On April 19 the U.S. Air Force will launch the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle from Cape Canaveral, FL. The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is a robotic spacecraft designed to test the guidance, navigation, control, thermal protection, and the self-directed operations during the take off, flight and landing.
This small vehicle was no small feat; the project began in 1999 as a collaboration between NASA and Boeing, each splitting the $173 million it would cost to get the project up and running. In 1999 it was thought that the X-37 would launch in 2003, but in 2002 NASA and Boeing entered another contract, this one for $301 million, to build an orbital version of the X-37 for 2006. After that NASA essentially lost interest in the project and turned it over to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency who, in 2006, began testing the X-37 using Scaled Composite LLC’s White Knight jet to perform drop tests. The Air Force got hold of the X-37 and began working on the X-37B which they hoped would fly in 2008.
According to a defense research analyst from RAND Corp. the X-37 is a “prototype of a vehicle that could carry small payloads into orbit, carry out a variety of military missions and then return to Earth.” The Air Force is using it “to continue full scale development and orbital testing of a long-duration, reusable space vehicle. “
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
The IEEE Computer Society has named the top 10 trends for 2014. You can expect the convergence of cloud computing and mobile devices, advances in health care data and devices, as well as privacy issues in social media to make the headlines. And 3D printing came out of nowhere to make a big splash.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.