Friday, August 31, 2018

Progress on the SpaceX and Boeing Spaceflights for NASA

SpaceX and Boeing continue to make steady progress towards the major flight tests under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. At a NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meeting on Monday, the members were updated on the progress of each of the two providers. Overall, the updates were quite positive with most of the flight hardware nearing completion.

The two companies must each execute two test flights to the International Space Station (ISS) in order to be certified to perform operational crew rotation missions.

On the SpaceX side, the company will first execute an uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft called Demonstration Mission 1 (DM-1) – currently scheduled for this coming November. It will then be followed by a crewed test flight designated Demonstration Mission 2 (DM-2). In between the two missions, SpaceX will also execute an in-flight abort test.

In terms of Boeing, they will perform an uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) with the CST-100 Starliner followed by a Crewed Flight Test (CFT). A pad abort test will be also conducted between the two missions.

NASA is also considering using the first flight tests for crew rotation on the ISS.

The contract with the Russians to carry Americans to the ISS ends in April 2019.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Boeing Wins MQ-25A Stingray Contract

The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Missouri, is awarded a ceiling price $805,318,853 fixed-price-incentive-firm-target contract to provide the design, development, fabrication, test, verification, certification, delivery, and support of four MQ-25A unmanned air vehicles, including integration into the carrier air wing to provide an initial operational capability to the Navy. The work will be performed in St. Louis, Missouri (45.5 percent); Indianapolis, Indiana (6.9 percent); Cedar Rapids, Iowa (3.1 percent); Quebec, Canada (3.1 percent); Palm Bay, Florida (2.3 percent); San Diego, California (1.5 percent); and various locations inside and outside the continental U.S. (37.6 percent), and is expected to be completed in August 2024. Fiscal 2018 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $79,050,820 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposals; three offers were received. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity (N00019-18-C-1012).

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Halfneum: a cryptocurrency thought experiment

I wrote this elsewhere originally, but it got very little reaction, so I am editing it a bit and posting this here.

Cryptocurrencies are something sorta new, since bitcoin is now almost ten years old. When envisioned they were meant to be currencies, used to buy and exchange value. However, they have become far more like securities, where people speculate for the value increases and then cash out. Or "hodl," as they say, and then cash out when the price is really really, high. I have wondered for a long time what it would take to make a real digital currency.

How could you change the dynamic such that you have a relatively stable (value wise) currency with low cost trading, high speed transactions and all the incentives for the 'miners' to still stay in the game. Likewise you want something that does not inflate ridiculously either. That breaks the whole rule about price stability.

No cost transactions have been attempted, (re: [Fcoin]( The problem was the wild inflation that took place. Likewise, it's backend in the ethereum network as a token, was badly broken and, at times, crippled the that network.

Others have tried to tackle took many coins in circulation by using a Proof of Stake, where you are rewarded for holding the coins rather than buying and selling. The problem is the price will still go up and it outright encourages hoarding, which is anathema to stability since it creates whales and those whales at some point will, in fact, cash out. Then, boom and doom.

One potential idea is something like a 'proof of transaction' where the more the coin is traded by someone, they will be rewarded. This would function something like a percent off or something like the Starbucks stars or rewards program. The more you spend, the more you get rewarded in more of the same coins. Now, there are two problems, IMO, with this. The first is then you fall into the bot trap. It'd be really easy for a bot system to be set up to ping-pong the coins around. This would generate the coins and cause inflation. The work around is to cripple the reward amount based on how often the transactions are taking place, but that would be, again, run against the whole idea of getting people to use it like money. The second problem is rewarding people with more coin for using the coin is inflationary still. Even if mildly so, it would cause the coin to lose value over time. From an economist, POV, this encourages the transactions: use it today or it will be worth less tomorrow! But from the POV of the crypto community, this would be really bad. Who wants to have a coin that will lose value. However, if this is meant to be a transactional item, this would not be a terrible solution.

There is another potential solution. Another alternative 'proof of transaction' might be to have a 'timer' in the coin. If the coin sits in a wallet for more than a set time frame, ie is not used or is in 'hodl,' half the value of that coin is deleted. Call it a 'half life' for a coin. When the coin is transacted, the 'timer' is reset for that coin. The deduction or deletion, when it happens, is then sent to the miners. The short fall between coins deducted and the value of the mining, is awarded with newly generated coins. Given the half life algorithm, the miners are then encouraged to sell those coins or use it to buy, say, Starbucks, asap. There would be some inflation still, but so long as the coin is adopted and used in brick and mortar and popular websites, then it ought to be relatively easy to keep the use rate up.

That's the rub though: it has been really hard to get many companies to adopt using cryptocurrencies. Another problem is this could be abused. Some nontrivial thought needs to go into the security of the coin so that no one could trigger a mass 'decay' and swipe all the coins. Likewise, getting the decay algorithm right, or at least the period for the decay algorithm right is equally important. A year might be too long. A day is 1000% too short.

