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)
DARPA publishes all its open source code in one place
"Making our open source catalog available increases the number of experts who can help quickly develop relevant software for the government," Chris White, the DARPA program manager behind the effort, said in a statement. "Our hope is that the computer science community will test and evaluate elements of our software and afterward adopt them as either standalone offerings or as components of their products."
After two days of competition, Tokyo’s team SCHAFT has won the DARPA Robotics Challenge in Miami. With 27 out of a possible 32 points in eight challenges, SCHAFT pulled out a decisive victory. IHMC Robotics (20 points), Tartan Rescue (18 points), MIT (16 points) and Robosimian (14 points) round out the top five. We can’t wait for the final competition to come in 2014. (via Gizmodo)
There has been a lot of attention about humanoid robots, many of which have been focused on the DARPA Challenge. The infographic below looks at ATLAS and exactly what a contestant to this challenge must be able to do.
Designed to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, this “female” robot could be the precursor to robo-astronauts that will help colonize Mars.
What if NASA’s Robonaut grew legs and indulged in steroids? The result might be close to what NASA has unveiled: Valkyrie is a humanoid machine billed as a “superhero robot.” Developed at the Johnson Space Center, Valkyrie is a 6.2-foot, 275-pound hulk designed to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). It will go toe to toe with the Terminator-like Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics in what’s shaping up to be an amazing modern-day duel. In an interesting twist, Valkyrie seems to be a girl. While officially genderless, “Valkyrie” (a nickname, since the official designation is R5) evokes the goddess-like females of Norse myth. (via NASA unveils 6-foot ‘superhero robot’ Valkyrie | Crave - CNET)