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  • NASA's Space Launch System Searches For a Mission

    schwit1 writes: Managers of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) are searching for a mission that they can propose and convince Congress to fund. "Once SLS is into the 2020s, the launch rate should see the rocket launching at least once per year, ramping up to a projected three times per year for the eventual Mars missions. However, the latter won’t be until the 2030s. With no missions manifested past the EM-2 flight, the undesirable question of just how 'slow' a launch rate would be viable for SLS and her workforce has now been asked." Meanwhile, two more Russian rocket engines were delivered yesterday, the first time that's happened since a Russian official threatened to cut off the supply. Another shipment of three engines is expected later this year. In Europe, Arianespace and the European Space Agency signed a contract today for the Ariane 5 rocket to launch 12 more of Europe’s Galileo GPS satellites on three launches. This situation really reminds me of the U.S. launch market in the 1990s, when Boeing and Lockheed Martin decided that, rather than compete with Russia and ESA for the launch market, they instead decided to rely entirely on U.S. government contracts, since those contracts didn’t really demand that they reduce their costs significantly to compete.

    27 comments | 3 hours ago

  • Two Years of Data On What Military Equipment the Pentagon Gave To Local Police

    v3rgEz writes: Wondering how the St. Louis County Police ended up armed with surplus military gear, and what equipment other departments have? A FOIA request at MuckRock has turned up every item given to local law enforcement under the Pentagon's 1022 program, the mechanism by which local law enforcement can apply for surplus or used military gear.

    264 comments | 4 days ago

  • DARPA Contemplates Vast Ocean Network

    coondoggie writes Probably one of the last and perhaps unforgiving areas of the world not truly "wired" is above and below the ocean. Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) want to explore the possibility of seriously changing that notion and develop what it calls "a system-of-systems architecture and critical components to support networked maritime operations, to include undersea, surface, and above surface domains."

    12 comments | about a week ago

  • DARPA Uses Preteen Gamers To Beta Test Tomorrow's Military Software

    Daniel_Stuckey writes with a story about an interesting (or, you might think, creepy) institution at the University of Washington's Seattle campus. It's the Center for Game Science, a research lab that makes educational video games for children, and that received the bulk of its funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the wing of the U.S. Department of Defense that supports research into experimental military technology. Why is DARPA the original primary funder of the CGS? According to written and recorded statements from current and former DARPA program managers, as well as other government documents, the DARPA-funded educational video games developed at the CGS have a purpose beyond the pretense of teaching elementary school children STEM skills.

    84 comments | about a week ago

  • Snowden: NSA Working On Autonomous Cyberwarfare Bot

    WIRED published a long piece on Edward Snowden today (worth a read on its own), and simultaneously broke news of "MonsterMind," an NSA program to monitor all network traffic and detect attacks, responding with a counterattack automatically. From the article: Although details of the program are scant, Snowden tells WIRED in an extensive interview with James Bamford that algorithms would scour massive repositories of metadata and analyze it to differentiate normal network traffic from anomalous or malicious traffic. Armed with this knowledge, the NSA could instantly and autonomously identify, and block, a foreign threat. More than this, though, Snowden suggests MonsterMind could one day be designed to return fire — automatically, without human intervention... Snowden raised two issues with the program: the source of an attack could be spoofed to trick the U.S. into attacking an innocent third party, and the violation of the fourth amendment since the NSA would effectively need to monitor all domestic network traffic for the program to work. Also in Bamford's interview are allegations that the NSA knocked Syria offline in 2012 after an attempt to install intercept software on an edge router ended with the router being bricked.

    194 comments | about a week ago

  • DARPA Wants To Kill the Password

    jfruh writes Many security experts agree that our current authentication system, in which end users are forced to remember (or, more often, write down) a dizzying array of passwords is broken. DARPA, the U.S. Defense Department research arm that developed the Internet, is trying to work past the problem by eliminating passwords altogether, replacing them with biometric and other cues, using off-the-shelf technology available today.