At any rate, I am curious what others think. I know many people - potentially most! - in the crypto community view the coins as investments rather than transactional money. My attempt here was not so much to try to create a new coin as examine a potential method to turn a cryptocurrency into a transactional currency rather than just an investment.

I would appreciate some thought and feedback from the community.   I am sure I am going to be mocked here, since everyone is talking about the 'next coin to the moon,' but, here we are.  

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Stealth Saga #77

Mystery Aircraft at Edwards AFB:

Is this a B-2?  A B-21?  Or an RQ-180?  The Aviationist and I get to disagree.

Sixth Generation Fighters:

The USAF Costs Analysis Agency has a list of suggestions on how to reduce the cost of the coming NGAD 6th gen fighter.

Saab wants in on the British Tempest Program.

A US General is stating the Tempest must be compatible with the F-35.

The time might actually be right for the Tempest.

The Tempest announcement made a clear statement of intent, some think.

Leonardo still thinks the EU might fund at least some of the Tempest despite Brexit.

Will Japan collaborate with the Brits on the the Tempest fighter?

Wired wants to introduce you to the Tempest fighter as well.


Meggitt won another contract for the KF-X.

F-313 Qaher:

Whatever happened to the Qaher?

Can the Iranian fighter actually fly?


The Russians continue to insist the Su-57 derived FGFA hasn't been cancelled.

Russian VSTOL:

The Russians are claiming their next carrier based aircraft will be a brand new, clean sheet VSTOL fighter.  Presumably, a 5th gen fighter.


Russia says they are still working on it, but some maintain pure interceptors are obsolete.


The Su-57 has been seen with an external targeting pod.  Picture here.  That almost confirms the Su-57 is not stealthy.

TASS has stated the Su-57 contract is still not signed, but will be by the end of summer.

The Russians have stated the Su-57 has met all its development goals, has the potential to become a UCAV and also has the potential to be upgraded for the next 50 years.

However, the Russians are now saying they have only ordered 2 Su-57s.

The Russians are stating the Su-57 will have advanced AI capabilities.


New photographs of the J-20 have come to light.  The construction of the J-20 is pretty impressive.

There are claims the J-20 is facing difficulty with the manufacturing process and mass production is years away.  This conflicts with the reports there have been 18 J-20s delivered in the first half of 2018 and six in 2017.

Does the J-20 have an electro-optical system like the F-35?

Another quick post on the J-20.


F-22s deployed to Spangendahlem AFB.

Two F-22s simulated dogfights with Norwegian F-35s.

F-22s deployed to Poland to participate in their Armed Forces Day Parade.

F-22s deployed to Spain to train with Spanish Eurofighters and F/A-18s.

Two F-22s deployed to Romania.


Retired, you say...

About that retirement.


P&W got a $24.6M contract for the engines for the LRIP lot 9 F-35s.

Will the F-35 program hit it target price?

Congress passed the defense budget.  77 F-35s were paid for.  20 F-35Bs, 9 F-35Cs and 48 F-35As.

Congress is preventing any transfers of the F-35 to Turkey because of the purchase of the S-400 SAM from Russia.  SecDef Mattis warned Congress NOT to do that.  However, it appears to be a 90 day hold rather than a true ban.  An oped on the whole thing.  Turkey is threatening international arbitration if the F-35 deal is blocked.  The legislation temporarily banning delivery of the F-35 to Turkey has become law.

The USAF is experimenting with 3d printing replacement parts for the F-35A.

Watch an F-35A train with its cannon.

A F-35A had an inflight emergency and then was taxing to park when its nose landing gear gave way.

An F-35B pilot had some frustrations with the aerial refueling process on the way to Britain.

The USMC is ordering special lightning rods for its F-35B fleet in Japan.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth has left Britain to go qualify with F-35Bs in the US.  Video of the ship's departure.

Watch a Dutch F-35A in 'beast mode' fly through the Sierra Nevada's in California.

An Israeli F-35 went live on an aircraft tracking website.

Was the missile strike that took out the Russian SAMs in Syria done by an Israeli F-35?

The first South Korean pilot has flown the F-35A.

South Korea is considering buying F-35Bs for carrier operations.  They are seeking a study as what must be done to cover their amphibs to carriers.

British aerospace got a contract for expendable decoys for the F-35.

Lockheed says F-35 manufacture remains on track and will deliver 91 F-35s in FY19.

Lockheed got a contract mod for $19M for the F-35.

Lockheed got a contract to adapt the ALIS maintenance system for foreign governments.

The F-35 fuselages pushed Northrop's bottomline up.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Is this the RQ-180?

Is this the RQ-180?

Black Projects are something of the exciting, wild west edge of aircraft development.  Their secrecy makes them wildly appealing, that which you are not supposed to know!  Their development happens far, far faster than in the open, so-called White Projects like the F-22 or F-35.  Turn around can be as fast as two to three years from the go button to an operational platform in the Black World, while the White World took almost two decades to get the F-35 into its initially operating capability status.  This makes the Black Projects a thing of excitement and mystery.  And something aviation watchers really, really want to find.

