Science and Technology News

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday Space Sight: Dwarf Galaxy Collides With Huge Spiral



Observations with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have revealed a massive cloud of multimillion-degree gas in a galaxy about 60 million light years from Earth.   The hot gas cloud is likely caused by a collision between a dwarf galaxy and a much larger galaxy called NGC 1232.

If confirmed, this discovery would mark the first time such a collision has been detected only in X-rays, and could have implications for understanding how galaxies grow through similar collisions.

The impact between the dwarf galaxy and the spiral galaxy caused a shock wave − akin to a sonic boom on Earth – that generated hot gas with a temperature of about six million degrees.

Chandra X-ray data, in purple, show the hot gas has a comet-like appearance, caused by the motion of the dwarf galaxy. Optical data from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope reveal the spiral galaxy in blue and white. X-ray point sources have been removed from this image to emphasize the diffuse emission.

Near the head of the comet-shaped X-ray emission (mouse over the image for the location) is a region containing several very optically bright stars and enhanced X-ray emission. Star formation may have been triggered by the shock wave, producing bright, massive stars.

In that case X-ray emission would be generated by massive star winds and by the remains of supernova explosions as massive stars evolve.

The mass of the entire gas cloud is uncertain because it cannot be determined from the two-dimensional image whether the hot gas is concentrated in a thin pancake or distributed over a large, spherical region.  If the gas is a pancake, the mass is equivalent to forty thousand Suns. If it is spread out uniformly, the mass could be much larger, about three million times as massive as the Sun.

This range agrees with values for dwarf galaxies in the Local Group containing the Milky Way.

The hot gas should continue to glow in X-rays for tens to hundreds of millions of years, depending on the geometry of the collision. The collision itself should last for about 50 million years. Therefore, searching for large regions of hot gas in galaxies might be a way to estimate the frequency of collisions with dwarf galaxies and to understand how important such events are to galaxy growth.

An alternative explanation of the X-ray emission is that the hot gas cloud could have been produced by supernovas and hot winds from large numbers of massive stars, all located on one side of the galaxy. The lack of evidence of expected radio, infrared, or optical features argues against this possibility.

A paper by Gordon Garmire of the Huntingdon Institute for X-ray Astronomy in Huntingdon, PA describing these results is available online and was published in the June 10th, 2013 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra’s science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Technicians coengineer cost-saver with a spin



By Staff Sgt. Brandon Shapiro, 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- As two aircraft metals technicians pondered the awkward and lengthy four-part paint process of the KC-135 Stratotanker's main landing wheel they said they had a eureka moment.

Staff Sergeants Alex Aguayo and Michael Rogers, aircraft metals technicians with the 6th Maintenance Squadron, co-engineered a way to centrifugally mount a KC-135's nose and main landing wheel on a rotating base to allow the entire part to be painted in a single step.

"As we watched how a wheel was painted during a routine corrosion preventative process, we both knew that there had to be a better way," Aguayo said. "Only being able to paint one side at a time, with 13 hours of cure in-between, is just not effective."

Knowing that the wheel would need a 360-degree plane of rotation for even and efficient paint application, the two started with the construction of a heavy-duty, ball-bearing mounted turntable.

Once the turntable prototype met their strength and operational standards, they moved on to the second most important part -- the wheel mounting stand.

"We observed the paint process (of the wheel) and knew then, that the part needed to be up and off the ground," Aguayo said. "A solid, yet functional stand, needed to be implemented."

The two crafted an angular, tri-point mounting bracket to hold the wheel and welded a base that was sturdy enough so that they could double the proficiency by adding a second wheel workstation, or WWS.

After hours of planning and multiple prototypes, the new WWS was finally complete.

"This is the kind of thing we do all the time," Aguayo said and chuckled. "We think up designs that can simplify a process and we build them. I'm just glad that we could do our part to save the Air Force money, by reducing man-hours."

When the first WWS rolled off the assembly line and over to the paint crew, it was received with arms wide open.

"The stand is amazing, it works great," Staff Sgt. Braden Foley, a aircraft structural technician with the 6th MXS. "Before the WWS we were stuck painting one side at a time, now we paint both sides and have cut out 13 hours of cure time. The process has been cut in half."

