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An anonymous reader writes "Space News reports that NASA has cancelled its solar sail demonstration mission (also known as Sunjammer) citing "a lack of confidence in its contractor's ability to deliver." "Company president Nathan] Barnes said that in 2011 he reached out to several NASA centers and companies that he believed could build the spacecraft and leave L'Garde free to focus on the solar sail. None of those he approached — he only identified NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California — took him up on the offer. Rather than give up on the opportunity to land a NASA contract, L'Garde decided to bring the spacecraft development in house. It did not work out, and as of Oct. 17, the company had taken delivery of about $2 million worth of spacecraft hardware including a hydrazine tank from ATK Space Systems of Commerce, California, and four mono-propellant thrusters from Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California."
56 comments | 13 hours ago
Lucas123 writes: The Tesla Model S gets attention because it's an EV that can go from from 0 to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 4.2 seconds and can travel 265 miles on a single charge. But, a teardown of the vehicle by IHS Technology has also revealed that Elon Musk avoided third-party design and build routes used traditionally by auto makers and spared no expense on the instrument cluster and infotainment (head unit) system, which is powered by two 1.4Ghz, quad-core NVIDIA Tegra processors. IHS called the Tesla's head unit the most sophisticated it's ever seen, with 1,000 more components than any it has previously analyzed. A bill of materials for the virtual instrument cluster and the premium media control unit is also roughly twice the cost of the highest-end infotainment unit examined by IHS.
154 comments | 2 days ago
aarondubrow writes According to FAA estimates, increasing congestion in the air transportation system of the United States, if unaddressed, will cost the American economy $22 billion annually in lost economic activity by 2022. MIT researcher Hamsa Balakrishnan and her team are making air traffic control systems more efficient through a combination of better models and new embedded technologies. Testing their algorithms at Logan Airport in Boston, they showed that by holding aircraft back for 4.5 minutes, they could improve flow on the runways and save nearly 100 pounds of fuel for each aircraft.
71 comments | 4 days ago
New submitter chaosdivine69 writes: According to Scientists at Nanyang Technology University (NTU), they have developed ultra-fast charging batteries that can be recharged up to 70 per cent in only two minutes and have a 20-year lifespan (10,000 charges). The impact of this is potentially a game changer for a lot of industries reliant on lithium ion batteries. In the car industry, for example, consumers would save on costs for battery replacement and manufacturers would save on material construction (the researchers are using a nanotube structure of Titanium dioxide, which is an abundant, cheap, and safe material found in soil). Titanium dioxide is commonly used as a food additive or in sunscreen lotions to absorb harmful ultraviolet rays. It is believed that charging an electric car can be done in as little as 5 minutes, making it comparable to filling up a tank of gasoline.
395 comments | 5 days ago
stephendavion writes You might be super happy to toil away on your phone or tablet the entire time you're on a plane, but not everyone is pleased to see your face buried in your device during takeoff and landing. The Federal Aviation Administration's new, more relaxed rules on gadget use aren't sitting well with one group — flight attendants. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, the nation's largest flight attendant union is now suing the FAA to have the ban on gadget use during takeoff and landing reinstated. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA argues that the change has caused many passengers to ignore flight attendants' emergency announcements, and that the new rules violate federal regulations requiring passengers to stow all items during takeoff and landing.
403 comments | 5 days ago
gurps_npc (621217) writes "CNN has a very interesting article about an unpowered exoskeleton system called Fortis. Unlike the more famous TALOS system, this exoskeleton uses zero electricity, so it does not need batteries or an extension cord. Power requirements have always been the problem with powered exoskeletons, as batteries are heavy. The system is made out of lightweight aluminum and heavy tools connect directly to it. The weight of the tools is supported by the exoskeleton, so your arms, back and legs don't have to carry it. You only need to use muscle to move the tool, not simply carry it. The exoskeleton does not make you stronger. Instead it effectively increases your stamina by relieving fatigue caused by carrying the heavy tool.
