July 1, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
The Lightweight Surface Manipulator System (LSMS), a surface version of TALISMAN, would help offload lunar landers and construct facilities on the Moon.  NASA

Robots have led the way for human space exploration, and NASA is counting on them to serve as partners in the next round of endeavors. The space agency is teaming with industry on new technologies that will develop innovative robotic systems and offer capabilities that are key to expanding the reach of humans beyond Earth.

July 1, 2020
By George I. Seffers
In the future, just watching human behavior may be enough for robots to learn to perform some duties.  releon8211/Shutterstock

Robots may one day learn to perform complex tasks simply by watching humans accomplish those tasks. That ability will allow people without programming skills to teach artificial intelligence systems to conduct certain functions or missions.

Teaching artificial intelligence systems or robots usually requires software engineers. Those programmers normally interview domain experts on what they need the machines to do and then translate that information into programming language, explains Ankit Shah, a graduate student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro) and the Interactive Robotics Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

July 1, 2020
By Shaun Waterman
Lockheed Martin engineers work on the GPS IIR satellites for the U.S. Air Force. Lockheed Martin designed and built 21 GPS IIR satellites and subsequently modernized eight of those spacecraft, designated GPS IIR-M, to enhance operations and navigation signal performance.   Courtesy Lockheed Martin

The U.S. Defense Department is increasingly using digital replicas to make predictions about the performance of complex weapons systems such as satellites or jet engines and to train artificial intelligence how to fly high-performance aircraft.

Last year, the U.S. Air Force used this digital twin technology to assess the cyber vulnerabilities of global positioning system (GPS) satellites for the first time. Advocates say the same approach can be used in training artificial intelligence (AI) and can be employed for predictive maintenance to determine when vital parts of an engine might be at risk of failure.

July 1, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
NASA is embracing a slightly different risk profile for its MoonRanger robot that will explore ice fields on the lunar south pole.  NASA

The current development of particular robots for NASA represents a methodical shift in how some Lunar or Martian vehicles are designed and how the related components or systems are included to support vehicle operation. Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic are working on a lunar robot for NASA’s Lunar Surface and Instrumentation and Technology Payload program, or LSITP, that is small, fast, solar-powered and will not be teleoperated nor radiation-hardened, which is quite a change from more risk-adverse prior methods.

July 1, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
Collaborative 3D digital games are a great platform for developing human-non human teaming capabilities, says Julie Marble, senior scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.  JHU APL

Scientists conducting basic research at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory are examining how to build characteristics into a robotic system to improve human-nonhuman teaming. While artificial intelligence and machine learning applications can be trained to perform a task, those kinds of systems are not yet able to collaborate with humans and cannot anticipate human intent or what they will do.

July 1, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
A U.S. Army soldier patrols an urban area in this artist’s concept showing aerial and ground unmanned vehicles supporting his mission as a team. The Army Research Laboratory has established a real-world testbed at Graces Quarters, Maryland, in which autonomous vehicles can be put through their paces in woods, fields, marshes and urban areas to explore similar scenarios.  ARL image

Robots trying out to become part of the U.S. Army’s battlefield force now have their own real-world testbed built atop what used to be a nerve gas testing site. The Army Research Laboratory has built the Robotics Research Collaboration Campus, or R2C2, in Graces Quarters at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Formerly a superfund site, the area now is sprouting buildings amid mixed wooded and grassy terrain typical of what the Army may find on future battlefields.

July 1, 2020
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

In 1991, as part of an education program I was taking, I had an opportunity to visit several factories that were using robotics. That included visits to an automobile assembly factory in Kentucky and a Hitachi assembly plant in Japan. I was impressed with the precision and efficiency of the robots I saw in those plants. At the time, factory robots performed mostly routine, repetitive or dangerous tasks. They saved time and money, provided precision assembly and improved productivity, in part by reducing human errors. They precisely drilled every hole for every rivet.

June 22, 2020
Posted by Julianne Simpson
Scheduled for completion in 2022, the Exascale Computing Facility Modernization project will upgrade the Livermore Computing Center by significantly expanding the facility’s power and cooling capacity in preparation for delivery of next-generation exascale supercomputing hardware. Credit: LLNL

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has broken ground on its Exascale Computing Facility Modernization (ECFM) project. It will substantially upgrade the mechanical and electrical capabilities of the Livermore Computing Center. The upgrades will enable the facility to provide exascale-class service (supercomputers capable of at least one quintillion calculations per second) to the NNSA laboratories: LLNL, Los Alamos and Sandia.

June 10, 2020
By George I. Seffers
During a webinar sponsored by the Association of the United States Army, Gen. John Murray, USA, commander, Army Futures Command, updated the audience on the service’s modernization efforts. Credit: Graphic illustration of concept for Smart Targeting Environment for Lower Level Assets (U.S. Army CCDC C5ISR graphic illustration/Jamie Lear)

Although the Army’s Integrated Tactical Network has faced delays for a variety of reasons, the two-channel manpack radio will undergo operational testing this fall, according to Gen. John Murray, USA, commander, Army Futures Command.

June 9, 2020
Posted by Kimberly Underwood
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches on May 30 from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station. NASA, in partnership with Starburst Aerospace, is conducting a $1 million technology challenge to pull in even more innovation from the public sector. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA's Science Mission Directorate is partnering with Los Angeles-based aerospace technology accelerator Starburst in offering a $1 million prize challenge. Known as the Entrepreneurs Challenge, the effort is meant to pull in state-of-the-art technology from individuals and corporations in three technology areas: physics-based transfer learning and artificial intelligence; advanced mass spectrometry; and quantum sensors.