Most famously of the Black Projects is the F-117 Nighthawk, the first operational stealth aircraft.  More recently, the RQ-170 is another case of a black project that launched itself into the light in Kandahar, Afghanistan.  For a short time, it was called the Beast of Kandahar.  The remaining tail of the so-called stealth hawk used in the raid to kill Osama bin laden gave away its existence when special forces attempted to destroy it, but were only mostly successful.

On December 9th, 2013, Aviation Week ran an article on the existence of a much bigger UAV, one they dubbed the RQ-180.  It is supposed to be a flying wing or potentially a cranked kite aircraft.  The aircraft is supposed to be a high altitude recon UAV.  The manufacturer was supposed Northrop Grumman.  Once this aircraft was claimed to existed, the aviation watchers had themselves a new white whale.

One that may have been found.

In July 2018, I was approached by a some individuals I have been speaking with for a couple years now who have been camping outside of airbases in the Mojave snapping pictures.  Their hope and dream is to find and photograph a black aircraft that exist but are kept in secret from the world during the development and use.  If you have ever seen the movie Broken Arrow, the comment about guys in lawn chairs is pretty damned accurate.

The individuals I have been speaking with had established their bonafides before, discussing their finds and pictures for a couple years now, providing real, recent white world pictures and information that would come out about other systems days ahead of the publication curve.  I've been discreet about it.  One does not burn sources.

They think they found something, potentially the RQ-180.  Then "Zaphod58" provided the images.

The images were taken at night and the aircraft pictured looks a lot like the B-2.  The enthusiasts spent a good amount of time, weeks now, trying to prove to themselves it was not a B-2.  Some of their preliminary results are interesting.  They have convinced themselves it is not a B-2.  

They did NOT convince the USAF officially at least.  The photography enthusiasts reached out to the USAF to make sure they wouldn't get in trouble for publishing their photos: the time, date and information of where photos were taken was provided to the USAF.  The USAF responded and sent a review team. They USAF officially came back stating the aircraft is a B-2.  There was one B-2 at Edwards at the time.  However, the analysis the team did suggests the pictured aircraft is not a B-2.  However, it strongly suggests why the aircraft if, this is indeed an RQ-180, hasn't been spotted despite its size: it really, really looks like a B-2.  There are differences, but ones that would not be plainly visible to non AvGeeks.

The differences noted are.

1.  The nose gear is wrong for the B-2.

2.  The central fuselage is narrower than on the B-2.

3.  The intakes appear to be further apart from the center fuselage than on the B-2.

4.  The wingspan appears to be different than the B-2, 132 ft vs 172 ft.

5.  There appears to be a central, singular center line bomb bay.  The B-2 has two slightly off center symmetrically placed bomb bays.

6.  The engines were powered up at one point, but some of the secondary inlets were not open as would it would be on a B-2 on the ground.

Amongst others.

One of the striking bits that someone ought to take note of is bomb bay.  The AvWeek article indicated the RQ-180 was a high altitude recon aircraft.  A bomb bay would most likely mean the RQ-180 is a dual use, recon and strike platform.  Some have wondered why there seems to be a lack of any sort of evidence for a black strike UAV.  This might be why.  It was sitting under the noses of people thinking they were looking for a recon aircraft when it was really both.

Other noticeable differences as per above are the landing gear. On the B-2, the landing gear is attached to the strut. The people who photographed and analyzed the aircraft in the photos think the land gear does not appear to do so here. The central fuselage is narrower, but the entire aircraft appears to be 4 ½ feet lower than the B-2.

When presented with something like this, you need to ask how to either prove it beyond a doubt or look for flaws.  I thought I might see a way for both.

I did ask to see if they could run some imagery analysis, even rudimentary ones, for something specific.  The RQ-180 is supposed to be a flying wing or a cranked kite.  If it was a cranked kite, then it could be possible to detect the join where the wing meets the body of the aircraft.  This would be hard to refute proof the aircraft photographed was an RQ-180. Unfortunately, the Mojave even at night was too hot and distorted the imagery too much to be able to detect whether there was a join.

I also flagged what might be another bomb bay door and asked them to be sure.  They did some more analysis and came back convinced it is actually the power coming in via cables.

Neither the definitively pro RQ-180 was passed (can't tell if this is a cranked kite or not) nor was the refutation either: the possible bomb bay door, indicating two bays consistent with a B-2, seems to have been a bust as well.  Neither was strong either way.  So, the above, while interesting isn't quite a slam dunk.

With the response from the USAF being so 'meh,' the team then sent off the pictures for imagery analysis.  Unfortunately, that path too turned out inconclusive.  Could the differences in the pictures actually be just distortions caused by the July heat of Edwards AFB?  While possible, it doesn't seem to be the case.

That said, this looks like it is interesting and could very well be the RQ-180.  It makes sense why the RQ-180 has been able to be cloaked in secrecy for another 5 years after AvWeek made their claim on its existence: it looks a lot like a B-2.  For someone not an AvGeek or pro, this flying at night would be really, really hard to distinguish from a B-2, especially if it is 'just' a flying wing.  The inlets, for that matter, appear to have been recycled from the B-2 program.  If they work, reuse makes perfect sense.  Other parts are probably as well.  

