Sunday, October 13, 2019

Russia is Expanding its Hmeymim Airbase in Syria

Russia's Hmeymim airbase in Syria currently hosts about 30 warplanes and helicopters but will be able to accommodate more aircraft after the reconstruction, a base official said. This reported by Sputnik.

"The second runway is being reconstructed, which will increase its capabilities. New hangars have been built, in which aircraft are kept. These structures protect against possible attacks of combat drones, as well as from rain and direct sunlight", the official said.

According to the officer, there are currently about 30 aircraft at the airbase, including Su-35S fighter jets, Su-34 fighter-bombers and Su-24 attack aircraft, as well as Mi-35 attack helicopters and Mi-8AMTSh assault transport helicopters.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Robopocalypse Report #120


Audi unveiled an offroad EV vehicle concept with drones for headlights.

China unleashed an army of drones to wipe out the armyworm infestations in the southern part of the country and seems to have wiped out 98% of them.

Cities are trying to plan for self driving cars.  again.

Flying a drone responsibly turns out to be surprisingly hard.

Drones are being used to study the Amazon Rain Forest's health.

Drones are being used to detect pot shards for archaeology.

There is a surge in drone development.

Google's Wing drones will start delivering FedEx and Walgreen's deliveries.

The first hurricane relief drone was ready to fly, but Hurricane Dorian smashed those plans.

Imperial College's Flying Fish drone literally explodes out of the water.

Parrot's latest drone package includes an immersive virtual cockpit.

Russian police and security forces received special permission to shoot down drones.

Skydio has a drone to challenge DJI with.

UPS has the first delivery drone service approved by the FAA.

Watch UAV Turbines micro turbine powered UAV fly.

Self Driving Cars:

Who is driving the self driving car job market?

A study finds Americans would prefer to drive themselves rather than use a self driving car.

With Levandowski being indicted for 33 felonies, will Silicon Valley change its lack of morality? (hint, probably not)

The NTSB has stated a 2018 Tesla crash was partially caused by the Autopilot software.

Aptiv and Hyundai have teamed up.

Daimler has started testing its self driving trucks on public roads.

Ford is bringing its self driving cars to Austin, TX.

GMV is building a satellite based nav system for self driving cars for BMW.

University of Michigan's self driving cars are using Verizon's 5G network now.

People are reporting collisions with Teslas using the Summon feature.  It doesn't always work.  And can end badly.

Tesla's Smart Summon has been used over a half million times,.

Tesla seems to have acquired DeepScale.

Uber has started mapping Dallas' streets for its self driving cars.

Why we should be thrilled with Waymo's go-slow approach to developing self driving cars.

3d Printing:

A Chicago based startup has 3d printed a mini human heart.

GE has been pursuing the quest for 3d printing a passenger plane engine.

Harvard scientists have created a new, more efficient way of 3d printing organs, including the blood vessels.

There is a new technique for 3d printing biomaterials.


Boston Dynamics' Atlas is now capable of being a gymnast.

Boston Dynamics' Spot is now commercially available.

Long distance heart surgery has been accomplished.

Picnic has a robot that can make 300 pizzas/hour.

Remote controlled lizard robots were used to study Galapagos lava lizard behavior.

Robots are being built to kill invasive species.

A robotic gripper has been developed to mimic the human touch.

Robot surgeons are starting to rival human ones.

Robots built a house in Switzerland.

Scientists have built micro bio hybrid robots.

Squid inspired robots!

Starship's delivery bots are now making deliveries at Purdue University.

Toyota has started training robots via a VR interface.


A mind reading interface attached to an exoskeleton allowed a paralyzed man walk again.


A special glove has been designed for prosthetic hands.

Synthetic skin has potential for virtual reality and amputees.

A new robotic hand has been developed for amputees.

New reconfigurable electronics show promise to implantable tech.

A prominent German neuroscientist committed misconduct in brain reading research.

A new prosthetic leg allows amputees to feel the robotic feet and knees in real time.