Because of the success that the WWS is having at MacDill AFB, other KC-135 bases have taken a vested interest in Aguayo and Rogers design. It is quite possible, officials said, that the WWS could become a newly-benchmarked painting aid Air Force-wide.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Air Force showcases hot technologies on 'cool' roof

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- Engineers say there is no metal roof in demonstration anywhere in the Air Force that will have the energy reduction impact of what has been installed at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas.

"This project has captured a lot of attention because it's a step in the right direction for the Air Force in becoming more energy independent," said 2nd Lt. Joseph Buyer, a civil engineer with the 17th Civil Engineer Squadron at Goodfellow AFB.

A year of data collection is nearly complete on the integrated roof system on the base's security forces building. The metal-over-metal retrofit integrates cool roofing, solar-power generation, solar thermal, above-sheathing ventilation and rainwater catchment into one holistic system.

"The water is collected and drained into a 10,000-gallon tank. With about two inches of rain, which is about what we get here with any given storm, that tank is completely full," Buyer said.

The Department of Energy's Oakridge National Lab is collecting data on heat transfer, energy output from the photovoltaic panels and water usage. 

Preliminary numbers show a 44-percent reduction in energy consumption, said Mary Lumsdon, the Goodfellow AFB energy manager. 
"We were very excited to have been selected to have this project completed on our installation," Lumsdon said. "This project is a combination of several technologies coming together to aid in our goal of energy reduction and develops our on-base renewable energy sources. Goodfellow continues to strive to be a leader in energy reduction." 

This pilot project could be just the beginning, said Mike Giniger, an energy engineer with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center.

"We want to exceed our energy conservation goals and our renewable energy goals, but we also want to be the visionary and driver of getting new technologies into our facilities."

"Incorporating a number of technologies can be a difficult process but through teamwork and proper planning, it's actually an attainable goal," Buyer said. 

The Department of Defense Environmental Security Technologies Certification Program, or ESTCP, paid for the Goodfellow AFB roof project. The ESTCP provides grants to industry to demonstrate sustainable products and systems aimed at meeting DOD's energy and water conservation goals. 

The National Defense Authorization Act passed in 2007 requires the DOD to produce or procure 25 percent of all energy from renewable sources by 2025. In addition, the federal government has mandated DOD institute a 30-percent energy-use reduction on its properties by 2015 and another 37.5 percent reduction by 2020.

Delta IV-Heavy Launched From Vandenberg

8/29/2013 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A United Launch Alliance Delta IV-Heavy rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload launched by team Vandenberg from Space Launch Complex-6 here Wednesday at 11:03 am PST.

Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority.

"The teamwork between the 30th Space Wing, the 4th Space Launch Squadron, the National Reconnaissance Office, United Launch Alliance, and numerous other agencies was outstanding," said Balts. "This is Vandenberg's equivalent of an air show or open house and our opportunity to share with the public. We are lucky enough to do this 10-11 times a year."

This was the second Delta IV-Heavy for Vandenberg, with the first launch occurring Jan. 20, 2011 and is the largest rocket ever to launch from the West Coast of the United States.

California Guard Deploys Predator to Support Firefighters

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2013 – With wildfires continuing to rage around Yosemite National Park, the California National Guard has deployed a remotely piloted aircraft that improves the incident commander’s ability to monitor conditions on the ground.


Click photo for screen-resolution image
The California Air National Guard’s 163rd Reconnaissance Wing has deployed an MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft, shown here in a Jan. 7, 2012, flight over the Southern California Logistics Airport, to support firefighting operations in and around Yosemite National Park. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Effrain Lopez
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved the use of an MQ-1 Predator to support firefighters battling the Rim Fire that has expanded to more than 160,000 acres, Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas Keegan, California National Guard public affairs officer, reported.

The California Air National Guard’s 163rd Reconnaissance Wing deployed the Predator yesterday, and it is being flown in direct support of the incident commander under the command and control of Army Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, California’s adjutant general, Keegan said.

The aircraft, flying from the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville for up to 22 hours without landing, will capture and deliver real-time 24/7 information on remote portions of the wildfire.

“The impact of this will be significant,” Keegan said. “It will identify where fire activity is located and how it is moving, as well as where it has been controlled.”