Ironically, the USAF's response might actually be the strongest supporting evidence.  If the RQ-180 was not on the ground that night, they'd have not bothered sending anyone to check out what was photos were taken?  When they reviewed the photos, they might have just felt it was equivocal enough they need not bother.

The other possibility is that this was an early form of the B-21 Raider.  There are rumors a demonstrator was built by each team.  This then might be the winning demo.  That's the stance David Cenciotti at The Aviationist is taking.  He feels it is less likely to be a RQ-180 than a B-21 prototype.  From what I have heard in rumors about the B-21.  The inlets appear wrong, for one.  The photographed aircraft has more in common with the B-2, but, as noted, is has significant differences.

Is this the RQ-180?  Very strong maybe.  I think so, but I am not religiously convinced.  This was an amazing find and some great pix. We await newer, clearer pictures and/or the USAF coming clean to know for sure.

The DOD Space Force Report

Final Report on Organizational and Management Structure for the National Security Space Components of the Department of Defense

August 9, 2018

link. (warning, pdf)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

What is it?

This was 3d printed in China.  Some are saying its part of the fuselage of an aircraft.  Others are stating it is a mount for a radar array.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Hunt for the Red Pluto-ber

Russia has been working on a number of weapons to circumvent the American ballistic missile defense system. They apparently have more faith in the capability than we do. Or less in their ballistic missiles. Either way, the Russians have come up with some pretty crazy things to deal with these defenses. Almost all of their solutions, are as expected, to delivery nuclear weapons.

Two of the craziest of them were the nuclear armed strategic torpedo/unmanned underwater vehicle called the Poseidon (originally called Status-6) and the other was the Burevestnik, a nuclear powered cruise missile. Yes, nuclear powered. We'll get to that. The Poseidon is meant to be fired off and have it swim for thousands of miles to its target, such as a port city, and then either lie in wait or detonate on arrival. The Russians, true to form, have been talking about using it on US aircraft carrier battle groups. The other weapon is even crazier.

The Burevestnik (Storm Petrol, a type of sea bird), as stated, is a nuclear powered nuclear carrying cruise missile. It does carry a nuclear warhead. It also uses a nuclear reactor as a ramjet where it heats the air passing through to make it expand faster creating thrust. The US considered the design in the 1960s in Project Pluto. It was considered too insane to actually use and was abandoned. The Russians decided it was not insane because it gives them effectively, if they can make it work, unlimited range. The nuclear reaction in the reactor could keep the aircraft in the air for years. The downside is that it spews chunks of the reactor everywhere. That was actually a design feature in the original Project Pluto, btw, laying waste to the country side through supersonic shockwaves and leaving radioactive fallout all over the place. Nice, huh? The point though is that the missile could be fired south over Kazakhstan and then go all the way south over Antarctica before coming all the way up to hit the US in say, Florida.

The Russians have been testing this like crazy. Between November 2017 and February 2018, the Russians reportedly fired off four missiles. They all 'crashed.' From the sounds of it, these may have been launcher tests rather than tests of the missile itself. The times and ranges of the flight are pretty off if the reactor was actually on. However, if this was a case where a mass simulator (an inert body like aluminum) was being used with the rocket intended to launch the cruise missile up to ramjet speeds, then those tests make sense. After all, the russians did release a video of one of the cruise missiles followed by chase planes. You are not going to do that if it was a 22 second flight.

However! It may be on the 4th test, they attempted to launch a live reactor carrying cruise missile. The Warzone is reporting the Russians are sending ships to recover the missile from the Barents Sea. If this was a mass simulator, who cares? However, if it is a real missile, then the US and others might want to recover it. They sent a ship to recover a Mig and a sukhoi lost during the Russian flights off their carrier in support of their campaign in Syria for fear of what the US (or others) might find out from the wrecks salvaged from the seafloor. This would be worth about a million times more.

And the US has the capability to retrieve the missile wreck if they want to. That's in part what the USS Jimmy Carter, a heavily modified Seawolf class, is for.

So, we may have a race for whoever recovers the missile first.

You might call it the Hunt for the Red Pluto-ber.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Russians Can't Afford Their T-14 Tank

More than three years after Russia’s T-14 Armata tank made its widely touted and much scrutinized public debut, the country has made it clear it has no plans at present to buy more than 100 of them. The design’s ballooning cost has forced the Kremlin to focus its efforts on upgrading its T-72, T-80, and T-90 tanks, instead.

In 2015, Oleg Sienko, then-Chief Executive Officer of Uralvagonzavod, or UVZ, the T-14’s state-owned manufacturer and Russia’s largest producer of tanks, had said that he expected the Kremlin to order as many as 2,300 Armatas by 2020. The first examples made their initial public appearance ahead of the annual Victory Day parade in Moscow that year and one suffered an embarrassing break down during a rehearsal. The Russian government's planned purchases of the type have steadily shrunk since then.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Pondering the Precambrian #10


The Ediacaran's Palaeopascichnus linearis appears to be the oldest macroscopic organism.