Biohackers implanted a hard drive in a person's leg.


The biggest market in the US for software bot controlled cameras is the schools.

There is an argument to protect American workers from automation.

Software bot driven surveillance has expanded worldwide.

Software Bots:

Google is bringing its Assistant to people without internet.

Intel wants to use software bots to repair spinal nerves.

McDonald's is replacing the person at the drive up sign with a software bot.

OpenAI's bots learned to pay hide and seek.

Should AI researchers get special access visas for traveling?

Deep learning powers finger tip tracking.

A software bot designed a molecule,. It appears to have drug like properties.

Should you care software bots are being used for hiring?

Software bots should not be used to oppress minorities.

Can software bots spot liars?

Software bots are used to ID primate faces in the wild.

A software bot has successfully passed an 8th grade science test.

A software bot was used to mimic a CEO's voice to steal money.

Software bots are being used for heart attack prediction.

Have software bots killed off spam and we didn't notice?

Software bots could revolutionize medicine or make it hell.

Software bots can pass standardized tests but would fail at preschool.

Software bots are being used in the quantum lab.

Software bots are being used to predict outcomes for radiation therapy use for throat and neck cancers.

Software bots are being used to ID genes associated with heart failure.

Software bots are being used to predict depression outcomes.

Software bots can outperform some employees in sales by 400%.

Software bots are being used to improve eye tests.

Software bots are being used to predict climate stress for African farmers.

Software bots are being used to probe dark matter.

Software bots are being used in clinical trials.

Software bots could make health care inequality worse if care is not taken.

Software bots are getting to be as good as people in medical diagnoses.

Software bots that read privacy policies are getting pretty good.

Software bots may not be able to protect us from deep fakes.

Software bots will not save us from deep fakes (again).

Software bots with blind spots might be key to privacy.

Software bots can help with pneumonia x rays.

Software bots can help with biomedical imaging.

Yacht used a software bot to help create their latest album.


NYC Mayor de Blasio wants a tax on robots.

Some are criticizing some backlash for the robopocalypse originating in Silicon Valley.

Asimov's 3 Laws are useless.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

China Leaked the Video of an Unknown Ground Launched Missile

China appears to have accidentally revealed the existence of a new high-speed ground-launched missile. A brief glimpse of what looks to be a test launch of this previously unseen weapon emerged earlier this week in an official video released in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Communist State on Oct. 1. There have already been indications that a number of new or otherwise previously unseen aircraft, missiles, and other systems will be present at a major parade in Beijing to mark the occasion next week.

The People's Liberation Army Rocket Force, or PLARF, posted the full video on social media on Sept. 25, 2019. Sometime afterward, the original one-minute long montage was replaced with one that omitted the launch of the unknown weapon and replaced it with unrelated footage of known missiles, according to the South China Morning Post.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Terminator Times #63

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones):

DARPA's Gremlins project has been delayed due to the earthquake damage at China Lake.

The NGA may be interested in an ISR version of the MQ-25 for maritime surveillance.

The US military is interested in small hard kill interceptor drones to kill drones.

The USAF's Reapers will test out SRC's Agile Condor pod.

A USAF drone strike killed 30 pine nut workers in Afghanistan.

The USAF's XQ-58A Valkyrie can be armed with 2 air to air missiles and the USAF is looking to tailor the airworthiness process for attritable aircraft like the Valk.

The US Army tested using a Gray Eagle with a Chinook.

The US Army is seeking an American made quadcopter.

The US Navy's MQ-25 tanker drone prototype has flown.  A boring flight test was what they hoped for and got.

The US Navy's Trition is off to Guam.

Britain signed a £100 million contract for its Protector UAV.

Britain's Protector is getting closer to civilian airspace approval.

China appears to be ready to unveil the Malan triangle UAV at the upcoming military parade.  And they did!  This is the WZ-8, a high speed recon UAV.  It appears to be in service.

China and Serbia are deepening their UAV cooperation.  China is giving Serbia nine Wing Loong UAVs.