The aircraft also will identify safe routes of retreat for firefighters on the scene and verify new fire created by lightning strikes or floating embers. This, Keegan explained, will help the incident commander stay on top of the changing situation on the ground and make the best use of available resources.

Keegan emphasized that the images will be used only to support firefighting operations.

The aircraft’s pilots, located at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif., will remain in constant contact with Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers from takeoff to landing and fly over unpopulated areas whenever possible, he said. The flight path generally will be limited to 30 nautical miles of the Rim Fire area, and whenever it flies outside the restricted airspace for the fire, a manned plane will escort it.

Meanwhile, nearly a dozen aircraft and crews from the California Air and Army National Guard are battling wildfires across Northern California.

California Army Guard helicopter crews and California Air Guard air tanker crews are working in coordination with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and U.S. Forest Service firefighting crews to battle the American, Swedes and Rim fires, Keegan reported.

In addition to two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters supporting operations at the Rim Fire, three Black Hawks are battling the American Fire and two Black Hawks and one CH-47 Chinook helicopter are flying in support of the Swedes Fire, Keegan said.

Another Black Hawk -- with a specialized crew and a hoist for extracting injured personnel from rugged terrain -- is staged in Redding, Calif., on call for medical evacuation support throughout Northern California.

At the Rim Fire alone, the helicopter crews have completed 905 drops, releasing more than 450,000 gallons of water and fire retardant since the crews were activated Aug. 17, Keegan said.

In addition, Air National Guard crews are using two C-130J Hercules air tankers to fight the Rim Fire. Both aircraft are equipped with the Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems II and are capable of discharging 3,000 gallons of water or retardant in less than five seconds. Since their activation Aug. 13, the air tankers have completed 122 drops, releasing more than 333,000 gallons of retardant, Keegan said.

“In times of crisis, it is imperative we pull together as a united front against the threat of wildfires in our state,” Baldwin said, noting that the California Guard regularly trains for the mission.

“Working together in a climate of cooperation with [state officials], our soldiers and airmen are committed to preserving the lives and property of our neighbors who are threatened by this emergency,” he said.

The Rim Fire is not the first in which California has used remotely piloted aircraft technology to support firefighting. In 2007, NASA piloted a similar unmanned aircraft in response to a request from the California Office of Emergency Services and the National Interagency Fire Center.

Those flights were conducted during daytime hours, complemented by nighttime imaging flights from NIFC’s Cessna Citation and an Air Force Global Hawk, both equipped with an earlier-generation infrared camera. Pilots in a ground control station at NASA Dryden controlled the flights via satellite links.

NASA conducted additional remotely piloted aircraft missions in 2008, to monitor wildfires in Southern California, and in 2009, to assess fire damage in Angeles National Forest.

The current mission, officials said, is the longest sustained mission by an unmanned aircraft in California in support of firefighters.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Shared IT Architecture Leads to Cost Savings

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2013 – A new architecture-sharing and modernization agreement among the Air Force, the Army and the Defense Information Systems Agency will increase bandwidth and network security and avoid more than $1 billion in future costs.

“As [the Defense Department] continues to move aggressively towards [the Joint Information Environment], this partnership is an important step forward,” said Teresa M. Takai, DOD’s chief information officer.

Due to force structure changes, the Army was left with excess information technology capacity, said Richard Breakiron, network capacity domain manager for the Army’s chief information office. At the same time, the Air Force was seeking to modernize its IT architecture to meet the requirements of the future joint information environment.

By partnering and taking advantage of the Army’s upgrade to faster multiprotocol label switching routers and regional security stacks, the Air Force was able to identify about $1.2 billion in cost avoidance. The Army expects to reduce its IT budget by $785 million between fiscal years 2015 and 2019 by consolidating hundreds of network security stacks into 15 joint regional security stacks, which the Air Force will also use.

“It’s great to have strong partners as we move toward JIE,” said Gen. William L. Shelton, Air Force Space Command commander. “I especially appreciate the tremendous spirit of cooperation that has emerged between the Army, Air Force, and DISA teams.”

MPLS routers are an industry-standard technology for speeding and managing network traffic flow. The upgraded routers will increase the backbone bandwidth to 100 gigabytes per second, said Mike Krieger, the Army’s deputy chief information officer. At Army installations, network speeds will rise to 10 gigabytes per second, he said. To put that in perspective, Fort Hood, Texas, currently operates at 650 megabytes per second, Krieger said.

