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Posts tagged ‘Robotics’

Russian capsule carrying robot fails space station docking

August 24, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian space capsule carrying a humanoid robot has failed to dock as planned with the International Space Station. A statement from the Russian space agency Roscosmos said the failure on Saturday was because of problems in the docking system. It said the space station itself and the six-person crew are safe.

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said on Twitter that a new docking attempt would be made on Tuesday. The capsule was launched Thursday as part of tests of a new rocket that is expected to replace the Soyuz-FG next year.

It is carrying a robot called Fedor, which will perform two weeks of tests aboard the space station. Vladimir Solovyev, flight director for the Russian segment of the ISS, said the robot had not been taught how to manually conduct a docking.

A Rover for Phobos and Deimos

Le Bourget, France (SPX)

Jun 21, 2019

Mars has two small moons, Phobos and Deimos. These are the target of the Japanese Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission, which also involves international partners. Scheduled for launch in 2024. it will enter Mars orbit in 2025, and return samples to Earth in 2029. The spacecraft will carry a German-French rover that will land on either Phobos or Deimos and explore the surface in detail for several months.

The scientists hope to gain new insights into the formation and evolution of the solar system. At the International Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fuer Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), the Japanese space agency JAXA and the French space agency CNES agreed to further collaborate on the world’s first exploration of a minor solar system body with a rover.

“The world-first exploration of the Martian moons with a rover is a major technical challenge that we are tackling within the framework of our strong and proven partnership with Japan and France,” says Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board. “Together, we want to push the boundaries of what is technically feasible in robotic exploration and expand our knowledge about the origin of the solar system.”

On 18 June 2019, Hansjorg Dittus, DLR Executive Board Member for Space Research and Technology, Walther Pelzer, the DLR Executive Board Member responsible for the Space Administration, and Hitoshi Kuninaka, Director General of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) at JAXA, signed a cooperation agreement outlining DLR’s participation in the Japanese-led MMX mission. The contributions that the Franco-German rover will make to the mission are central to this agreement.

In addition, DLR is making scientific findings about Deimos and Phobos available in preparation for the mission and is enabling tests to be conducted at DLR’s Landing and Mobility Test Facility (LAMA) and in the drop tower at the Centre of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) in Bremen.

On 19 June 2019, the Franco-German cooperation agreement for the development of the rover as part of the MMX mission was signed by Pascale Ehrenfreund, Hansjorg Dittus and CNES President Jean-Yves le Gall. The German-French rover will be designed and built as a joint effort.

DLR will, in particular, be responsible for developing the rover’s casing and its robotic locomotion system, together with a spectrometer and a radiometer that will both be used to determine the characteristics and composition of the surface.

The French space agency CNES is making major contributions with camera systems for spatial orientation and exploration of the surface, as well as the rover’s central service module. Upon landing, the rover will then be operated jointly by CNES and DLR.

The MMX mission follows in the footsteps of the successful predecessor mission Hayabusa2, which explored the asteroid Ryugu. As part of the mission, on 3 October 2018, the Mobile Asteroid and Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander ‘hopped’ across the asteroid’s surface and sent spectacular images of a landscape strewn with boulders, stones and almost no dust back to Earth. On that same day, JAXA, DLR and CNES signed a first memorandum of understanding for cooperation within the MMX mission.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/A_Rover_for_Phobos_and_Deimos_999.html.

Small satellite concept finalists target Moon, Mars and beyond

Pasadena CA (JPL)

Jun 21, 2019

NASA has selected three finalists among a dozen concepts for future small satellites. The finalists include a 2022 robotic mission to study two asteroid systems, twin spacecraft to study the effects of energetic particles around Mars, and a lunar orbiter managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to study water on the Moon. At least one of these missions is expected to move to final selection and flight.

The missions will contribute to NASA’s goal of understanding our solar system’s content, origin and evolution. They will also support planetary defense, and help fill in knowledge gaps as NASA moves forward with its plans for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

The selected finalists:

* Janus: Reconnaissance Missions to Binary Asteroids will study the formation and evolutionary implications for small “rubble pile” asteroids and build an accurate model of two binary asteroid bodies. A binary asteroid is a system of two asteroids orbiting their common center of mass. The principal investigator is Daniel Scheeres at the University of Colorado. Lockheed Martin will provide project management.

* Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (EscaPADE): This mission’s objective is to characterize (on multiple scales) the acceleration processes driving escape from Mars’ atmosphere, as well as how the atmosphere responds to the constant outflow of the solar wind flowing off the Sun. The principal investigator for this mission is Robert Lillis at the University of California, Berkeley. UC Berkeley will also provide project management.

* Lunar Trailblazer will directly detect and map water on the lunar surface to determine how its form, abundance and location relate to geology. The principal investigator is Bethany Ehlmann at Caltech. JPL will provide project management.

