Monthly Archives: October 2011

Navy’s Modern Airship Receives Historical Identification

Unveiled at a ceremonious ribbon-cutting event, Oct. 26 at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Lakehurst, New Jersey, NAWCAD and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, reveal the MZ-3A airship now adorned with the insignia of Scientific Development Squadron ONE (VXS-1) and the banner of the U.S. Navy. “It’s been nearly 50 years since the last U.S. Navy Lighter-Than-Air platform cruised the skies over the New Jersey coastline,” said CDR Jay Steingold, Commanding Officer, VXS-1. “Today, the MZ-3A joins the ranks of her predecessors by sporting the emblems of the United States Navy, marking an important milestone in the history of naval airships.”

After 47 years, the U.S. Navy effectively terminated Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) operations, August 31, 1962, with the final flight of a ZPG-2 airship at Naval Air Station Lakehurst. Emblazoned with red, white and blue stripes on her rudders acknowledging the Navy’s Centennial of Flight and earliest days of Navy airship operations, the MZ-3A boasts a proud heritage and now serves as the only manned airship in the United States Navy’s inventory.

Built by American Blimp Corporation, the MZ-3A is propeller-driven by two 180 horsepower Lycoming engines producing a top speed just under 50 knots with an operational payload capability of up to 2,500 pounds.

The manned 178-foot LTA craft can remain aloft and nearly stationary for more than twelve hours, performing various missions in support of technology development for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) concepts.

“Airships offer extreme utility in C4ISR roles and patrol missions where persistent stare and reliable communications are often more important than speed,“ said Bert Race, MZ-3A Government Flight Representative and Project Manager. “Our MZ-3A has proven that an airship is a very effective platform for mission system research and development.”

The MZ-3A is government-owned and contractor-operated. The contractor, Integrated Systems Solutions, Inc., employs highly qualified commercial blimp pilots whom the Navy has approved to command the airship.

Scientific Development Squadron ONE (VXS-1), stationed at the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Md., is the U.S. Navy’s sole Science & Technology research squadron. Commissioned, December 2004, VXS-1 employs NP-3D Orions, RC-12 Guardrails, Scan Eagle UAS, and most recently, the MZ-3A in its support of NRL-priority airborne research efforts. Since its transfer to VXS-1 in 2009, the MZ-3A has accumulated more than 1,000 mishap-free flight hours in support of the Naval Research Enterprise and recently provided assistance during the tragic Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill in 2010.

SpaceX Completes Key Milestone to Fly Astronauts to International Space Station

SpaceX announced it has successfully completed the preliminary design review of its revolutionary launch abort system, a system designed for manned missions using its Dragon spacecraft. This represents a major step toward creating an American-made successor to the Space Shuttle. NASA’s approval of the latest design review marks the fourth successfully completed milestone under the agency’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program and demonstrates the innovation that’s possible when NASA partners with the private sector.

“Each milestone we complete brings the United States one step closer to once again having domestic human spaceflight capability,” said former astronaut Garrett Reisman, one of the two program leads of SpaceX’s DragonRider, which is adding capabilities to the Dragon spacecraft for astronaut carriage.

Now that the Space Shuttle program has ended, the United States relies on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for astronaut transport, costing American taxpayers as much as $62 million a seat. By comparison, Dragon is designed to carry seven astronauts at a time for an unparalleled $20 million per seat.

As with all SpaceX designs, increased safety and reliability are paramount. “Dragon’s integrated launch abort system provides astronauts with the ability to safely escape from the beginning of the launch until the rocket reaches orbit,” explained David Giger, co-lead of the DragonRider program. “This level of protection is unprecedented in manned spaceflight history.”

With the latest design review approved by NASA, SpaceX can now start building the hardware at the heart of its innovative launch abort system. The SpaceX design incorporates the escape engines into the side walls of Dragon, eliminating a failure mode of more traditional rocket escape towers, which must be successfully jettisoned during every launch. The integrated abort system also returns with the spacecraft, allowing for easy reuse and radical reductions in the cost of space transport. Over time, the same escape thrusters will also provide Dragon with the ability to land with pinpoint accuracy on Earth or another planet.