Regional security stacks are designed to improve command and control and situational awareness and are essential to enabling a single security architecture in the joint information environment, said Krieger. The move will tremendously increase the network security posture and reduce costs, he added.
“More and more, we’re saying that some of the service-delivery capability can be managed at the enterprise level, greatly improving efficiency, effectiveness and security,” Breakiron said. But, he noted, to perform these enterprise functions off of the local installation, the IT backbone must be much more robust, because users are relying on it for much more service capability.

The new, larger-capacity routers will help the Air Force and Army converge their enterprise network backbones and gain cost savings in other areas, he said.

"As we do our investment in MPLS, it now allows us to do not only [Voice over Internet Protocol], it allows us to do unified capabilities and it allows us to put much more of this capability up at the enterprise level,” Brig Gen Kevin Wooton, Air Force Space Command director of communication, said.

Together, MPLS routers and the regional security stack construct improve performance and security, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr., DISA director.

"It creates a network that is fundamentally more defensible and more efficient," Hawkins said. He added that the move is a major step in building the Joint Information Environment architecture.

The Army and DISA plan to implement the joint MPLS transport cloud and JRSS consolidation in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 to support operations in Southwest Asia and the continental United States.
The Air Force and the Army will have access to data from JRSSs that are owned and operated by DISA as a joint capability. Army and Air Force cyber components will continue to execute cyber defense on their networks.

“As we modernize the DOD network, the Army is committed to a joint solution that helps achieve the joint information environment,” said Lt. Gen. Susan S. Lawrence, the Army’s chief information officer.

Investigating Internet Crimes, 1st Edition: An Introduction to Solving Crimes in Cyberspace.

Well it has been a very productive year. I was recognized by the American Probation and Parole Association with the Sam Houston State University Award, in part due to my book, The Cybercrime Handbook for Community Corrections: Managing Offender Risk in the 21st Century. However, I think by far my greatest accomplishment this year was co-writing a book with Todd Shipley called Investigating Internet Crimes, 1st Edition: An Introduction to Solving Crimes in Cyberspace.

For those of you who don’t know Todd, he is a retired City of Reno Police Detective Sergeant with over 30 years of law enforcement and civilian experience performing and teaching Internet and digital forensic investigations. Additionally, he has spoken Internationally and has authored books and articles in the field. Todd also holds the Patent for Online Evidence Collection.

Both Todd and I are very pleased with this text, which details how to not only locate online information but also how to capture, preserve it and document it in a manner so that it can be used as evidence. We believe it will be a very useful and must have resource for those who investigate any online malfeasance.

The material and techniques described in this book are basic information that the new Internet investigator should know and understand. Individuals familiar with the material will also find the book useful as a reference in their ongoing investigations. The examples and material provided come not only from the United States but the entire world. We have made a conscience effort to include examples and laws from numerous regions, such as Australia, Canada, China, the European Union and the United Kingdom. The book obviously provides resources for criminal investigators. However, we also strove to provide information that would be helpful for civil or corporate investigators, recognizing that civil disputes and injustices are oftentimes an online reality.

The book is set to be released by Syngress on November 22, 2013. Amazon has it listed and is taking pre-orders. We have also started our own blog for the book too. Anyway, I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Air National Guard civil engineers team up to move radar equipment

by Air Force Maj. Gary Arasin
National Guard Bureau


8/27/2013 - ARLINGTON, Va. (8/22/13) -- Air National Guard civil engineers team up to move radar equipment
By Air Force Maj. Gary Arasin

National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. (8/22/13) - Air National Guard civil engineers are teaming with their communication and network engineer counterparts to move radar equipment from Antigua Air Station, Antigua to H.E. Holt Naval Communications Station in Australia.

As part of a joint effort between the United States and Australia to enhance and expand situational awareness in space, the team will install the C-band radar that will be a dedicated sensor in the Space Surveillance Network. The radar provides highly accurate tracking of objects in space to improve overall space flight safety and situational awareness.