79 comments | 5 days ago
An anonymous reader writes with news that authorities in the Netherlands have arrested four drivers sharing their car for money through the Uberpop app. The drivers were then released with a fine of EUR 4,200 (USD 5,300) each and further threatened with additional fines of EUR 10,000 (USD 12,600) for each time they might be caught doing it again. While similar bullying applied to short rentals of private rooms through sites like Airbnb hasn't had the same success so far the thoughts go to the fined drivers, hoping they won't ever be caught carrying their grandmother to the supermarket then have to explain how they dared. Uber says it will "fully support" the affected drivers."
280 comments | about a week ago
HughPickens.com writes Alan Boyle writes that over the years, Elon Musk's showmanship, straight-ahead smarts and far-out ideas have earned him a following that spans the geek spectrum — to the point that some observers see glimmers of the aura that once surrounded Apple's Steve Jobs. "To me, it feels like he's the most obvious inheritor of Steve Jobs' mantle," says Ashlee Vance, who's writing a biography of Musk that at one time had the working title The Iron Man. "Obviously, Steve Jobs' products changed the world ... [But] if Elon's right about all these things that he's after, his products should ultimately be more meaningful than what Jobs came up with. He's the guy doing the most concrete stuff about global warming." So what is Musk's vision? What motivates Musk at the deepest level? "It's his Mars thing," says Vance. Inspired in part by the novels of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, Musk has come around to the view that humanity's long-term future depends on extending its reach beyond Earth, starting with colonies on Mars. Other notables like physicist Stephen Hawking have laid out similar scenarios — but Musk is actually doing something to turn those interplanetary dreams into a reality. Vance thinks that Musk is on the verge of breaking out from geek guru status to a level of mass-market recognition that's truly on a par with the late Steve Jobs. Additions to the Tesla automotive line, plus the multibillion-dollar promise of Tesla's battery-producing "gigafactory" in Nevada, could push Musk over the edge. "Tesla, as a brand, really does seem to have captured the public's imagination. ... All of a sudden he's got a hip product that looks great, and it's creating jobs. The next level feels like it's got to be that third-generation, blockbuster mainstream product. The story is not done."
181 comments | about a week ago
SchrodingerZ writes: Nine days after Elon Musk hinted about a new project, Tesla Motors has unveiled the P85D Sedan. This is Tesla's latest car design, capable of feats not yet seen in electric vehicles. The four door luxury car is able to go from zero to 60 miles per hour in a mere 3.2 seconds, an acceleration similar to the McLaren F1 super car. While the exterior remains the same build as the standard Model S, the interior will have a second motor in the front of the car to complement the rear motor. The D models will also have a slightly greater range of 275 miles on a single charge, 10 miles more than the 85 and P85 cars. Safety features have also been enhanced, adding "adaptive cruise control and the ability to read speed limit signs, stop itself if a crash is imminent, stay in its lane, and even park itself in a street spot or in your garage." Musk explains at the inaugural event, "this car is nuts. It's like taking off from a carrier deck. It's just bananas." The "D" version is available for the 60kWh, 80kWh, and P85 cars, and are expected to start shipping in December of this year.
283 comments | about two weeks ago
MikeChino writes London just unveiled its next-generation subway trains — and they're sleek, 100% automated, and WiFi-equipped. UK-based design studio Priestmangoode teamed up with Transport for London to develop the trains over a period of 3 years, and they feature open and airy interiors inspired by aviation design.
127 comments | about two weeks ago
MarkWhittington writes Space News reported on Wednesday that NASA is mulling a hab module as part of the Asteroid Redirect Mission. The inclusion of the hab module would extend the mission from 28 days to as long as 60 days. The module would provide enough consumables such as food, water, and oxygen and other support to sustain the crew of astronauts for weeks while examining a small asteroid in orbit around the moon. The module might also support a return to the lunar surface, given certain modifications.
55 comments | about two weeks ago
Radiosonde, weather balloon, near-space exploration package... call it what you will, but today's interviewee, Jamel Tayeb, is hanging instrument packages and cameras below balloons and sending them up to 97,000 feet (his highest so far), then recovering them 50 or 60 miles away from their liftoff points with help from a locator beacon -- and not just any locator beacon, mind you, but a special one from a company called High Altitude Science with "unlocked" firmware that allows it to work with GPS satellites from altitudes greater than 60,000 feet, which typical, off-the-shelf GPS units can't do.