    383 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Point-and-Shoot: TrackingPoint's New Linux-Controlled AR-15s

    Ars Technica takes a look at the next generation of TrackingPoint's automatically aimed rifles (not "automatic" in the usual sense), and visited the shooting range where they're tested out. Like the company's previous generation of gun (still in production, and increasingly being sold to government buyers), TrackingPoint's offerings integrate a Linux computer that makes acquiring and tracking a target far easier and more accurate than it would otherwise be. Unlike the older models, though, this year TrackingPoint is concentrating on AR-15s, rather than longer, heavier bolt-action rifles. A slice: The signature "Tag-Track-Xact" system has gained additional functionality on the AR models, too. With the bolt-action guns, there was only one way to put a round onto a target: first, you sighted in on the thing you wanted to hit and depressed the red tagging button just above the trigger. A red pip would appear in the scope’s crosshairs, and you’d place the pip onto the target and release the button. The scope’s rangefinding laser would then illuminate the target to measure its distance, and the image processor would fix on the object; if you moved, or if the target moved, the red pip would remain atop the target. Then, to fire, you squeezed the trigger and lined the crosshairs up with the target’s pip. When the two coincided, the weapon fired. This method works fine for a bolt-action rifle where every round has to be manually chambered, but it’s less than ideal for a carbine, which one might want to fire off-hand (i.e., standing up and aiming) or from the hip. With this in mind, the AR PGFs have a new "free fire mode," in which you can tag a target once and then shoot at it as many times as you want by pulling the trigger directly, with all the shots using the ballistic data from the first shot’s tag. That means, says writer Lee Hutchinson, a rifle "with essentially 100 percent accuracy at 250 yards."

    218 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Long-Wave Radar Can Take the Stealth From Stealth Technology

    AbrasiveCat (999190) writes "In the continuing game of cat and mouse between offensive and defensive technologies of war, the technology of radar stealth may have been matched by new multiple frequency radar systems. U.S Naval Institute News reports the Chinese and Russians may be developing such systems. The present radar systems use high frequency waves for accurately locating an incoming target. Stealth aircraft are designed to adsorb or reflect these waves away from the receiver. It turns out longer wave radars can see the stealth aircraft. The longer wave radar lacks the precision of the high frequency radar, but when the two are combined, as the Russians, Chinese (and U.S.) are doing, you can produce accurate targeting radar. The F117 may have been in a golden age for stealth technology, it will be interesting to see if the F35 arrives too late to be effective against other countries with advanced radar systems."

    275 comments | about two weeks ago

  • IBM Creates Custom-Made Brain-Like Chip

    An anonymous reader writes In a paper published Thursday in Science, IBM describes its creation of a brain-like chip called TrueNorth. It has "4,096 processor cores, and it mimics one million human neurons and 256 million synapses, two of the fundamental biological building blocks that make up the human brain." What's the difference between TrueNorth and traditional processing units? Apparently, TrueNorth encodes data "as patterns of pulses". Already, TrueNorth has a proven 80% accuracy in image recognition with a power consumption efficiency rate beating traditional processing units. Don't look for brain-like chips in the open market any time soon, though. TrueNorth is part of a DARPA research effort that may or may not translate into significant changes in commercial chip architecture and function.

    105 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Book Review: Introduction To Cyber-Warfare: A Multidisciplinary Approach

    benrothke writes Cyberwarfare is a controversial topic. At the 2014 Infosec World Conference, Marcus Ranum gave a talk on Cyberwar: Putting Civilian Infrastructure on the Front Lines, Again. Whether it was the topic or just Marcus being Marcus, about a third of the participants left within the first 15 minutes. They should have stayed, as Ranum, agree with him or not, provided some riveting insights on the topic. In Introduction to Cyber-Warfare: A Multidisciplinary Approach, authors Paulo Shakarian, Jana Shakarian and Andrew Ruef provide an excellent overview of the topic. The book takes a holistic, or as they call it multidisciplinary, approach. It looks at the information security aspect of cyberwarfare, as well the military, sociological and other aspects. Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.