Exceptinal preservation of biomarkers was found in Ediacaran deposits from the Eastern European Craton.

The paleoenvironmental change gets examined leading up to the Gaskiers Glaciation in the Ediacaran.

The interglacial timeframe in the Cryogenian appears to should anoxic marine waters in South China.

The end of the Cryogenian Sturtian Glaciation according to new dating techniques supports a global and rapid deglaciation consistent with the snowball earth scenario.

At the dawn of the Sturtian glaciation during the Cryogenian, solar activity left no sign of any change.

Stromatoveris appears to be a survivor from the Ediacaran into the Cambrian.


During the Stenian, the marine ecosystems were dominated by bacteria.

There is evidence of increased, but still limited biological productivity from the Ectasian/Calymmian boundary in Canada.


There is evidence in from an Orosirian lake in Russia, that methanotrophic and autophototrophic biomes lived in the same body of water.

Orosirian micrometer fossils were identified using laser ablation mass spectrometry.

Researchers attempted to model the GOE atmosphere and had an interesting result regarding methane.

Evidence from the Boolgeeda Iron Formation in Australia suggests shallow water oxygenation took place while the iron banded formations were being deposited.

The Kaapvaal Craton shows evidence of subduction at the Archean/PaleoProterozoic Boundary.


Shallow waters in South Africa just prior to the Great Oxygenation Event were still anoxic.

The disappearance of certain sulfur compounds appears to make a good proxy for the rise of oxygen in the Archean atmosphere.

There seems to have been intermittent surface ocean oxygenation prior to the Great Oxygenation Event during the NeoArchean.

There is evidence of continental collisions and subduction from the MesoArchean.

There is evidence of bacterial mats inhabiting terrestrial environments during the late PaleoArchean.

There is also evidence of bacterial speciation from the PaleoArchean deposits of Pilbara, Australia.

The Strelley Pool micro fossils from the PaleoArchean appear to be biological.

Friday, August 17, 2018

PM Modi Announces Indian Manned Spaceflight Attempt in 2022

As part of his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Modi announced India will attempt their first manned spaceflight in 2022. There is almost no detail about what is planned. We can make some conjectures though.

We know based on their recent pad abort test that India will be using a more tradition capsule. This will be like most of the current spacefaring nations, the current Russian Soyuz (and dubiously coming Federation), the coming American Orion, Starliner and Dragon and the Chinese Shenzhou. The outliers are the American DreamChaser and the possible Chinese spaceplane coming circa 2022. The capsule will almost certainly launch on the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle III rocket: the initial suborbital test of the rocket carried a test capsule to reentry and recovery technologies.

There's little information on the life support equipment or thruster tests, but given if the Soviet Union and United States of the 1960s could develop this stuff very rapidly, I imagine the rest India hasn't talked about publicly (or I have missed) should be relatively easy to do. India could very well make this deadline.

The bigger problem for India is India: they have a very slow development cycle. The Tejas fighter makes the F-35 development cycle seem speedy. Their indigenous carrier and nuclear sub programs have been going on for 40 years and almost made it to the point of finishing their first examples. If they can cut through the red tape, then India can get this done: they have plenty of very smart people. It's the red tape that seems to be so impressively painful there that will cause them to miss this deadline, not their technical capabilities.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Did Digital Globe Snap a Picture of a Chinese "Fast Mover" UAV?

Jane's ran a story this morning claiming a Digital Globe satellite snapped images on June 7th and June 10th a possible new unmanned aerial vehicle was spotted at Malan air base in western China. The link has since gone 404.

That said, I went and did a little asking in other circles about the image.

I was provided with:

The unknown aircraft is superficially similar to the Dark Sword UAV that caused some hullabaloo in June.  Interestingly, the Dark Sword photo popped up on June 5th.  The photo above was supposed to be taken by Digital Globe on June 7th and seen again on June 10th.  The time is interesting, but may just be a coincidence.

The primary difference between this aircraft and the Dark Sword is the wings look...wrong.  Everything looks lined up here and without the angled out wings for the Dark Sword.  OTOH, that could be an artifact for of the resolution of the satellite.  I'm not convinced, to be honest.

Jane's does note, in the now nuked article, there are two known high speed UAVs in development by China.  The preview does not state what they are or if the Dark Sword is one of them.  It should be noted, the shape of this aircraft is quite similar to the various images Lockheed put out of the proposed SR-72.  A purported sighting of a flying SR-72 UAV was seen recently in Texas, fwiw.

The aircraft to the right of the triangular bird is a Soaring Dragon, a joint or tandem wing UAV.  That aircraft is 47 ft long.  That would give our new unknown a length of between 30 to 40 ft (9m to 12m).  The wingspan only looks to be between 10 to 15 ft (3m to 4.5m) at most.  

It should be noted this COULD be a hoax.  Whether a prank or misinformation by the PLAAF on anyone looking at Malan AB.  Or it could be some other sort of hoax.  Healthy skepticism should be kept.