Following a 2011 request from the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, the joint team developed a proposal and cost estimate to renovate an existing building at the future radar site, construct a new antenna support structure, and conduct setup at the new location.

The project offered the team a chance to show its skills and save the government about $20 million, said Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Thorenz, the relocation Engineering Installation lead project manager.

"To reinvent the engineering and installation processes, as well as civil engineering, into a solid methodical work force, is a challenging and rewarding effort," said Thorenz, a member of the New York Air Guard. "Our composite team has been driven by the need of the customer and our desire to display our vast capabilities within our ANG workforce."

The engineering team sees this as a potential template for future projects, said Tennessee Air Guard's Lt. Col. Craig Bradford, Air Guard Civil Engineer project manager.

"In these days of shrinking budgets, a project like this demonstrates to the DoD how valuable an asset they have in the civil engineering community," he said.

EI squadrons from New York, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma are providing experts to this project, while a variety of states will be providing specialties such as electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, construction, transportation and medical support.

The first CE team will deploy to Australia in August to begin site preparation, and the first EI team will deploy to Antigua in January 2014 to being disassembling and packing the radar for shipment to its new location.

Pennsylvania Man Pleads Guilty in Massachusetts to Hacking into Multiple Computer Networks

A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty today to charges stemming from his participation in a scheme to hack into computer networks and sell access to those networks.

The guilty plea was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz of the District of Massachusetts.
Andrew James Miller, 23, of Devon, Penn., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf in the District of Massachusetts to one count of conspiracy and two counts of computer intrusion.

According to court documents, from 2008 to 2011, Miller remotely hacked into a variety of computers located in Massachusetts and elsewhere, and, in some instances, surreptitiously installed “backdoors” into those computers.  These “backdoors” were designed to provide future administrator-level, or “root,” access to the compromised computers.  According to court documents, Miller obtained log-in credentials to the compromised computers.  He and his co-conspirators then sold access to these backdoors, as well as other log-in credentials.  The access sold by Miller and his co-conspirators allowed unauthorized people to access various commercial, education and government computer networks.

Judge Wolf scheduled sentencing for Nov. 19, 2013.  The maximum penalty for the conspiracy count is five years in prison.  One of the computer intrusion counts carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and the other, involving intentional damage to a protected computer, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

The case was investigated by the FBI.  It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Mona Sedky of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Bookbinder of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Long-range radar program heading to next phase

by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs


8/22/2013 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- A program office here working to provide warfighters with a new ground-based, long-range radar system is ready to move forward after the completion of recent prototype demonstrations.

The Theater Battle Control Division's Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar, or 3DELRR, program office recently evaluated three prototype capability demonstrations during the pre-engineering and manufacturing development phase of the program.

3DELRR will detect, identify and track fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft and will replace the decades-old TPS-75 radar as the principal Air Force long-range, ground-based sensor. During the demonstrations, each of the current technology demonstration phase contractors held a day-long event to showcase a functioning full-scale, operational, long-range air surveillance system prototype.

"These demonstrations were the final contract activities for the twelve-month pre-engineering manufacturing and development period of 3DELRR's TD phase," said Suzanne Farrell, deputy program manager. "They gave the program office the opportunity to evaluate each contractor's initial design and validate compliance with 3DELRR requirements."

The prototypes needed to demonstrate a mature state of system development and the outcome of risk-reduction efforts. Some elements showcased included a full-scale antenna structure, signal and data processing, and data display to show radar output. Live demonstrations included the prototypes detecting and tracking targets of opportunity from nearby airports, which stakeholders were able to observe either in person or via live-feed webcasts.

"From a program management perspective, we have three very strong competitors with three independent designs, so it's good to have that competition as we go into the next phase," said Farrell.

The prototypes also had to exhibit functional modularity, net-centricity and scalability.

Other critical technology elements of the designs were provided by the contractors during demonstrations to an independent technology readiness assessment team in order to ensure they meet the technology readiness level, or TRL, of 6. TRL 6 includes engineering feasibility fully demonstrated in actual system application and is needed to move on to EMD.

"This is important to bring down technology risk," said Kevin Ray, 3DELRR chief engineer.

From here, the program office will move into a limited sources competition. A request for proposal for EMD with an option for low-rate initial production is anticipated to be released prior to the end of the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013.