Here's a balloon launch video from Instructure, a company that helps create open source education systems. The point of their balloon work (and Jamel's) is not that they get to boast about what they're doing, but so you and people like you say, "I can make a functioning high altitude weather balloon system with instrumentation and a decent camera for only $1000?" This is a lot of money for an individual, but for a high school science program it's not an impossible amount. And who knows? You might break the current high-altitude balloon record of 173,900 feet. Another, perhaps more attainable record is PARIS (Paper Aircraft Released Into Space) which is currently 96,563 feet. Beyond that? Perhaps you'll want to take a crack at beating Felix Baumgartner's high altitude skydiving and free fall records. And once you are comfortable working with near space launches, perhaps you'll move on to outer space work, where you'll join Elon Musk and other space transportation entrepreneurs. (Alternate Video Link)
48 comments | about two weeks ago
cartechboy writes Most luxury automakers have a Certified Previously Owned (CPO) program. Tesla isn't like a normal luxury automakers, in fact, it's not really like any automaker out there. It doesn't have franchises and it sells its own vehicles through its network of galleries. Now, it plans to create its own CPO program. There are a great deal of Model S sedans out there currently under lease contracts. When those cars are ready to come back, Tesla has guaranteed that it will purchase them for a figure that falls somewhere between 43 and 50 percent of the original purchase price. This is exactly how Tesla's going to create its CPO fleet. Tesla seems to do everything in an unconventional manner, so we'll have to see if its CPO program behaves like every other automaker's, or if it's different somehow as well.
126 comments | about two weeks ago
New submitter operator_error writes with a story at the L.A. Times that echoes some previous research on the relative risks of hand-held vs. hands-free phones by drivers, and comes to an even grimmer conclusion: In many cars, making a hands-free phone call can be more distracting than picking up your phone, according to a new study from AAA and the University of Utah. In-dash phone systems are overly complicated and prone to errors, the study found, and the same is true for voice-activated functions for music and navigation. A companion study also found that trying to use Siri — the voice control system on Apple phones — while driving was dangerously distracting. Two participants in the study had virtual crashes in an automotive simulator while attempting to use Siri, the study's authors reported. In response, Toyota said the study did not show a link between cognitive distraction and car crashes. "The results actually tell us very little about the relative benefits of in-vehicle versus hand-held systems; or about the relationship between cognitive load and crash risks," said Mike Michels, a Toyota spokesman. Meanwhile, many states treat hand-held devices very differently from hands-free ones; in New York, for instance, both texting and talking on a hand-held mobile phone are put in the same category, while talking on a hands-free device is covered only by more general distracted driving laws. If the Utah study is correct, maybe that's backwards. (And some evidence suggests that phone use in cars is not quite the straightforward danger that it's sometimes presented as, despite the correlation of phone use with accidents.)
208 comments | about two weeks ago
HughPickens.com writes Highway driving, which is less complex than city driving, has proved easy enough for self-driving cars, but busy downtown streets—where cars and pedestrians jockey for space and behave in confusing and surprising ways—are more problematic. Now Will Knight reports that Michigan's Department of Transportation and 13 companies involved with developing automated driving technology are constructing a 30-acre, $6.5 million driverless town near Ann Arbor to test self-driving cars in an urban environment. Complex intersections, confusing lane markings, and busy construction crews will be used to gauge the aptitude of the latest automotive sensors and driving algorithms and mechanical pedestrians will even leap into the road from between parked cars so researchers can see if they trip up onboard safety systems. "I think it's a great idea," says John Leonard, a professor at MIT who led the development of a self-driving vehicle for a challenge run by DARPA in 2007. "It is important for us to try to collect statistically meaningful data about the performance of self-driving cars. Repeated operations—even in a small-scale environment—can yield valuable data sets for testing and evaluating new algorithms." The testing facility is part of broader work by the University of Michigan's Mobility Transformation Facility that will include putting up to 20,000 vehicles on southeastern Michigan roads. By 2021, Ann Arbor could become the first American city with a shared fleet of networked, driverless vehicles. "Ann Arbor will be seen as the leader in 21st century mobility," says Peter Sweatman, director of the U-M Transportation Research Institute. "We want to demonstrate fully driverless vehicles operating within the whole infrastructure of the city within an eight-year timeline and to show that these can be safe, effective and commercially successful."