    27 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Japan To Launch a Military Space Force In 2019

    Taco Cowboy writes Japan is planning to launch a military space force by 2019. The Mainichi Shimbun is reporting that Japan plans to create a "space force" within its existing Self Defence Force, hoping to have it operational by 2019. Japan would provide the US military with information obtained by the force as part of the joint bid to strengthen ties in space, the so-called "fourth battlefield", Kyodo news agency said, citing unnamed sources. Note that this plan, which involves simply looking into space using old civilian astronomy equipment and radar, is just the beginning. The transforming space fighters and combat mechs will presumably come later.

    150 comments | about two weeks ago

  • China Confirms New Generation of ICBM

    Taco Cowboy (5327) writes with news of the Chinese military's latest toy, an ICBM capable of delivering multiple warheads across the Pacific. From the article: The DF-41 is designed to have a range of 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles), according to a report by Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems, putting it among the world's longest-range missiles. ... It is "possibly capable of carrying multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles", the U.S. Defense Department said in a report in June, referring to a payload of several nuclear warheads. It also quoted a Chinese military analyst as saying: "As the U.S. continues to strengthen its missile defense system, developing third generation nuclear weapons capable of carrying multiple warheads is the trend." China's previous longest range missile was the DF-5A, which can carry a single warhead as far as 12,000 km, according to Jane's.

    224 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Was America's Top Rocketeer a Communist Spy? The FBI Thought So

    New submitter IMissAlexChilton (3748631) writes Frank Malina masterfully led the World War II effort to build U.S. rockets for jet-assisted takeoff and guided missiles. As described in IEEE Spectrum, Malina's motley crew of engineers and enthusiasts (including occultist Jack Parsons) founded the Jet Propulsion Lab and made critical breakthroughs in solid fuels, hypergolics, and high-altitude sounding rockets, laying the groundwork for NASA's future successes. And yet, under suspicion by the Feds at the war's end, Malina gave up his research career, and his team's efforts sank into obscurity. Taking his place: the former Nazi Wernher von Braun. Read "Frank Malina: America's Forgotten Rocketeer". Includes cool vintage footage of early JPL rocket tests.

    165 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Nuclear Missile Command Drops Grades From Tests To Discourage Cheating

    An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this year, just over half of the military officers put in charge of U.S. nuclear launch facilities were implicated in an exam cheating scandal. The Air Force conducted regular exams to keep officers current on the protocols and skills required to operate some of the world's most dangerous weapons. But the way they graded the test caused problems. Anything below a 90% score was a fail, but the remaining 10% often dictated how a launch officer's career progressed. There might not be much functional difference between a 93% and a 95%, but the person scoring higher will get promoted disproportionately quicker. This inspired a ring of officers to cheat in order to meet the unrealistic expectations of the Air Force. Now, in an effort to clean up that Missile Wing, the Air Force is making the exams pass/fail. The officers still need to score 90% or higher (since it's important work with severe consequences for failure), but scores won't be recorded and used to compete for promotions anymore. The Air Force is also making an effort to replace or refurbish the aging equipment that runs these facilities.

    122 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Hackers Plundered Israeli Defense Firms That Built 'Iron Dome' Missile Defense

    An anonymous reader writes: Brian Krebs reports on information from Columbia, Md.-based threat intelligence firm Cyber Engineering Services Inc. that attackers thought to be operating out of China hacked into the corporate networks of three top Israeli defense technology companies. The attackers were seeking technical documents related to Iron Dome, Israel's air defense system. "IAI was initially breached on April 16, 2012 by a series of specially crafted email phishing attacks. ... Once inside the IAI’s network, [the attackers] spent the next four months in 2012 using their access to install various tools and trojan horse programs on systems throughout company’s network and expanding their access to sensitive files, CyberESI said. The actors compromised privileged credentials, dumped password hashes, and gathered system, file, and network information for several systems. The actors also successfully used tools to dump Active Directory data from domain controllers on at least two different domains on the IAI’s network. All told, CyberESI was able to identify and acquire more than 700 files — totaling 762 MB total size — that were exfiltrated from IAI’s network during the compromise. The security firm said most of the data acquired was intellectual property and likely represented only a small portion of the entire data loss by IAI." Most of the stolen material pertained to Arrow III missiles, UAVs, and ballistic rockets.