“Each of these concepts holds the promise to deliver big science in a small package,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. “Their miniaturized size enables these systems to be developed at reduced overall costs while performing targeted science missions and testing brand new technologies that future missions can use.”

The finalists were chosen from 12 proposals submitted in 2018 through an opportunity called the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx).

Following an extensive and competitive peer review process, these concepts were selected based on their potential science value and feasibility of development plans. They will receive funding for up to one year to further develop and mature the concept designs, concluding with a preliminary design review (PDR). NASA will evaluate the PDR results, and after that expects to select one or more of the mission concepts to proceed into implementation and flight.

Using small spacecraft – less than 400 pounds, or 180 kilograms, in mass – SIMPLEx selections will conduct stand-alone planetary science missions. Each will share their ride to space with either another NASA mission or a commercial launch opportunity.

“The SIMPLEx program provides invaluable opportunities for increasingly innovative ways to conduct planetary science research,” said Lori S. Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Small_satellite_concept_finalists_target_Moon_Mars_and_beyond_999.html.

Russia sends robot into space to test out new booster rocket

August 22, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia has sent a humanoid robot to the International Space Station as part of tests on a new rocket that is expected to replace the current vehicle. The Soyuz capsule, which typically carries a space crew, blasted off from the Russia-leased launch pad in Kazakhstan at 8.38 a.m. (0338 GMT) on Thursday carrying the Fedor robot. The capsule was launched by a new Soyuz 2.1a rocket which has only been used to launch unmanned vehicles. The new booster rocket is expected to replace the Soyuz-FG rocket next year.

The robot, which was in the commander’s seat, holding a small Russian flag in its right hand, sent out a tweet shortly after the orbiting saying that the first part of onboard tests went as planned.

Insitu nets $390.4M for Blackjack, ScanEagle drones for U.S. military, allies

by Allen Cone

Washington (UPI)

Jul 1, 2019

Insitu was awarded a $390.4 million contract to supply Blackjack drones for the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy, as well as Blackjacks and smaller ScanEagle unmanned air vehicles, for three foreign allies.

The contract, announced Friday by the Department of Defense, covers 63 RQ-21A Blackjack attrition air vehicles for the U.S. military branches, plus six RQ-21A unmanned aircraft systems and 17 Blackjack air vehicles for Canada, Poland and Oman under foreign military sales. The contract also includes 93 ScanEagle unmanned aircraft systems “in various configurations,”

The deal will include training, testing and engineering, operations support, maintenance and other services, Pentagon said.

Eight-three percent of the work will be performed at Insitu’s plant in Bingen, Wash., with 5 percent at various locations into the continental United States and 12 percent outside. Work is expected to be completed in June 2022.

Naval fiscal 2019 operation and maintenance, fiscal 2019 building partnership capacity, and FMS funds in the amount of $9.9 million will be obligated at time of award, $9.5 million of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Neither drone model requires a runway, and can operate from land and sea.

The RQ-21A Blackjack is a military version of Insitu’s Integrator drone.

A single RQ-21A unmanned aircraft system includes five air vehicles, including two ground control stations and other equipment.

Each drone’s six payload spaces can carry up to 39 pounds with an endurance of 16-plus hours per day.

The Blackhack is considered a category 3 drone with maximum gross takeoff weight of less than 1,320 pounds, normal operating altitude of less than 18,000 feat above mean sea level and less than 250 knots per hour. It weighs 81 pounds and the length is 8.2 feet, according to the company.

The Insitu ScanEagle drone, which has been deployed with the U.S. Marine Corps since 2004 and the U.S. Navy since 2005, is a smaller long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle.

As a category 2, it can operate up to 19,500 feet and loiter over a battlefield for extended missions of 24-plus hours. Its normal operating altitude is less than 3,500 feet at an airspeed less than 250 knots per hour.

At a length of 3.9 feet and 39.7 pounds, its payload is a high resolution, day/night camera and thermal imager.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Insitu_nets_3904M_for_Blackjack_ScanEagle_drones_for_US_military_allies_999.html.

U.S. Marines test vehicle-mounted laser for shooting down drones

by Ed Adamczyk

Washington DC (UPI)

Jun 20, 2019

The U.S. Marines announced Wednesday that they are testing a portable, ground-based laser prototype for shooting down drones.

The Compact Laser Weapons System, or CLaWS, is the first ground-based directed energy weapon approved by the Defense Department. It will be evaluated for several months, with the aim of upgrading it to be included in fixed-site and other mobile situations.

Boeing Co. first announced the weapon in 2015. It is a portable device capable of using an invisible laser to take down targets several hundred meters away. It was designed to focus energy on a small enough spot to heat and destroy targets, including moving ones — such as drones.