In its first flights, on June 4 and December 8, 2010, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle achieved consecutive mission successes. The December mission, which was the first demonstration flight under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, marked Dragon’s historic debut and established SpaceX as the first private company to launch and recover a spacecraft from orbit. As a result, many Falcon 9 and Dragon components required for transporting humans to Earth orbit have already been demonstrated in flight.

Alion Awarded Three Army Task Orders Totaling $8.6M to Help Prioritize Warfighting Capabilities

Alion Science and Technology, an employee-owned technology solutions company, has won three task orders totaling $8.6 million to continue support to the Army Headquarters Deputy Chief of Staff G-3/5/7 and G-8 in assessing, validating and prioritizing current and future warfighting capabilities, as well as the Army’s Battle Command Simulation and Experimentation office. Alion’s work will bolster the Army’s efforts to expand and enhance LandWarNet, which connects literally every Army information system and electronic process, to deliver essential mission command capabilities that provide optimal return on investment.

Alion will provide subject matter experts to assist the Army with prioritizing, integrating and mitigating LandWarNet and mission command capabilities. This will better enable the Army to make short-, mid-range and long-term decisions that impact funding, development and warfighter capabilities. Alion will also help in delivering a fully trained Army modeling and simulation (M&S) community that best meets the Army’s warfighting needs by supplying trained M&S professionals.

LandWarNet links information capabilities that enable warfighters to perform their missions. Through the validation, prioritization, analysis, simulation and integration of combat capabilities, resources are used to the Army’s best advantage, to save time and money and provide warfighters with ever-improving capabilities.

The task orders, which run from Aug. 1, 2011 to July 31, 2012, were awarded under the Battle Command Support Services contract. They provide for technical and architectural support services, analysis of alternative support, strategic planning and integration, and overall synchronization of M&S capabilities across the entire Army enterprise as well as curriculum development and training support for the FA57/CP36 communities, which promote M&S efforts among both Army officers and civilians.

U.S. Military to Invest $10 Billion Annually in Renewable Energy by 2030, According to Pike Research

In September the U.S. Army announced that it has formed a new Energy Initiatives Task Force that will assess renewable energy projects, vet potential suppliers, and develop new technologies to support the Army’s growing commitment to powering its bases and its missions with renewable energy. The Task Force is part of a Pentagon-wide effort to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy sources as the military confronts the issues of energy costs, energy security for remote bases and operations, and the effects of energy on strategic goals. According to a recent report from Pike Research, annual spending on renewable energy by the Department of Defense (DOD) will reach $10 billion by 2030. While a significant portion of this will be spent on Facilities operations, including permanent bases, the majority of the spending will be for Mobility applications including portable soldier power as well as land, air, and sea vehicles.

“The DOD is positioned to become the single most important driver of the cleantech revolution in the United States,” says Pike Research president Clint Wheelock. “In particular, military investment in renewable energy and related technologies can help bridge the ‘valley of death’ that lies between research & development and full commercialization of these technologies.”

Pike Research estimates that the DOD currently spends approximately $20 billion per year on energy – 75% for fuel and 25% for facilities and infrastructure. Among the key sectors that will receive significant Pentagon attention and investment over the next two decades are solar power for both permanent bases and temporary facilities; fuel cells for individual soldier power; microgrids for military facilities; and biofuels for military vehicles, particularly the Navy’s “Great Green Fleet” initiative to shift to a largely biofuels-driven fleet by 2016. The total market for renewable energy for mobile power for forward bases and temporary installations, for instance, is forecast to reach $6.1 billion by 2030.

By way of comparison, the total annual expenditure by China on renewable energy for military applications will reach $4.5 billion in 2030.