China's Sharp Sword carrier based UAV is claimed to be entering service by the end of the year.  It may be the aircraft may NOT be carrier based, but in service already.  It did get displayed at the October 1st military parade.

China's reported plan to put a ISR drone on its carriers makes sense to some.

Finland has finished trials of the S-100 Camcopter.

Hezbollah in Lebanon claims to have shot down an Israeli drone.

Houthi drones attacked crude oil sources at two Aramco plants in Saudi Arabia and have disrupted the supply, at least for a short time.  An estimated ten drones made the attack.  The Houthi attack knocked out half the Saudi crude oil supply.  One senior US administration official stated the attacks didn't come from the Houthi.  The Houthis state the refineries are still targets.  Saudi Arabia presented evidence of the origin of the drones that attacked.

How DID drones take out 5% of the world's oil supply?

The Houthis are threatening the UAE.

Drone attacks like the Houthi against the Saudis are not considered a danger to the US.

An Indian UAV crashed during a test flight.

78% of all Israeli flight ops last year were UAV flights.

NATO is not prepared for drone attacks like what hit the Saudis.

Russia has started MUM-T testing between the Ohotnik-B UAV and the Su-57:

Future Russian drones might be fitted with a simplified version of the Su-57's comm system.

Russia will have a new version of the Orlan-10 UAV soon.

Turkey unveiled its Akinci UCAV.

Turkey downed a UAV violating its airspace.

AeroVironment showcased its Vapor UAV.

BAe is likely to buy Prismatic and jointly built the PHASA-35 UAV.

Bell is pushing the V-247 tilt rotor UAV for the USMC and use in the USN in general.

Crew Training International won a contract mod to support the MQ-9.

Drone Evolution has launched its drone tethering solution.

FlareBright's mini UAV is intended as a tactical recon element.

KAI's Night Intruder VTOL UAV has taken flight.

MBDA is developing a swarming EW version of its Spear munition, blurring the lines between missile and drone.

Northrop won a $375.8M contract to support the MQ-4C Triton.

UAVOS and Stratodynamics HiDRON stratospheric glider UAV reached a new altitude record of 98,000 ft.

Yates has started production of its 900 kg cargo glider drone, the Silent Arrow.

Unmanned Ground Vehicles (Bolos and Ogres):

The US Army test fired a Javelin missile from a Titan/Themis UGV.

Will the LLAMA succeed for the US Army where the Big Dog failed?

France ordered 56 UGVs from Nexter.

Norway has ordered more FLIR Packbots.

BAe Australia is building an autonomous version of the M113 APC.

Elta demonstrated its self driving AFV for the Israeli army.

Rheinmetall unveiled the plan to mount 70mm rockets on its Mission Master UGV.

Rheinmetall's Supacat is optionally manned/semi autonomous mortar system.

Unmanned Surface Vehicles (Ro Boats):

The US Navy claims a stronger technical background in USVs than its critics think.

The Sea Hunter's controls might be adapted to the USMC LCUs making them unmanned hovercraft.

The USMC is looking into the CUSV USV.

The USMC & USN are looking at USVs to bolster USMC capabilities.

Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (robo subs):

The US Navy tested UUVs in frigid conditions in Alaska.

General Dynamics has unveiled its new Bluefin-21 UUV.

Hydroid won a $52.3M contract mod for more Knifefish UUVs.

China unveiled its HSU-001 UUV.

3d Printing:

The USAF is using 3d printing to improve readiness.

The US Army is ramping up its use of 3d printing.

Indian companies have signed an accord to collaborate on 3d printing for defense use.

A ruggedized 3d bioprinter is meant for military medical applications.


The USMC is considering an exoskeleton for cargo work.

Software Bots:

Boeing Australia is working on AI there.


NATO exercised its unmanned assets off of Portugal.

An ex Google engineer warned autonomous weapons can cause mass shootings.