86 comments | about two weeks ago
cartechboy writes It's 2014. Where the heck are our flying cars? We were promised flying cars. We should be living like The Jetsons, right? Well, we aren't, but we are about to take one step closer: a production-ready flying car is debuting this month. Slovakia's Aeromobil is planning to unveil its "Flying Roadster" at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna, Austria on October 29. The latest iteration is called the Aeromobil 3.0, and work on it dates back to 1990. The Aeromobil 2.5 prototype made its first flight about a year ago. The Aeromobil transforms from plane to car by folding its wings behind the cockpit. Supposedly, the Aerobmoil will fit in a standard parking spot and run on pump gas. In less than a month, our dreams could become a reality.
203 comments | about two weeks ago
BarbaraHudson writes Due to a challenge by Sierra Nevada, NASA has asked the winners for the next earth-to-orbit launch vehicles to halt work, at least temporarily. "After rewarding Boeing and SpaceX with the contracts to build the spacecrafts NASA is now asking the companies to stop their work on the project. The move comes after aerospace company Sierra Nevada filed a protest of the decision after losing out on the bid. Sierra Nevada was competing against Boeing and SpaceX for a share of the $6.8 billion CCP contracts. The contracts will cover all phases of development as well as testing and operational flights. Each contract will cover a minimum of two flights and a maximum of four, with each agency required to have one test flight with a NASA representative on board.... According to NASA's Public Affairs Office, this legal protest stops all work currently being done under these contracts. However, officials have not commented on whether-or-not the companies can continue working if they are using private funds."
139 comments | about two weeks ago
curtwoodward writes: Ian Wright knows how to build high-performance electric cars: he was a co-founder at Tesla Motors and built the X1, a street-legal all-electric car that can go from zero to 60 in 2.9 seconds. But he only cares about trucks now — in fact, boring old garbage trucks and delivery trucks are his favorite. Why? To disrupt the auto industry with electrification, EV makers should target the biggest gas (and diesel) guzzlers. His new powertrain is very high tech, combining advanced electric motors with an onboard turbine that acts as a generator when batteries run low.
174 comments | about two weeks ago
astroengine writes: A NASA-backed study explores an innovative way to dramatically cut the cost of a human expedition to Mars — put the crew in stasis. The deep sleep, called torpor, would reduce astronauts' metabolic functions with existing medical procedures. Torpor also can occur naturally in cases of hypothermia. "Therapeutic torpor has been around in theory since the 1980s and really since 2003 has been a staple for critical care trauma patients in hospitals," aerospace engineer Mark Schaffer, with SpaceWorks Enterprises in Atlanta, said at the International Astronomical Congress in Toronto this week. "Protocols exist in most major medical centers for inducing therapeutic hypothermia on patients to essentially keep them alive until they can get the kind of treatment that they need." Coupled with intravenous feeding, a crew could be put in hibernation for the transit time to Mars, which under the best-case scenario would take 180 days one-way.
236 comments | about two weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes When you pay the tax on a road vehicle in the UK, you used to get a paper "tax disk" to affix to the inside of your car windshield. However the relevant records are documented electronically anyway, inspiring the government to replace the paper system with a purely online one. Unfortunately said system was still in beta when it launched today and predictably, it has broken under user demand. No alternative system is available. (The licensing agency actually ran out of the paper disks more than a month ago, and has been printing them out on normal office paper and asking vehicle owners to cut out the circle themselves.) The initiative is part of a larger "digital-first", restructuring of how the government provides services aimed at "meeting user needs".
145 comments | about three weeks ago