However, it should be noted that just because its Chinese, doesn't mean its not possible.  Indeed, the laws of physics don't care what color your flag happens to be.  They work the same for everyone.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

China Tested a Mach 6 Waverider

China has reportedly conducted the maiden flight of a new hypersonic test vehicle, achieving speeds of Mach 5.5 for over six minutes, and reaching Mach 6.

The test of the unmanned system, designated Starry Sky 2, took place recently in Northwestern China, reports the official China Daily newspaper.

During the flight the vehicle reached an altitude of 30km and undertook several maneuvers.

The wedge-shaped vehicle was initially lifted by a solid propellant rocket, before detaching and performing its flight. China Daily reports that the aircraft is a “waverider,” using its own shock waves to generate lift.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Paleolithic Papers #22

Genus Homo:

What restricted hominin living locations in middle Pleistocene China?

Could the evolution of human beings be the root cause of some mental disorders?

H. sapiens:

Discovery of spearheads and other points in Gault, TX indicate a new, previously unknown and unique stone tool tradition that predates the Clovis culture.

The models of how the Americas were populated get a run down.

Modern humans may have arisen from pockets of semi isolated populations in Africa.

Did modern humans dominate the world because we specialized at being generalists?

The modern pygmy population of Flores, Indonesia shows evidence of Denisovan and Neandertal introgression, but not of older hominins.  This (amongst other information) indicates insular dwarfism arose twice on Flores with two different hominin species and the Hobbits are not related to the modern Rampasasa people of Flores.

H. neanderthalensis:

The Krapina Neandertals used their anterior teeth for tasks other than eating based on their tooth fractures.

Neandertals apparently had a different ontogeny went it came to walking.

Some caution is being urged at using microbiota of the mouth as evidence of the interbreeding between modern humans and Neandertals.

Neandertals appear to have fire starting tools.

H. erectus:

Stone tools from China date from 2.1 million years ago, pushing back in time the exit from Africa by 400kya.  The question is which hominin this is.  H. erectus seems the most likely, but that would mean H. erectus is older than we thought.  John Hawks appears to support the idea this is H. erectus and states there is at least one other Chinese site that has similar dates.

There is a pelvis found that is close to modern humans',  but apparently is really from H. erectus given the rest of the skeleton.  It may be the modern human pelvis was part of the normal variation of later H. erectus.

Island dwarfism in canids during the Pleistocene in Java could have implications for H. erectus and the potential evolution of the 'hobbits,' H. floresiensis.

Did...laziness (?!?!) doom H. erectus?

H. habilis:

The use, reuse and creation of tools at the Oldowan technological site HWK EE.

H. naledi:

3 specimens from the Rising Star cave give some insight into the variation in H. naledi.

Genus Australopithecus:

The hominin jaw underwent significant change in the earliest australopithecines.

A. afarensis and A. sediba walked bipedally differently.

The Swartkrans Oldowan site provided some interesting differences between other Oldowan stone tool sites.


A 2 million year long perspective of the hydroclimatic environment of human evolution in Southeast Africa.

Eating bone marrow shaped the evolution of the hominin hand.

Trabecular bone patterning in the human hand hints at changes as to how the hand was used by hominins.

Friday, August 10, 2018

US Congress is Mandating Space Based Weapons

U.S. lawmakers from the House and Senate have agreed on a final version of the approximately $716 billion defense spending bill for the 2019 fiscal year, which requires the U.S. military begin work on developing new warning satellites to spot incoming ballistic missiles and weapons to blow them up from space. The draft law requires the Missile Defense Agency to pursue these programs even if it argues against them in an up-coming ballistic missile defense strategy review, which might be setting the Pentagon up for a battle with Congress, but might also highlight the opinions of certain senior U.S. military leaders.

Legislators announced they had agreed on a single version of the law, formally known as the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, on July 23, 2018. The House expects to put the measure to a vote by the end of the month and then send it to the Senate in August 2018. If it passes both chambers, then it would go to President Donald Trump to become law.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

INS Vikrant Aircraft Carrier to Start Sea Trials by Early 2020

Sea trials of the indigenously built aircraft carrier, Vikrant, are expected to commence by early 2020, a Defence spokesperson said on Thursday. The Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Project was reviewed by defence secretary Sanjay Mitra at Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) in Kochi, he said.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Robopocalypse Report #106


A report claims 13% of all drones will have an embedded sim card and LTE capability by 2022.

Abu Dhabi is conducting trials for constructions site inspection by drone.

Aerovironment is building a helicopter drone for NASA for use on Mars.

Airbus is preparing is Zephyr S solar powered drone to be an internet hub.

Amazon just patented using airships as giant floating aerial warehouses for drones to deliver from.

An Arizona based man developed a drone based anti drowning system.

Australia's Hunter's Valley is going to use drones for agricultural and inspection work.

The Boise Fire Department has been authorized by the FAA to use drones to combat wildfires.

The British government with a foundation has released a report about drone use in its cities.

A British bill would ban children from owning drones larger than a certain size.

California's Air National Guard is lending a hand in the Carr fire by using its Reaper drone.