Friday, October 04, 2019

The Kruger 60 Star System may be the Origin of Interstellar Comet C/2019 Q4 Borisova


Dybczyński et al


An interstellar comet C/2019 Q4 was discovered on August 30 by an amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov at MARGOT observatory (Crimea). One of the obvious questions is where does this object come from. Taking an orbit obtained by Nakano and published by MPC in CBET 4670 we numerically integrated the motion of C/2019 Q4, the sun and 647 stars or stellar systems from our list of potential stellar perturbers of cometary motion. As a result we obtained that 1 Myr ago C/2019 Q4 passed double star Kruger 60 at a small distance of 1.74 pc having an extremely small relative velocity of 3.43 km/s. Almost the same results were obtained from our own orbital solutions.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

China has Launched its First Type 075 Amphibious Helicopter Carrier

China’s first amphibious assault ship, a Landing Helicopter Dock known as Type 075, was launched in Shanghai on Thursday.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN or Chinese Navy), the customer of the vessel, said in a statement that after a brief ceremony starting at 9:20 am at a CSSC’s Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard, waters began to be pumped into a dry dock in which the ship’s hull was built.

Participants at the ceremony – officials from the central and Shanghai governments, officers from the Central Military Commission’s Equipment Development Department and the PLA Navy, executives of the State-owned conglomerate China State Shipbuilding Corp as well as the vessel’s designers and construction workers – applauded as they watched the launch process, the statement said, without providing more details about the event.

According to the PLAN, the new class of ship was domestically developed and constructed. It will have a strong capability to carry out amphibious combat and other tasks.


As for its specifications, rumors speak of “36,000 tons of displacement”, “capacity of 28 helicopters”, “diesel engine with the 9,000 kW 16PC2-6B” and “four CIWS including two HQ-10 and two H/PJ-11”.

While the Type 075 appears to slightly smaller than the U.S. Navy’s LHA, it is larger compared to French or Spanish/Australian LHD equivalents. It is actually pretty close in size to Italy’s future Trieste LHD.

The first Type 075 was constructed in record time (this has become the norm nowadays, for Chinese shipbuilding: extremely fast construction pace that no one can match). A second vessel of the class is already under construction while a larger version is rumored to be planned.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Paleolithic Papers #32

Genus Homo:

H. sapiens (modern humans):

Stone tools have been recovered from Cooper's Ferry, Idaho (USA) dating from 16,000 years ago.

Was the basal most H. sapiens surprisingly modern 500,000 years ago?

Human hearts evolved for endurance.

Foot prints have been found on Calvert Island, British Columbia dating from over 10,000 years ago.

H. neanderthalensis (Neandertals):

There was a shift at a single site of how stone tools were made during Late Acheulian the at Caune de l’Arago.

Did modern humans and Neandertals keep interbreeding over a long period?

Did the Neandertal Eustachian tube contribute to their extinction?

Neandertals were more innovative with their tools than normally credited.

The Neandertals footprints give insight into their social lives.

How Neandertals used birds, including their feathers, in the Qesem Cave, Israel.


Denisovans seem to have had fingers more like modern humans than Neandertals.

Using genetics and epigenetics, researchers have reconstructed the shape of the face of at least one Denisovan.  The facial features are distinct from Neandertals and modern humans.

The introgression of Denisovan genetics into modern humans gave us an immunity boost.

Sima de los Huesos Hominin

At least one of the Simea de los Huesos proto Neandertals seems to have been murdered.

One of the hominins at Sima de los Huesos had a pathological growth for its ears.  It might not have made the individual deaf after all.

The cochlea evolution of the Simea de los Huesos Hominins gets examined.

H. naledi:

H. naledi's baby teeth were unique.

Genus Paranthropus:

P. robustus:

The femural neck of P. robustus gets examined.

Genus Australopithecus:

What were the Australopithecines?

Australopithecines seem to have breast fed longer than their contemporaries.

A. anamensis:

A nearly complete skull of A. anamensis gives a face to the species and shows evolution is messy showing even in hominins species often overlap in time.