“Think of it like a welding torch being put on target but from many hundreds of meters away,” Boeing engineer Isaac Neil said at the time of the introduction.

In 2018, Boeing expressed an interest in mounting the CLaWS on tactical vehicles, including the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle under development to replace the Humvee. The CLaWS comes in 2-, 5- and 10-kW variants and can be carried by two or more Marine personnel.

“One of the related aspects of the CLWS is that it’s a counterintelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tool,” said Jim Leary, Boeing director of weapons global sales. “You can shoot down enemy drones that might be observing friendly troops. That’s the beauty of this laser.”

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/US_Marines_test_vehicle-mounted_laser_for_shooting_down_drones_999.html.

Iran says downed US drone recovered in its territorial waters

By Sebastian Smith with Marc Jourdier in Tehran

Washington (AFP)

June 20, 2019

Iran said Thursday it had recovered parts of a US spy drone in its territorial waters, after downing the aircraft in a missile strike slammed by President Donald Trump as a “big mistake.”

Under pressure to respond to the high-stakes incident in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, where a series of tanker attacks have sent tensions soaring with Iran, Trump initially struck a combative tone.

“Iran made a very big mistake!” he tweeted in response to news Iran had shot down the Global Hawk surveillance aircraft — which the Pentagon says was above international waters at the time.

“This country will not stand for it, that I can tell you,” he said later at the White House.

But as the overnight incident whipped up fears of open conflict between the United States and its declared foe Iran — sending crude oil prices up more than six percent — Trump moved swiftly to dial back tensions.

“I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said. “I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.”

The president’s mixed message left the world unsure what Washington’s next move would be.

“You will find out,” Trump said, when asked about possible retaliation.

In Tehran, however, the message came loud and clear.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced late Thursday that parts of the drone had been recovered in Iranian territorial waters, as Tehran moved to bring the incident before the United Nations.

“We don’t seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land & waters,” Zarif said.

– Drone violating or victim? –

The Pentagon denounced the “unprovoked attack,” claiming the navy drone was 34 kilometers (21 miles) from Iran when destroyed by a surface-to-air missile.

But the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it brought the drone down as it was “violating Iranian air space” over the waters of Hormozgan province.

Zarif provided coordinates to back the claim.

“At 00:14 US drone took off from UAE in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace,” Zarif tweeted. “It was targeted at 04:05 at the coordinates (25?59’43″N 57?02’25″E) near Kouh-e Mobarak.”

“We’ve retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down.”

But the Pentagon published a map showing the flight path of the drone, which indicated it traveled outside of Iranian waters and included a photograph showing it was at the coordinates (25?57’42″N 56?50’22″E) when it was downed.

In a letter to the UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Iran protested against a “dangerous and provocative act by the U.S. military forces against the territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The drone downing came as Iran was already accused by Washington of carrying out attacks on oil tankers in the congested Hormuz area.

Tehran denies involvement but has frequently threatened to block the sea lanes used to ship much of the world’s oil exports.

The commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command, Sean Kido, said a mine allegedly used in one of the attacks matched Iranian weaponry and that incriminating fingerprints had also been collected.

– Options ‘running out?’ –

Trump has repeatedly said he does not favor war with Iran unless it is to stop the country getting a nuclear weapon — something Iranian leaders insist they are not pursuing.

But Trump critics say his policy of “maximum pressure” — including crippling economic sanctions, abandonment of an international deal to regulate Iran’s nuclear activities, and deployment of extra troops to the region — make war ever more likely.

A key Republican ally of Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham, said the president’s “options are running out.”

Asked if he believed the countries were nearing conflict, he replied: “I think anybody would believe that we’re one step closer.”

“They shot down an American asset well within international waters trying to assess the situation. What are you supposed to do?”

One of Trump’s biggest opponents, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, warned that “there’s no appetite for wanting to go to war in our country.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayahu blasted “Iranian aggression” and said “Israel stands by the United States.”

But Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has close relations with Iran’s leadership, said US military retaliation “would be a disaster for the region.”

– Diplomatic, military brinkmanship –

Trump’s arrival in the White House, alongside veteran Mideast hawks like national security adviser John Bolton, has seen sharp deterioration in relations with Tehran.

Trump began last May by abandoning — and effectively wrecking — the 2015 international agreement on bringing Iran in from the diplomatic cold in exchange for verified controls on its nuclear industry.

That has prompted Iran to threaten it will stop observing restrictions agreed to under the deal on enrichment of uranium.

The threat has been seen as an effort to pressure European governments that want to save the nuclear deal to push back against Washington. The US State Department called that “extortion.”

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Iran_says_downed_US_drone_recovered_in_its_territorial_waters_999.html.

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