    184 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Gaza's Only Power Plant Knocked Offline

    necro81 (917438) writes "Gaza's only power plant (see this profile at IEEE Spectrum — duct tape and bailing wire not included) has been knocked offline following an Israeli strike. Reports vary, but it appears that Israeli tank shells caused a fuel bunker at the plant to explode. Gaza, already short on electricity despite imports from Israel and Egpyt, now faces widening blackouts."

    868 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Google's Mapping Contest Draws Ire From Indian Government

    hypnosec writes with news that India's Central Bureau of Investigation has ordered a preliminary enquiry (PE) against Google for violating Indian laws by mapping sensitive areas and defence installations in the country. As per the PE, registered on the basis of a complaint made by the Surveyor General of India's office to the Union Home Ministry, Google has been accused of organizing a mapping competition dubbed 'Mapathon' in February-March 2013 without taking prior permission from Survey of India, country's official mapping agency. The mapping competition required citizens to map their neighbourhoods, especially details related to hospitals and restaurants. The Survey of India (SoI), alarmed by the event, asked the company to share its event details. While going through the details the watchdog found that there were several coordinates having details of sensitive defence installations which are out of the public domain."

    96 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Satellite Images Show Russians Shelling Ukraine

    U.S. officials today made public satellite imagery which they say proves that Russian forces have been shelling eastern Ukraine in a campaign to assist rebel groups fighting Ukraine’s government. The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the civilian-taken satellite images Sunday, said they show visual evidence that Russia has been firing shells across the border at Ukrainian military forces. Officials also said the images show that Russia-backed separatists have used heavy artillery, provided by Russia, in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine. One image dated July 25/26 shows what DNI claims is “ground scarring” on the Russian side of the border from artillery aimed at Ukrainian military units in Ukraine, as well as the resultant ground craters on the Ukrainian side of the border:

    582 comments | about three weeks ago

  • The Army Is 3D Printing Warheads

    Jason Koebler writes: In its latest bid to kill more people, more efficiently, and at less cost, the army is planning to print warhead components, according to the latest issue of Army Technology (PDF). "3D printing of warheads will allow us to have better design control and utilize geometries and patterns that previously could not be produced or manufactured," James Zunino, a researcher at the Armament Research, Engineering and Design Center said. "Warheads could be designed to meet specific mission requirements whether it is to improve safety to meet an Insensitive Munitions requirement, or it could have tailorable effects, better control, and be scalable to achieve desired lethality."

    140 comments | about a month ago

  • 'Optical Fiber' Made Out of Thin Air

    Dave Knott writes: Scientists from the University of Maryland say they have turned thin air into an "optical fiber" that can transmit and amplify light signals without the need for any cables. As described in the research, this was accomplished by generating a laser with its light split into a ring of multiple beams forming a pipe. Very short and powerful pulses from the laser are used to heat the air molecules along the beam extremely quickly. Such rapid heating produces sound waves that take about a microsecond to converge to the center of the pipe, creating a high-density area surrounded by a low-density area left behind in the wake of the laser beams. The lower density region of air surrounding the center of the air waveguide has a lower refractive index, keeping the light focused, and allowing the higher-density region (with its correspondingly higher index of refraction) to act like an optical fiber. The findings, reported in the journal Optica, have applications in long range laser communications, high-resolution topographic mapping, air pollution and climate change research, and could also be used by the military to make laser weapons.

    115 comments | about a month ago

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