The trabecular boot gets examined in 4 different hominins.

Humans are unique in how they digest fatty foods.

Did a single gene mutation 3.3 million years ago make hominins prone to heart attacks?

Friday, September 27, 2019

NASA Will use a Cubesat to Test Gateway Station's Orbit

NASA hopes to put humans back on the moon by 2024, starting with an orbiting space station dubbed Lunar Gateway. And the space agency is already showing signs of prepping for the upcoming missions. Recently, the organization announced it will partner with Advance Space, an aerospace company from Colorado, to develop a small CubeSat mission to answer questions before the upcoming missions.

The CubeSat, named CAPSTONE, will be a tiny satellite with the same orbital path that Gateway could eventually take. This path will rotate together with the moon as it orbits Earth, brining it as close to the moon’s surface as 1,000 miles. CAPSTONE could launch as early as December 2020, and with it, could demonstrate how to enter and operate in this lunar orbit before the much larger spacecraft for Gateway are ready.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Stealth Saga #52

6th Generation Fighters:

BAe is exploiting 'syngeries' between the Typhoon and the Tempest.

BAe is imagining what the Tempest factory might be.

BAe is working on advanced cockpit controls that will inform on the Tempest.

MBDA showed off some of its work on Tempest.

Italy has signed a contract to study joining the Tempest project.

Is Italy joining the Tempest project actually a bad thing?

The FCAS vs Tempest: WHO! WILL! WIN! europe's budget.

The USAF may switch over to fast iterations of new fighters every 5 years.

F-3 Fighter:

The Japanese MoD is rumored to be placing the start of the F-3 program in the 2020 budget request.


The Russians are showing a model of the Ohotnik-B with a very different exhaust nozzle than the current aircraft.


Three Su-57s were spotted practicing for the MAKS 2019 airshow.

Development testing is supposed to be complete in 2019 for the Su-57.

The Su-57 was caught doing an interesting deployment of its drag chutes.

Turkey is considering buying Su-57s instead of F-35s.

Sukhoi unveiled the Su-57E, an export version of the Su-57.

An Su-57 was sent to Turkey as part of the airshow.

The impressive aerial display by an Su-57 gets discussed.

Chinese Loyal Wingman:

The Chinese showed off a Loyal Wingman concept at MAKS.


A dubious report has come out that the J-20 will be the basis for the J-XY.


Northrop is applying lessons learned from the B-2 to the B-21 program.

The B-21's first public flight route has been announced.

The USAF will probably need more than the 100 B-21s currently planned.

The USAF is considering dumping the B-1 to fund the B-21 to completion.


A video has emerged of the B-2 dropping practice 500 lbs bombs.

Even as the B-21 is coming, the B-2 is still being upgraded.

The B-2 visited Iceland for the first time.

Watch 3 B-2s land at an RAF airbase.

Take a look at B-2s flying with RAF F-35Bs.  They were training together.

A B-2 flew a long duration flight over the Arctic.

Take a look at these close up pictures of the B-2.

The B-2 practiced hot pitting in the Azores.


An F-117 fuselage was spotted being hauled on the California highways.  It was headed to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

The first flight of the F-117 gets discussed.

51 F-117s remain in the inventory.


The USAF is working on a plan to fix the maintenance capability of the F-22's stealth tech.

The F-22 has some stunning images from its flights in Chicago.

Upgrades needed to the facilities in Germany so F-22s can be deployed there for long term have been cancelled as part of the funds transferred for Trump's stupid border wall.

The F-22 will not reach the readiness rates ordered by ex SecDef Mattis.

The F-22s from Tyndall are now active and integrated in Alaska.


F-35s struggle with readiness rates.  Parts availability and the oldest aircraft are the biggest issues.

Female pilots are involved with the F-35 program.

The F-35A finally gets chaff countermeasures next year.

USAF F-35As deployed to an austere Middle Eastern base.

The USAF plans on deploying F-35As to South Korean next year.