U.S. Army Expands RACKWISE® Into Corps of Engineers

Rackwise announced that the U.S. Army has expanded its use of the RACKWISE® DCIM solution from offshore operations infrastructure technology with a second successful implementation for the Army Corps of Engineers in the United States.

After initially choosing and successfully implementing RACKWISE® to manage the data centers that support much of the U.S. Army technology operations across a major international theater, the Army has again selected and deployed RACKWISE® as an integral element of its IT management and optimization undertaking, this instance for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Guy A. Archbold, Rackwise Chief Executive Officer, commented “We are thrilled at this second successful Rackwise implementation with the U.S. Army, this time for the data centers and IT technology that support the important work that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers performs across our country. We take great pride in knowing that when the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers supports our nation’s water and related environmental resources and infrastructure, Rackwise is supporting the Corps’ technology infrastructure, enabling them to successfully pursue their mission to strengthen our Nation’s security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters.”

The selection and deployment of the RACKWISE® DCIM solution incorporates installation, implementation, training support and related services as well as annual maintenance and support.

OSI Systems Receives Contracts Valued at up to $7 Million from U.S. Domestic Nuclear Detection Office

OSI Systems announced that its security division, Rapiscan Systems, has been awarded multiple Exploratory Research Program contracts by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). By conducting transformational research and development initiatives, DNDO’s objective is to enlist technology leaders to advance the country’s nuclear materials detection capabilities. With its leading scientists and engineers, Rapiscan has secured multiple contracts that are incrementally funded for a total obligated value of $2.7 million with additional options that could be exercised for a total value of up to $7 million.

Rapiscan will support the DNDO Global Nuclear Detection Architecture mission of countering nuclear terrorism by developing algorithms, detectors and combining multiple signatures for better detection of special nuclear material threats.

Ajay Mehra, President of Rapiscan Systems, stated, “These contracts require a unique combination of experience in high-energy x-ray imaging, as well as nuclear, mechanical and electrical engineering that our team possesses. When successfully completed, these threat detection and verification technologies will provide additional inspection capabilities that help protect our nation from weapons of mass destruction being smuggled across borders. The innovative research at Rapiscan Laboratories, our R&D arm, continues to be at the forefront of combating some of this country’s most serious security threats.”

GE Wins Position on Gulfstream’s G650 for Aircraft Health and Trend Monitoring

GE Aviation has been awarded two contracts from Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation to provide the Integrated Vehicle Health Management technology and service for the G650 business jet aircraft. “This is one of the first comprehensive health management systems for a civil airplane and a first for business jets,” said Lorraine Bolsinger, president and CEO of GE Aviation Systems. “We are thrilled to be launching this new product and service with Gulfstream. Gulfstream is a leader in the business jet market by introducing new technology, innovation and best-in-class product support. The IVHM technology will clearly be a differentiator for the G650 in the marketplace.”

GE’s Integrated Vehicle Health Management (IVHM) technology will power Gulfstream’s PlaneConnectHTM™ Health & Trend Monitoring system. The system continuously manages and analyzes data throughout the flight creating a comprehensive set of health information for the engines, avionics, power, cabin and other aircraft systems. Wireless connectivity links every aircraft to a Ground Services Network (GSN) providing a web-based service that delivers a real time picture of aircraft health for Gulfstream and the operator to access 24/7 from anywhere in the world. The system is seamlessly integrated with Gulfstream’s product support to enable unprecedented capability to enhance dispatch reliability and availability – a hallmark of Gulfstream’s customer service orientation.

GE has also developed a cutting edge technology with prognostics capabilities that will become the future of health management in business and general aviation. The system leverages GE’s extensive experience in aircraft health diagnostics and prognostic analytics.

The G650 entry-into-service is anticipated for 2012. The system is provided from GE facilities in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Southampton, UK.