June 1, 2020
By Maryann Lawlor
It’s tempting to think of open source software as free, but users must take into consideration the cost of systems and data protection. Credit: Wright Studio/Shutterstock

The efficiencies of using and embedding open source software (OSS) carry many risks. In the advent of free repositories and millions of open source projects, the notion of any reasonable centralized authentication about the origin or any assurance as to correctness is virtually impossible. As a result, users should cultivate trust relationships with a few suppliers and keep them up to date.

June 1, 2020
By George I. Seffers
DARPA’s Optimization with Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum (ONISQ) program intends to leapfrog current computing technology by combining classical and quantum computing capabilities to tackle a widespread class of problems known as combinatorial optimization problems, which have national security, commercial and global implications. Credit: Yurchanka Siarhei and Boex Design/Shutterstock. Edited by Chris D’Elia​

In the future, anyone trying to figure out how to use limited resources may reap the benefits of computers that are a hybrid of quantum and classical systems.

Such hybrid computers might prove especially efficient and effective at solving certain kinds of problems, such as strategic asset deployment, global supply chains, battlefield logistics, package delivery, the best path for electronics on a computer chip and network node placement. Research also could impact machine learning and coding theory.

August 16, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
A Louisiana Army National Guard chief communications plans officer trains members of the Cyber Defense Incident Response Team to defend the state’s cyber assets in November 2015. Photo courtesy DOD

Information technology modernization has reached a precipice within the federal government as agencies struggle to manage many moving parts and jockey for the same pot of money and talent. Add to the fray the results of a new survey showing an alarming reliance by federal agencies on outdated information technology systems.

June 1, 2020
By Maj. Michael D. April, USA, and Maj. Daniel P. Brady, USA
Maj. Ian Cassaday, USA (l), a surgeon with the 250th Forward Surgical Team, utilizes a Telehealth in a Bag kit and a GlobalMed TES to simulate a craniotomy performed by a non-neurosurgeon during testing of virtual health capabilities in the field.  U.S. Army

The U.S. Army’s transition to preparing for large-scale combat operations has highlighted a capability gap in medical care delivery. Mobile Medic offers a telehealth solution to address this capability gap. By employing telecommunications technology, the tool is the tip of the spear for the Defense Health Agency and Medical Command’s virtual health line of effort.

June 1, 2020
By Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.)

As the world becomes more complicated, everyone strives to find ways to simplify it. The retail industry’s big box chains demonstrate this by allowing customers to avoid going to multiple stores, while mail-order clothing services allow you to “try before you buy” in the comfort of your own home.

In the information technology (IT) industry, this streamlining takes the form of buying Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS). Using cloud-based tools and technologies not only assures users access from anywhere and on any device, but it also allows agencies to use fewer IT staff and procure pay-as-you-go, consumption-based services.

June 1, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
Atoms in a glass cell probed by lasers can act as a microwave receiver in a completely different way than traditional metal antennas, one of many discoveries made by researchers at the CCDC Army Research Laboratory (ARL). Experiments with quantum technologies there may open the door to new battlefield devices that provide soldiers with key advantages against adversaries. Credit: ARL photo

The U.S. Army soldier proceeds methodically, picking his way through dense vegetative growth as he traverses a battlefield that geologically is ages old, but technologically is years in the future. With the enemy rendering satellite-borne GPS signals ineffective, the soldier resorts to his internal position-location unit that pinpoints his spot to the meter. His external sensor suite alerts him to the presence of enemy air and ground forces, but they are far enough away to be of no consequence yet. That raises suspicions in his mind, as they seem to have left the soldier’s area strangely undefended—even unattended.

June 1, 2020
By Maj. Ryan Kenny, USA

Many experts have imagined a future in which the Department of Defense deploys an army of gadgets to track the health of individual warfighters in real time. However, most did not envision a global pandemic being the tipping point for the large-scale adoption of devices.

As the world faces the coronavirus pandemic, leaders want to better understand the health of soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors in real time, securely while maintaining some semblance of privacy. As leaders and program managers wrestle with decisions to employ these technologies, they must address information security, privacy and the need to know.

May 27, 2020
By George I. Seffers
An M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle crew participates in gunnery training at the Doña Ana Range Complex, New Mexico, in 2018. The Army is developing a Next-Generation Combat Vehicle, and the xTechSearch program may help reduce the vehicle's weight and increase its survivability while also develop advanced antennas to replace the ubiquitous whip antenna. Credit: U.S. Army photo

The U.S. Army’s xTechSearch program, which is designed to rapidly develop technologies, may offer more specialized challenges similar to the one recently conducted to develop a medical ventilator to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The xTechSearch program develops partnerships primarily with nontraditional businesses that do not normally work with the military but that may offer dual-use solutions the Army never knew it needed. While most of the challenges have been wide open with companies allowed to pitch any solution, the program recently issued a challenge targeted specifically at developing the COVID-19 ventilator.

May 20, 2020
By Julianne Simpson
Credit: Shutterstock/deepadesigns

The implications of 5G for the U.S. Defense Department are profound. Among the plethora of capabilities it will provide—enabling the Internet of Things, low latency, higher bandwidth—5G could be used to run a multilevel secure coalition communications system.

May 14, 2020
By Shaun Waterman
Czech military personnel load PPE supplies. Military personnel are conducting widespread testing in the Czech system of Smart Quarantine. Photo courtesy of NATO

Experts agree that reopening the United States requires contact tracing—working out, when someone has tested positive for COVID-19, who they might have infected already. Contact tracing, like any kind of detective work, is ultimately a very human undertaking. It’s a labor intensive, empathetic process of walking people back through the last few days of their lives and helping them remember who they might have been in close enough contact with to infect.

You can’t do that with an app—especially one that’s not downloaded by 80 percent of smartphone users, and uses Bluetooth location data that might list someone in an adjacent apartment as a “close contact.”