The USAF F-35A demo team is moving to Hill AFB for the 2020 season.

F-35As along with F-15Es bombed an ISIS stronghold.

Check out these Luke AFB F-35s in 'Beast Mode.'  Something once called a fiction by F-35 haters.

An F-35 was able to detect a missile launch and could be used in an early warning fashion.

The USMC has been invited to operate its F-35Bs off of the Japanese mini carriers.

A F-35B has fired the first AIM-9X in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Vermont ANG got two F-35s this week.

The British has had problems with ALIS.

Watch an F-35B land on the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The British will send the HMS Queen Elizabeth to Canada and US with 7 F-35Bs aboard.

The British HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier intended to carry F-35Bs set sail for the first time.

The first Dutch F-35 assembled in Italy has made its maiden flight.

Has the Israeli campaign against Iranian backed militias spread to Iraq?  (they use F-35s for these attacks)

Israel has received two more F-35Is.

Japan has formally selected the F-35B for its V/STOL aircraft.  42 aircraft will be ordered.

Japan hopes by ordering more F-35s it will get more contract work for the aircraft.

Poland has been approved to buy 32 F-35s.

South Korea is about to get 4 more F-35As.

Taiwan has revealed it has been told it can only buy the F-35 after 2030.

There is a path for Turkey to return to the F-35 program.

BAe has won contracts to upgrade the EW suite of the F-35.

BAe thinks it can reduce costs on F-35 support by applying Typhoon lessons.

Lockheed won a $32M contract to retrofit USAF F-35As.

Lockheed also won a $2.4B contract for spare parts for the F-35.

Lockheed spelled out how Poland will benefit industrially if they buy F-35s.

Lockheed got a $266M contract for F-35 tooling.

Lockheed is preparing to improve the F-35s targeting capabilities.

Raytheon demonstrated JPALS to the F-35 partners.


Who is more impressive?  The F-22 or Su-57 demo teams?

Check out these stunning pix from NYC of F-22s, F-35s and more.

Friday, September 20, 2019

WFIRST Passes its Preliminary Design Review

The telescope for a major NASA astrophysics mission has passed a key review that the agency says keeps it on track for launch in the mid-2020s despite uncertainty about its funding for 2020 and beyond.

NASA announced Aug. 28 that the telescope assembly for the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) mission passed its preliminary design review (PDR), allowing the project to continue work to finalize its design.

WFIRST, scheduled for launch in the mid-2020s, is NASA’s next flagship astrophysics mission after the James Webb Space Telescope. The mission will use a 2.4-meter mirror provided to NASA by the National Reconnaissance Office. That mirror is currently being modified by L3 Harris Technologies for use on WFIRST.

The telescope will later be equipped with both a wide-field imager instrument and a coronagraph, which blocks light from stars to allow direct imaging of planets and dust disks orbiting them. Both will have their own preliminary design reviews, along with one for the entire mission.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Russia Postpones its Superheavy Rocket...again

Russia’s Progress Rocket Space Centre plans to start preparations for manufacturing a super-heavy rocket no earlier than in 2020, a company spokesperson told TASS on Friday.

"Once the stage of detail design is over, the process of drafting work design documents and preparations for launch of production will follow. Preparations for production will begin no earlier than in 2020," the source said.

The project’s overall volume of financing will be known later, once other companies taking part in the project submit their technical and economic feasibility documents, he added.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Pondering the Precambrian #40



Palaeopascichnus jiumenensis can be used to determine the Ediacaran/Cambrian boundary.

There's a new way to determine oxygen levels during paleo time periods.  It seems to check out in the Neoproterozoic-Cambrian transition based on comparison to other methods.

A bilateralan metazoan (animal) fossil and trackway was found in China dating from the Ediacaran.

The rise of siliceous sponges helped shift the Ediacaran ecosystems to the modern Cambrian. 

The differences between the Weng'an and Kuanchuanpu biotas is largely due to how they were preserved.

