The people who built the first private aircraft to fly into space are teaming up once again to construct the largest aircraft ever flown, a behemoth air-launched orbital cargo delivery system called Stratolaunch. And SpaceX, the first company to launch a privately built spaceship into orbit, will build the rocket. As a reusable rocket-plus-glider system, it certainly seems like a potential replacement for the space shuttle.
A somewhat strange story emerged yesterday involving an extremist antigovernment group, a North Dakota sheriff’s office, and six missing cows, but there’s a much larger story behind this brief legal tangle between local law enforcement and the Brossart family of Nelson Country. When Alex, Thomas and Jacob Brossart were arrested on their farm back in June after allegedly chasing the local Sheriff off their property with rifles, they became the first known U.S.
You know, it’s one thing to “shoot down” the top secret spy drone of the imperialist zionist heathen enemy. But come on Iran--stop bragging. Iran today released a two-and-a-half minute video and the first images depicting the RQ-170 stealth drone that it claims it shot down on Sunday. It’s the first visual proof that leaders of the Islamic Republic are actually holding the drone it their possession.
If reports from Fox News are correct, the “Beast” is out of the bag. U.S. military sources appear to be confirming reports--first circulated yesterday by Iranian state media--that Iran has in its possession one of America’s most sophisticated pieces of stealth technology: the RQ-170 drone, a.k.a. “the Beast of Kandahar” (the same drone that provided support for the Osama bin Laden mission back in May). U.S. military sources have confirmed that the Iranians have the drone, Fox says, but say there’s “absolutely no indication” it was shot down, as Iran claims.
The Air Force’s Blue Devil airship--a recent PopSci Best of What’s New recipient and a potential answer to the military’s expanding data glut problem--is getting yet another high-tech upgrade. Via a federal announcement put out last week, The Register reports that DARPA will outfit the Blue Devil Block 2 ISR airship with up to two Free-space Optical Experimental Network Experiment (FOENEX) systems. Think of them like optical lasers that move through the air with the fidelity of a fiber optic cable.
Launching satellites from launchpads is cool and everything, but if DARPA has its way the military could soon be launching small satellites from airliners, granting the Pentagon the ability to put satellites aloft from virtually any airfield and at a fraction of the cost.
We have a lot of love for microdrones here at PopSci--everything from bird-like flapping wing drones to cyborg insects controlled by microcomputers--so we’re thrilled to see the Air Force is showing them some love as well. The Air Force Research Lab has build a “Micro-Aviary” at Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio where tiny flying robots will be the central focus. And aside from being drone-centric, it is one sweet sensor-filled laboratory.
A sheriff’s office outside of Houston is taking a big and potentially controversial step forward with a new piece of law enforcement technology. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Conroe, Texas, is prepping its deputies to fly a $300,000 unmanned ShadowHawk helicopter --paid for with a Department of Homeland Security grant--that someday might carry a weapons payload.
Over the last week, we managed to get some of the nation's biggest and baddest supercomputers to take a moment away from their gigabusy schedules and tell us what they were working on. They were happy to share.
Now: a word with iForge, the pride of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.
Among the many factors keeping wind power projects from getting their legs is the annoying and sometimes dangerous tendency for moving wind turbines to mimic aircraft on an air traffic controller’s radar screen. The problem has led to the stalling of some wind projects and criticism of others, criticism that isn’t helping the larger roll out of renewable energy resources.
After delays (somanydelays), the Boeing 787 Dreamliner finally made its first commercial flight, jetting from Tokyo to Hong Kong. According to the AP, the plane was mostly full of reporters and enthusiasts, some of whom paid thousands of dollars to be included on the maiden flight. If you're curious about what makes the Dreamliner so different, check out our coverage: it's got Android, a crazy efficient power source, and eco-friendly credentials, as well as creature comforts like bigger windows, more spacious seats, and enlarged overhead compartments.
We got our first look at Japan’s Defense Ministry’s spherical flying machine earlier this year, but at a recent technology expo in Tokyo the hovering ball got the full coming-out treatment, complete with public demos eliciting “ooohs” and “aaaahs.” The video below shows the drone doing everything it was designed to do: zipping around omnidirectionally, rolling across the floor, and staying aloft even when it strikes--or is struck by--an obstacle.
A flying car in mid-2015? There are no guarantees in the world of envelope-pushing, mind-bending military tech, but DARPA says both AAI and Lockheed Martin have produced “feasible designs” for its Transformer (TX) program, known more casually as the “flying Humvee” initiative. Both designs have moved to Phase 2, which requires them to begin work on prototypes for evaluation at the end of fiscal 2012.
Barco, a maker of large-format projector technologies, has just unveiled what it is calling a breakthrough in flight simulator technology, and for all the hardware involved we’re inclined to agree that his must be something big. The new flight simulator dome--it’s really more like a sphere--offers state of the art high-res visuals and full 360-degree views, allowing fighter pilot trainees to spot other aircraft from 12 miles away.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.