DARPA announces Phase 1 of its XS-1 spaceplane program - It takes a lot more money and preparation to launch a rocket than to have a plane take off. That’s why DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) first initiated its Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program. The idea is that once built, the XS-1 could take off and land like a regular aircraft, but could also deliver satellite payloads into low-Earth orbit while airborne. Today, the agency announced its plans for Phase 1 of the program, which includes awarding contracts for designs of the autonomous spaceplane. As outlined in a previous article, plans call for the unmanned XS-1 to be able to make 10 flights within 10 days, reaching a speed of Mach 10 at least once, and launching payloads weighing between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds (1,361 to 2,268 kg) at under US$5 million a pop. A second-stage rocket carrying each payload will fire once it’s launched from the spaceplane at suborbital altitude, carrying the satellite to its final orbit. The XS-1 will proceed back to the ground, where it will land and immediately be prepared for its next launch. In today’s announcement, DARPA stated that it will be funding three companies to independently develop designs for an XS-1 demonstration vehicle. These include The Boeing Company (working with Blue Origin), Masten Space Systems (working with XCOR Aerospace), and Northrop Grumman Corporation (working with Virgin Galactic). The designs will be assessed based on criteria such as feasibility, performance, developmental and operational costs, and the potential for use in military, civil and commercial applications. (via DARPA announces Phase 1 of its XS-1 spaceplane program)
Meet Jibo. On track to exist next year, Jibo is being marketed as “the world’s first family robot.” The bulbous little guy can read to kids in the living room, recite recipes in the kitchen, take photos in the yard, and perform a handful of other simple tasks. Jibo is also a little bit creepy.
A new initiative in Boston is bringing Soofas, solar powered benches that can not only charge your gadgets, but also monitor air quality and sound levels, to several city parks in a pilot program
The Soofas, called “smart urban furniture”, were developed by Changing Environments, a spinoff of MIT Media Lab, and are capable of charging mobile gadgets via two USB ports, thanks to a solar panels and the free energy of the sun. And while they’re charging phones and powering Facebook updates, they’re also gathering environmental data about air quality and noise levels nearby, and uploading them to a public map online.