A drone is monitoring a Cape Town farm's crops and helping to reduce chemical use by 30%.

You can control a drone with your torso rather than a joy stick.  Apparently, its more effective.

A new drone is designed to avoid crashing damage in a way inspired by insects.

A drone light show was incorporated into an airshow for the first time.

DARPA's Fast Lightweight Autonomy program has finished phase 2.

DJI is making it easier for commercial drone operators to unlock the geofencing on their drones.

Watch a drone be used to fight a fire in a high rise.

Flight Week saw expert drone jockeys study storms, weather patterns and cattle.

A Flightwave drone is being used for a study of marine life in the Pacific.

Flytrex is preparing to start food deliveries in North Carolina via drone.

Ft Collins, Colorado's mayor has joined the FAA's drone advisory board.

The Future Flight Consortium has been selected by Singapore to test urban drone applications.

German researchers are trying to control drones via cellular voice channels.

Google spent a lot of time and energy to get the hook right for its delivery drones.

Growtopia Farms has been using drones for herbicide delivery.

Harris County, TX has been catching illegal garbage dumping in Houston using drones.

In the Himalayas, a drone was used to find a missing climber.

India is expected to reverse the ban on recreational drone use this October.

Intel just flew 2018 drones in a single display swarm setting a record.

Remains of a 5,000 year old Irish monument were found via drone.

Ireland's Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology will use drones to check lake water quality.

Irish startup DroneSAR plans on making search and rescue less expensive.

Two recent near misses between drones and aircraft at the Jersey airport in the Channel Islands raises concerns.

Kesper's new program for drones can find building specific damage using IR.

Komatsu and Propeller Aero have teamed for 3d mapping of construction projects.

Marin County Sheriff is starting a drone program.

In Mongolia, drones are being used to hunt dinosaur bones.

Nevada has started a drone safety center.

North Dakota State Univesity has a drone that can spray 33 acres of farmland with herbicide in an hour minutes.

Can pro drone racing overcome its perception of being flying toys?

Teaching helicopters to fly themselves is rather challenging.

UAVOS' HAPS solar powered long endurance UAV is under development and the prototype has a 46 ft wing span but only weighs 33 lbs.

The Uniform Law Commission, a nonprofit, has proposed some very specific antitrepassing laws for drones, ones that the Commercial Drone Association very strongly opposes.

The state of Virginia just doubled its R&D budget for drones to $6M.

VTO Labs can retrieve a LOT of information from damaged drones.

Worldplay wants to fix the delivery problem for drones by having a delivery mat that IDs the proper customer before the drone drops off the package.

Self Driving Cars:

Baraja has a new type of lidar for self driving cars.

Bosch just launched a road service alert system for self driving cars.

Take a look at the world from the POV of's self driving car tech. has started providing rides with its self driving cars as part of an Uber like system in Frisco, TX.  The rides are geofenced and there is still a safety driver.

Ford has just spun out is self driving car work into a separate company.

Inrix has developed software that allows cities to compile a list of its laws in a computer friendly manner.

Phantom Auto will be testing its self driving cars in Sacramento.

Roborace is still pursuing its dream of self driving race cars.

A self driving bus is being tested at Times Square in NYC.

Tesla is quietly working on its own chips for self driving cars.

Uber has resumed testing its self driving car in Pittsburgh, but only controlled by people. Meaning its not really self driving.

Uber has also ended its self driving truck program.

Waymo's self driving cars are putting 25,000 miles per day every day now.

Waymo is teaming up with Walmart for grocery pick-up in Phoenix.

Waymo is testing rides to and from public transit.

Can Waymo's self driving cars fix Phoenix's public transit?

Startup Zoox is building a bidirectional self driving taxi from the ground up.

Zoox has been testing their vehicle in San Francisco.

3d Printing:

Lockheed just printed a titanium spherical end piece for a fuel tank.  This is the largest, by far, part printed for use in space.

A Russian firm announced what appears to be the world's largest construction 3d printer.

You can legally download 3d printable guns next month.  A judge blocked gun control groups from stopping the 3d printed gun designs from being released.  20 states are suing to stop the files from being placed online.  The effort may be moot: more than 1,000 people have already downloaded the plans for 3d printing the AR-15.  A Seattle judge blocked the sale of 3d printed guns, for now.  A meta discussion.

Some are calling for people to take a stand on 3d printed guns, but not for the reason you'd think.

3d printing the next gen of rocket engines.

Gefertec claims it has a new wire fed 3d metal printing technology for aerospace.

3d printing the next generation of batteries.

3d printed implants can help bone grow.


Boston Dynamics is gearing up to build 1,000 mini spot robot dogs per year.

Meet the centaur-esque Centauro robot.

Cornell has developed a bot to display emotions.

DARPA is working on insect size (cm to mm) robots.

MIT has developed circuits for cell sized robots to detect their surroundings.

Rolls Royce is developing tiny robots to fix planes.

RSTAR is a new search and rescue bot.

Robots that teach robots.

A new robotic hand can gently catch deep sea creatures.

And another was also developed.

