and have dealt with photos of one its citizen families, including a 7-year-old child, holding a severed head as its fights in Iraq.

August 14, 2014
By Cyndy Hogan

The business world is taking a cue from the gaming world, increasingly using a system of incentives and old-fashioned competition to spur employee engagement. Gamification, which started out on video game screens with top score designations and leaderboards, is now helping companies meet real-life objectives.

“We’re taking what we know from games … and applying that to non-game contexts,” said Mike Campanelli, senior systems engineer at RadiantBlue Technologies, in a presentation from the AFCEA Emerging Professionals in Intelligence Committee to the entire Intelligence Committee.

August 8, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Systems entered in the U.S. Navy’s 17th annual RoboSub competition, held July 28-Aug. 3, are far more sophisticated than the toys that competed in the first competition, which was launched in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“In the earlier days when we first did this, the systems were considered to be some kind of toys,” says Steve Koepenick, an autonomous systems expert with the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, which hosts the competition. “They are now tools. They’re part of the kit that our sailors and Marines take into theater with them. That’s reflected in the competition and the things the students are trying to do.”

August 7, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The U.S. military’s increased reliance on global positioning satellite (GPS) technologies has triggered adversarial forces to improve upon technology to disrupt the warfighters’ usage in the age-old war games of one-upmanship.

U.S. Army engineers developed technology prototypes aimed at weaning U.S. forces from reliance on GPS systems. The Warfighter Integrated Navigation System (WINS), while intended to serve as a backup to GPS usage, not as a replacement, can operate independently and free of a satellite link and still give warfighters precise positioning and timing data.

July 23, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The United States military has for decades invested in sophisticated and expensive technologies that take years, sometimes even decades, to develop. While those systems provide an advantage on the battlefield, the nation can no longer afford to continue the same strategy, according to Dr. Arati Prabhakar, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Defense Department’s premier agency for developing advanced technologies.

July 31, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

A resurgence of activity has hit the mergers and acquisition market this year, with companies operating in big data analytics and cybersecurity seeing a lot of the action, experts say.

"We believe [big data analytics] is going to be an enduring problem," said David Wodlinger, principal with Arlington Capital Partners, a leading investor firm in defense technology and the aerospace market. "Data is getting created at such an astronomical rate, the quality of sensors are getting so much better … that the market for companies that have the capabilities to analyze these massive amounts of data is going to be hot now and going to be hot for the foreseeable future.

August 6, 2014
By Rita Boland

A small form factor device that will allow communications from low-level unclassified networks up to high-level secret classified networks has completed the development stage and is in the process of transferring to its new program. Created at the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), the Tactical Army Cross Domain Information Sharing (TACDIS) tool is an easy-to-connect cable that will enhance situational awareness at the top to protect troops at the tactical edge.

July 18, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The U.S. Navy's pet project for a carrier-launched unmanned aerial vehicle came under fire by experts this week, who told a congressional subcommittee that the sea service’s proposal is redundant, already obsolete and will leave naval forces with a vulnerable platform.

The Navy has dedicated years toward the creation of what it calls a "persistent, aircraft carrier-based intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting and strike capability to support carrier air wing operations" platform, which has become known as the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) system.

July 17, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The U.S. Defense Department Office of the Inspector General (IG) launches today a social media and poster campaign to spread the word of whistleblower protections afforded to defense contractors and subcontractors.

On July 1, 2013, amendments to Title 10, section 2409, extended whistleblower protections to employees of Defense Department subcontractors, no longer just to employees of prime contractors and federal employees.