Perhaps calling an immobile plastic bug with explosives strapped to its underside a “jumping robot” is a bit of a stretch, but who are we to argue with the Army Research Laboratory and the University of Maryland. The two groups have collaborated to create a pair of “robots” that measure just a few millimeters in size but can jump several centimeters in the air. One uses a spring like mechanism (which an operator must press down with a pair of tweezers) to propel it, while the other uses a small rocket, which can be triggered either by current applied over wires or a phototransistor (for untethered flight). It all makes for a pretty neat video, which you can find after the break – even if your sister’s Furby was more robot than these tiny things.
Continue reading Tiny ‘jumping robots’ have more in common with firecrackers than Johnny 5
Tiny ‘jumping robots’ have more in common with firecrackers than Johnny 5 originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 30 Sep 2011 01:27:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
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We just learned of NASA’s end-of-decade plans to rocket astronauts into deep space for exploratory missions to Mars and beyond. Now, we’re getting a peek at the Purdue University-designed lander tech that’ll plant our space fleet’s feet firmly on terra incognita. What originally started as a senior research project for grad students Thomas Feldman and Andrew Rettenmaier, has now blossomed into a joint research endeavor for the federal space agency’s Project Morpheus — a think tank for trips to heretofore unexplored celestial bodies. The in-development propulsion tech, now undergoing testing at the university’s Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, is required to “meet stringent design and performance” standards, but most importantly, needs to lift the fuel-depleted lander post-descent. You’d think scientific work of this magnitude would come with a hefty paycheck, but the student team behind it all’s just doing it for the hands-on knowledge. Sure beats your summer internship at that magazine, huh?
Purdue University grad students give NASA lander tech a boost, do it for the experience originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 15 Sep 2011 23:03:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
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You know what the tech world needs? More patent litigation, which is why WiLAN is at it again in the rocket docket of the Eastern District of Texas. This time, instead of suing cable companies, it’s going after the likes of Apple, Dell, HP, HTC, Kyocera, Novatel, Alcatel-Lucent and Sierra Wireless. There are two patents at issue: no. RE37,802 that covers CDMA and HSPA data transmission, and no. 5,282,222 which is related to data transmission tech with WiFi and LTE. Will the plucky patent troll get some quick cash, or will the big boys fight this one to the end? Stay tuned.
WiLAN lawyers up, picks patent fight with Apple, Dell, HP, HTC and others originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 05 Sep 2011 05:14:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
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If you’re waiting impatiently for the ability hook your laptop in to T-Mobile’s blazingly fast 42Mbps HSPA+ network, you are going to have hold tight just a little bit longer. But here’s some good news to tide you over: the 21Mbps capable Rocket 4G USB stick is here, and available starting April 17th with new prepaid data plans for those who prefer not to chain themselves to a two-year contract. The $30, 30-day plan will jump from 300MB to 1GB, and the $50 plan will be bumped from 1GB to 3GB. It’s not as flashy as the 4G Mobile Hotspot nor as fast as the 42Mbps Rocket 3.0, but it’s priced at a reasonable $59.99 — and controlling the destiny of your mobile broadband soul must be worth something.
T-Mobile blesses contract-averse with Rocket 4G modem and better data plans originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 14 Apr 2011 15:29:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
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SpaceX promised something big, and it’s now delivered. The company today revealed its plans for the Falcon Heavy, which promises to be the “world’s most powerful rocket.” Just how powerful is that? SpaceX says the 22-story rocket will be able to carry satellites or spacecraft weighing over 53 metric tons (or 117,000 pounds) into low earth orbit, which is nearly twice what the Space Shuttle is able to carry. What’s more, this isn’t just a far off promise. SpaceX says the rocket will be “ready” sometime next year, and the first test flight is planned for 2013. The rocket’s sheer size isn’t it’s only selling point, though — it also promises to drastically reduce the cost of sending things into space, with each launch expected to cost “only” $100 million. Head on past the break for a taste of what’s in store.
Continue reading SpaceX reveals plans for world’s most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy
SpaceX reveals plans for world’s most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 05 Apr 2011 16:07:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
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Okay, okay, so the last time a company teased “something big,” they were exaggerating a tad, but this video here comes from SpaceX, maker of giant rockets. So when the only commercial organization that shot a hunk of burning metal into orbit and retreived it back on Earth tells us to look out for something with “five new engines” and “two new rockets” on 11:15AM ET on April 5th, you’d best believe we’re going to have our tails firmly pressed into comfy chairs and popcorn at the ready to watch it. Spoiler alert: it’s probably the Falcon Heavy.
SpaceX teases ‘something big,’ suggests we check back April 5th (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 04 Apr 2011 10:04:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
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Plasma propulsion may very well be our ticket to visit those little green men on Mars, which is why NASA is becoming besties with Ad Astra, makers of the VASIMR VX-200 plasma rocket. After successful terrestrial testing, the next step is to try out a VF-200 flight model in space — and a new agreement gives NASA engineers access to VASIMR while letting Ad Astra leverage NASA’s spacecraft expertise to get it into orbit. The plasma rocket was assumed to be destined for use on the International Space Station because it requires far less fuel than conventional boosters — making it better suited than the propellant-hungry thrusters keeping the station in orbit today — and can take advantage of the ISS’s considerable electrical power (250kW) to fully test VASIMR’s 200kW output. Plasma rockets produce sustained thrust, as opposed to the quick bursts of its chemical cousin, which makes it the preferred means of propulsion for space travel as well. NASA hasn’t fully committed to either use — but if Marvin and his fellow Red Planet denizens know what’s good for them, they’ll be watching VASIMR’s development with great interest.