Acritarchs from the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation allow for biostratigraphic correlation with the Tanarium conoideum–Cavaspina basiconica Assemblage Zone.

There appears to have been long term denudation of the continents from the middle Ediarcaran based on Nd isotope traces in carbonates.

A new formation has been found dating from the Cryogenian with evidence of bacterial and algae life in South China.

How much hydrothermal activity was there during the Marinoan Glaciation (snowball earth episode) during the Cryogenian?

There is evidence of a large igneous province in the Tonian.


Horodyski moniliformis, regarded by some as a eukaryote fossil from the Calymmian, has been declared a pseudofossil.


Plate tectonics have evolved over the last 2.5 billion years.

Is there evidence for the oxygen overshoot hypothesis from the Orosirian?

There was a paleocontinent named 'Atlantica' proposed.  Recent research suggests it was configured rather differently than proposed.

Evidence has arisen supporting a snowball earth scenario during the Huronian glaciation.

An asteroid impact has been IDed from the Rhyacian in Australia.

Did the supercontinental cycle begin in the PaleoProterozoic?


There is evidence of a PaleoArchean continent.

Origin of Life:

Prebiotic amino acids can bind to lipid membranes and stabilize them.

When did eukaryotes originate?  Do we have a way to understand that?

Did the lack of nitrogenase limit early life?

Friday, September 13, 2019

SpaceX's Starhopper Flight

A prototype of SpaceX’s next-generation launch system performed a brief test flight Aug. 27, a key step in the system’s development.
The “Starhopper” vehicle lifted off from a pad at SpaceX’s test site near Brownsville, Texas, at 6:02 p.m. Eastern. The vehicle took off vertically, translated a short distance, then landed vertically on a different pad a little less than a minute after takeoff.

The long-awaited test was intended to go to an altitude of 150 meters, although it was not immediately clear from the webcast of the flight exactly what altitude the vehicle achieved. The company provided no commentary for the webcast, and ended it shortly after the vehicle made what appeared to be a successful landing.

SpaceX attempted to fly Starhopper Aug. 26, but the attempt was scrubbed after the Raptor engine failed to ignite. SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk later tweeted that “dual redundant torch igniters” in the engine appeared to have malfunctioned and needed to be inspected before trying again.

The vehicle, powered by a single Raptor engine that uses methane and liquid oxygen propellants, made its first free flight July 25, rising several meters off the pad before landing about 10 to 15 seconds later. At the time, Musk said he expected a “hop” to an altitude of 200 meters in “a week or two.”

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Terminator Times #62

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones):

Watch USAF's RoboPILOT on its first flight.

A USAF MQ-9 Reaper was shotdown in Yemen.

The USAF has stated drones, not fighters are the future of air to air combat.  Well, and the B-21 with A2A capabilities.

The Russians stated a USAF RQ-4 Global Hawk was detected near Crimea.

The US Army is seeking suicide drone proposals.

The USN provided an update on the MQ-25A.

A British Watchkeeper drone crashed for embarrassing reasons.

China and Iran showed off tactical UAV concepts at MAK.

China is demoing the CH-4 for Indonesia.

China showed off a Loyal Wingman concept at MAKS.  And another.

India may buy 10 Maritime Predators.  Or more for more branches of the military.

Iran unveiled the Kian long range strike UAV.

Iran displayed the Mobin stealthy UAV concept at the MAKS2019 airshow.

Iraqi Shi'ite militias stated 2 fighters were killed near the Syrian border by a UAV and they are blaming Israel.

Two Israeli UAVs crashed in Lebanon.

Israel launched an attack on a QODS base in Syria to prevent a drone attack.

Lebanon stated Israel's drone strikes on it are an act of war.

Lebanon is claiming an Israeli drone dropped incendiaries on a forest.

Russia has flown its Israeli derived Forpost UAV.

Russia has flown its Altius-U UAV, the Russian Reaper equivalent.

A model of the Ohotnik-B at the MAKS2019 airshow shows a changed exhaust nozzle.  Russia also claims it will start delivering Ohotniks in 2025.