The IVHM technology dates back to 1991 when GE developed the world’s first certified Health and Usage Monitoring System, HUMS, for helicopters. GE has recorded and analyzed in excess of 2 million flight hours of data from more than 500 military and commercial helicopters.

iRobot Receives $11 Million Order from the U.S. Army

iRobot has received an $11 million order from the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, Michigan for 70 of the company’s model 310 SUGV robots and spares kits. The order is the first under a new two-year requirements contract, which allows the Army to purchase model 310 SUGV robots and spares.

310 SUGV is a man-portable robot that is being used to perform dismounted operations. SUGV robots are smaller and lighter versions of the combat-proven iRobot® PackBot®.

“iRobot is pleased that the Army is continuing to invest in SUGV,” said Robert Moses, president of iRobot’s Government and Industrial Robots division. “We receive feedback from end users on a regular basis and we know that SUGV is proving its worth every day on the battlefield. The robot’s light weight, durability and ease-of-use give our troops the upper hand as they carry out dangerous missions.”

iRobot has delivered more than 4,000 tactical mobile robots to military and civil defense forces worldwide.

GreenPeak Selected by the European Space Agency

GreenPeak Technologies announced that its radio communication controller chip was assessed by the European Space Center, ESA/ESTEC, for use in aerospace applications and was endorsed for its superior RF performance, ultra-low power requirement and excellent interference robustness. ESTEC, the European Space Research and Technology Centre, is the technical heart of ESA – the incubator of the European space effort – where most ESA projects are guided through the various phases of development. To reduce the weight of satellites, engineers at ESA assess the replacement of data cables with wireless for sensors in and outside the satellite. The wireless communication technology must be proven in the field and designed to enable superior RF performance in satellite applications. The selection requirements are based on high reliability, extreme battery life time (+15 years) and robustness against interference.

“In our effort to reduce the complexity of harness onboard satellites and in ground tests, ESA has been searching for commercially available wireless communication technologies for sensors,” said Jean-François Dufour, Computer and Data Handling Engineer with ESA. “GreenPeak’s IEEE802.15.4-2006 silicon was evaluated for its extremely low current consumption characteristics, which are needed for long-duration maintenance-free missions, and for its antenna diversity feature providing robust links within satellite systems. We were delighted by the quality of the silicon and the dedication of GreenPeak’s staff.”

Cees links, CEO of GreenPeak said: “We are excited to meet the challenges posed by ESA and passing in depth testing of our silicon. Working with ESA is a unique quality recognition and demonstrates that our silicon is highly suitable for the most demanding applications requiring performance leadership.”

Army Orders Up 315 Recon Scout XT Robots From ReconRobotics

ReconRobotics announced that it has been awarded a $4.8 million contract from the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force for 315 Recon Scout® XT micro-robot kits and an equal number of SearchStickTM devices. The SearchStick enables warfighters to convert any Recon Scout Throwbot® into a pole camera, which warfighters can use to see over compound walls, onto rooftops and into culverts. ReconRobotics plans to complete deliveries of these micro-robot systems by October 31, 2011.

“The era of the personal robot has arrived for U.S. troops and, like the ballistic vest and night vision goggles, our Recon Scout XTs will save many lives,” said Ernest Langdon, Director of Military Programs for ReconRobotics. “We are extremely proud that the U.S. military has chosen ReconRobotics to help protect our warfighters as they conduct dismounted operations in theatre.”

Recon Scout XT micro-robots are deployed at the fire-team level – i.e., one robot for each four- to six-man fire team – to maximize situational awareness and standoff distance during route- and compound-clearing operations. More than 2,000 of the company’s Recon Scout® systems have been deployed by the U.S. military and international friendly forces, and by hundreds of law enforcement agencies, worldwide. Warfighters use the Recon Scout system to determine the layout of the enclosed spaces, identify potential IEDs and the fix the location of friendly, indigenous or enemy personnel.

The company’s Recon Scout XT weighs just 1.2lbs (540g), and yet it can be deployed in five seconds and thrown up to 120 feet (36m). Highly regarded for its simplicity and durability, the XT can be controlled with a single button and can be recharged in the field using standard 5590 or 2590 batteries.