The robo subs of antarctica.

Robots working together can determine the best order for their tasks.

Using a software bot this robotic hand learned how to grasp like a human.  Thanx, OpenAI!

And the winners of the 2018 robotic art contest are...? But can a robot truly make art?

Japan's Yanmar has developed robotic tractors for farming.

Russia may send its own robots to the International Space Station.


What would you do with a robotic mentally controlled limb?

Why are Swedes inserting chips into their bodies?


Musk states promises of automation at the Tesla factory were more headaches than anything.

Carlsberg, a Danish beverage company, is making a beer sniffer to speed up new beer development.

A bot has been made to test and assess the mixing and reactions of different chemicals.

A look inside Moderna Therapeutics' factory.

Walmart is testing an automated system for online grocery orders.

Software Bots:

AI can be sexist and racist.

AI Box may have been onto something.

Amazon's facial recognition software often misIDs people including 28 lawmakers.

Bots may be forced to reveal they are bots if a bill in California gets passed.

Fox has a software bot that predicts the success of a movie based on its trailer.

Google's Deep Mind is having some issues with its software not being able to create catchy music.

Google is building virtual agents to handle call center work.

Google Docs uses software bots to catch your grammar mistakes.

Google Glass is back with an AI.   How long until the BrainPal(tm)?

Google Ventures has an algorithm that decides whether or not to invest or not in a startup.

IBM Watson recommended cancer treatments that were unsafe and incorrect.

LG is opening an a new AI lab in Toronto.

Microsoft developed a Zork-like dungeon generator to improve its bots' language comprehension.

Microsoft and National Geographic have teamed up for a software bot research grant.

NIST designed an optical chip for neural networks.

Pinscreen is being sued by an ex engineer claiming the AI avatar tech it has was faked.

Salesforce bought an Israeli AI marketing biz.

A software bot has been developed to predict the effects of mutations in the 'dark zones' of the human genome.

Software bots can potentially untangle the data from a brain scan.

In China, a software bot predicted a superhard tungsten nitride variant.

Software bots can help monitor water supplies.

Software bots are conducting a secret war over website scraping.

Software bots can be fouled with 3d printing and stickers.

Software bots can predict your personality based on tracking your eyes.

Software bots have brought the robopocalypse for bankers, especially at Nordea.

Software bots are being used to spot roadwork that needs doing like potholes to improve efficiency.

A software bot is being used to plan radiation therapy for cancer treatments.

Software bots who pose as nonwhite women online get the most abuse.

UCLA has 3d printed a hardware system for a software bot to be able to ID objects.

UNC Chapel Hill is using software bots to create new drugs.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are proposing an analog computer design for AI.

Because Venmo transactions are public, a bot has been tweeting all the people who bought drugs with the app.

Voice Assistants still have a problem understanding accents.

Someone is looking at using software bots to clean up wikipedia's gender biases.

Wired discusses the rise of purely computer generated celebrities.


3,000 years of pondering the robopocalypse.  Sorta.

One of the creators of West World said we should not be afraid of artificial intelligence, but rather we should be afraid of artificial stupidity.

Friday, August 03, 2018

There's not Enough Sequestered Gases on Mars for Terraforming

Science fiction writers have long featured terraforming, the process of creating an Earth-like or habitable environment on another planet, in their stories. Scientists themselves have proposed terraforming to enable the long-term colonization of Mars. A solution common to both groups is to release carbon dioxide gas trapped in the Martian surface to thicken the atmosphere and act as a blanket to warm the planet.

However, Mars does not retain enough carbon dioxide that could practically be put back into the atmosphere to warm Mars, according to a new NASA-sponsored study. Transforming the inhospitable Martian environment into a place astronauts could explore without life support is not possible without technology well beyond today's capabilities.

Although the current Martian atmosphere itself consists mostly of carbon dioxide, it is far too thin and cold to support liquid water, an essential ingredient for life. On Mars, the pressure of the atmosphere is less than one percent of the pressure of Earth's atmosphere. Any liquid water on the surface would very quickly evaporate or freeze.

Proponents of terraforming Mars propose releasing gases from a variety of sources on the Red Planet to thicken the atmosphere and increase the temperature to the point where liquid water is stable on the surface. These gases are called "greenhouse gases" for their ability to trap heat and warm the climate.

"Carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor (H2O) are the only greenhouse gases that are likely to be present on Mars in sufficient abundance to provide any significant greenhouse warming," said Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado, Boulder, lead author of the study appearing in Nature Astronomy July 30.

Although studies investigating the possibility of terraforming Mars have been made before, the new result takes advantage of about 20 years of additional spacecraft observations of Mars. "These data have provided substantial new information on the history of easily vaporized (volatile) materials like CO2 and H2O on the planet, the abundance of volatiles locked up on and below the surface, and the loss of gas from the atmosphere to space," said co-author Christopher Edwards of Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona.

The atmospheric pressure would be the same as 61,000 feet on Earth and would still require a pressure suit to go outside.

Let's not forget the perchlorates.  They make up .5% of Martian soil and are toxic to humans.