Russia's Orion-2 UAV is at least two years away.

The Russians displayed several UAVs and UAV concepts at MAKS.

Russia displayed a model of a hypersonic testbed.

Saudi Arabia was attacked by drone again causing a 'minor' gas fire at an oil field.  Another drone attack targeted the Abha airbase/airport again.  Saudi Arabia said it downed a drone in that attack.  The Houthis claimed to attack Riyadh with drones.  Saudi Arabia claims to have shot down two Houthi drones.

Taiwan is pursuing multirotor UAVs.

Taiwan has developed a ship launched UAV.

A Turkish Bayraktar TB2 may have been spotted in Libya.

Turkey is supporting local UAV development.

General Atomics got a contract to upgrade Reaper and Gray Eagle UAVs.

General Atomics welcomed more Belgium suppliers to the MQ-9B program.

Northrop is boosting its RQ-4 Global Hawk production capabilities.

Unmanned Ground Vehicles (Bolos and Ogres):

US Army has started investigating robotic decoy tanks.

The British are looking for robots to load its missiles onto Royal Navy ships.

Estonia is leading the EU project to develop the next gen UGV.

Russia is developing unmanned T-72 tanks.

General Robotics has improved its DOGO robot.

ReconRobotics has enhanced its ThrowBot with a stun grenade.

Rheinmetall proposed launching Warmate suicide drones from its Mission Master UGV.

Unmanned Surface Vehicles (Ro Boats):

A new USN surface squadron in San Diego will soon receive its first Sea Hunter USV.

China is developing the JARI USV.

ZSQUARED has developed a USV.

Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (robo subs):

The USN's Knifefish UUV has reached milestone C.

General Dynamics won a contract for the LRIP of the Knifefish.

Software Bots:

The USAF doesn't yet trust software bots to select targets.

The Pentagon AI lead is saying to start with 50% solutions and then improve.


The US Army is leaning on industry for its manned/unmanned teaming.

The USMC has unveiled its modernization plan and it relies heavily on unmanned systems.

A report to Congress on autonomous weapon systems.

Is the campaign to stop killer robots unethical and immoral?

Friday, September 06, 2019

Europa Clipper has has a key Review

A NASA mission to a potentially habitable moon of Jupiter has cleared a major review despite uncertainty about when, or how, it will launch.

NASA announced Aug. 19 that it had formally confirmed the Europa Clipper mission to proceed into its next phase of development, known as Phase C. That will cover final design of the spacecraft, followed by assembly and testing.

“We are all excited about the decision that moves the Europa Clipper mission one key step closer to unlocking the mysteries of this ocean world,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said in a statement announcing the milestone.

Europa Clipper will enter orbit around Jupiter and make dozens of close approaches to Europa, one of the planet’s largest moons. Europa has an icy surface, below which most scientists believe is a deep ocean of liquid water. Combined with the interior heat source that keeps the ocean from freezing, and the presence of organic compounds, Europa has the basic requirements to support life.

While the programmatic milestone Europa Clipper achieved, known in NASA parlance as Key Decision Point C, is the point where NASA sets the schedule and budget for the mission, exactly when Europa Clipper will launch is not yet clear. In the statement announcing the mission’s confirmation, NASA noted that current plans have the spacecraft ready for launch as soon as 2023. However, the mission has a formal launch readiness date of 2025.

That uncertainty is linked to how the mission will be launched. The mission’s preferred launch option is the Space Launch System, which will allow the spacecraft to travel directly to Jupiter without the need of gravity assists, arriving within three years of launch. Language in appropriations bills for fiscal year 2019 and prior years also directed NASA to use the SLS.


The IG office of NASA is asking for flexibility for the launch of the Europa Clipper.  This includes which launch vehicle will be used and when.  If NASA selects any other launch vehicle, the arrival at Europa will be delayed by over 5 years, if not more.  For that reason, I'd have to say I hope Congress declines the request.