NASA and Ad Astra team up to test VASIMR plasma rocket in space originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 11 Mar 2011 18:48:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Truth be told, it probably does take a rocket scientist to truly understand the scope of what NASA is currently investigating, but the gist of it isn’t hard to grok. America’s premiere space agency is purportedly examining the possibility of using beamed energy propulsion to launch spacecraft into orbit, and while we’ve seen objects lofted by mere beams before, using a laser to leave the atmosphere is a whole ‘nother ballgame. The reasons are fairly obvious: a laser-based propulsion system would effectively nix the chance of an explosive chemical reaction taking place at launch, and it would “make possible a reusable single-stage rocket that has two to five times more payload space than conventional rockets, which would cut the cost of sending payloads into low-Earth orbit.” We’re told that the study should be concluded by March, but only heaven knows how long it’ll be before we see any of this black magic used to launch rockets. Sadly, we can’t expect any Moon missions to rely on lasers for at least 50 or so years, but we’re guessing that timeline could be shortened dramatically if Sir Richard Branson were to get involved.
[Image courtesy of Jordin Kare]
NASA considering beamed energy propulsion for space launches originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 25 Jan 2011 00:49:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
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We’ve already seen laser-powered helicopters from LaserMotive and perhaps the company will go about sending rockets into space using lasers in the near future too. One of the issues about sending a chemical-powered rocket into space is that you need to carry all that fuel on board, which isn’t exactly light. An alternative would be to use an array of powerful microwave lasers that stay on the ground and heat up the rocket. The rocket would have a heat exchanger on the outside, gathering the energy it needs. Since the actual reaction energy in such a system would be coming directly from the ground, it wouldn’t have to be carried along with the rocket, lightening its load and also making it much safer. Is this how space travel will be done in the future?
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Santa’s Rocket Ship was used for holiday season promotions at malls in the Southern half of America for several decades before ending up in a former junkyard that is now an amusement park in Alaska.
The book “Weird Cars” by John Gunnell of Old Cars Weekly had a big part in making me a lover of automotive oddities. I got “Weird Cars” when it first came out in 1993 and read it cover to cover more times than I can count. One of the many weird vehicles which I still sometimes wonder about is Santa’s Rocket Ship. This year as the Holidays approached, I decided to find out what happened to the Rocket Ship.
Santa’s Rocket Ship was built and owned by Lloyd Laster of Tyler, TX. It was one of a fleet of five vehicles (3 Santa’s Rockets, a “Rocket Sleigh” and a “Space Sleigh”) built from commercial bus chassis for promotional use during the holiday season. The vehicles traveled all over the southern and southwest parts of the country taking Holiday Shoppers on joy rides while making appearances at shopping centers and malls. Each of the Santa’s Rocket Ships traveled with a crew of five; a driver, two attendants, a hostess, and of course Santa Claus. Laster started in the 1950s with one Santa’s Rocket Ship and had gradually built up the fleet of five Christmas vehicles by the time he retired in 1974.
At that point in time Laster sold his business complete with all 5 Christmas vehicles to a man named Bill Griffith who lived in Wisconsin. Griffith operated the vehicles throughout the Midwest for several more years before the cost of maintaining and fueling 5 huge old vehicles caught up with Griffith. The Rocket Ships and Sleighs were parked. Two of the Christmas vehicles were sold to Bill Siros’ Auto Thrill Show. A lot of internet research couldn’t even come up with a mention of the vehicles and Bill Siros’ together, let alone what role the old vehicles played in an auto thrill show. We sure would love to know.
One of the other Christmas vehicles ended up in a Southern Wisconsin junkyard. The Santa’s Rocket Ship seen here and another of Santa’s super rocket ships were photographed at a different salvage and surplus operation in Wisconsin and submitted to Old Car’s Weekly who uncovered the mystery of what the vehicles were in the late 1980s. Weird Cars leaves the fate of the two rocket ships as being sold to an unknown buyer in Alaska, casting some doubt as to whether the two rocket ships would ever make it out of the lower 48. Although, we don’t think they both made it, as you can tell by the pictures, one did.
A little internet research revealed that Santa’s Rocket Ship now resides at Mukluk Land, a former junkyard that has been turned into a roadside attraction/arcade in Tok, Alaska. It is believed to be the only of the five vehicles that is still intact. Along with seeing The Santa’s Rocket Ship for a small admission fee you can jump in an inflatable igloo, play skeeball or take in the other weird sights you might expect a place called Mukluk land to offer. Next time you are traveling the Alaskan Highway be sure to stop at mile marker 1317 and see Santa’s Rocket Ship in what may be its final resting place.
(Photo Credits: Mukluk Land and kosmosflot)
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A Brief History of Santa’s Rocket Ship Retro
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