The limited competition is a change from the originally anticipated full and open competition. Following market research, it was found that no other interested offerors have the ability to provide the necessary capabilities. Therefore, with an approved limited competition justification and approval in place, the Air Force will competitively select one of the three current contractors -- Lockheed-Martin, Northrop Grumman Corp. or Raytheon -- to complete their 3DELRR design in the EMD phase.

"Following extensive market research, we pursued the strategy change to limit the competition in order to make our source selection more efficient," said Elizabeth D'Amato, contracting officer.

Contract award is anticipated to be in the middle of fiscal 2014.

"The 3DELRR team has worked tirelessly to get to this critical point in the program," said Farrell. "We are ready to move forward into the next phase where we select a contractor to complete the design and begin manufacturing this much-needed future warfighting capability."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

'STEM Rocks!' at Peterson

by Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer


8/19/2013 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Kids will be able to make slime, launch rockets, run underwater rovers, investigate dinosaurs and more at STEM Rocks!, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Peterson Air and Space Museum.

The hands-on science, technology, engineering and math activities for kindergarten to eighth graders is meant to increase interest in the STEM field, as well as provide fun for the whole family.

"Those are four areas that greatly contribute to our ability to be effective in space," said Lt. Col. Kimberly Fox, National Security Space Institute Space 300 course director and STEM Rocks! senior military advisor. "It's going to be awesome."

STEM is used for many every day activities, she said, from GPS to smart phones.

"If you don't expose kids to the field early enough, you don't know who might have an interest or aptitude at a young level," Fox said. "You don't know who will have an interest and latch on to it."

The National Security Space Institute in partnership with the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado, 21st Force Support Squadron Child and Youth Programs and Rocky Mountain Company Grade Officers' Council have teamed up to provide children and young adults with a fun and educational experience to learn about all things space and science.

This event will showcase more than 17 interactive exhibits from organizations throughout the Pikes Peak region including the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Cool Science, Radio Disney and the Civil Air Patrol.

The NSSI, located on-base, provides space education and training to space professionals and the broader national security space community. The CLCC located in Colorado Springs provides a space-based learning environment for all ages and features a Space Shuttle simulator and Mission Control Center modeled after NASA's Johnson Space Center.

To learn more about the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado, go to http://www.clccs.org/.

Admission to STEM Rocks! is free and open to all Department of Defense ID card holders. For information, call 598-9755.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

U.S. military to begin WINFLY

8/16/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, HI -- The U.S. military is scheduled to begin its winter flying period Aug. 20 as part of its support of the U.S. Antarctic Program and the National Science Foundation.

The period, known as WINFLY, is scheduled to last until Aug. 28 and will deliver advance teams and cargo for the upcoming main season of Operation DEEP FREEZE.

A C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Wa., will deploy in support of the operation to transport NSF personnel and cargo to Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand. Christchurch is the starting point for forward deployment to McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

Operation DEEP FREEZE is unlike any other U.S. military operation. It is one of the military's most difficult peacetime missions due to the harsh Antarctic environment. The U.S. military is uniquely equipped and trained to operate in such an austere environment and has therefore provided support to U.S. Antarctic research since 1955.

Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica, led by Pacific Air Forces at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, is scheduled to begin the Operation DEEP FREEZE main season at the end of September.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Air Mobility Command Scientist: Nature was model for innovative C-17 flight tests to save Air Force millions

by Roger Drinnon
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs


8/15/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- AMC's chief scientist credited birds, dolphins and surfers for the success of recent ground-breaking C-17 flight tests expected to save the Air Force millions in annual fuel costs.

Dr. Donald Erbschloe flew aboard the test flights involving surfing aircraft vortices for energy - or "$AVE" - from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and back, July 9-11. Afterward, he explained how nature provided inspiration for one C-17 aircraft to trail behind another and recapture energy that would otherwise be lost. This allows the trailing aircraft to use less fuel in a time when aviation fuel costs are soaring. Data from the tests promise savings of up to $10 million a year.

"Creatures in the wild do this all the time - exploiting conditions which give them an energetic advantage - just that slight edge," said Erbschloe. "Dolphins and human surfers ride the 'bow waves' off ships, hawks circle in thermals to gain altitude and energy, and geese fly in V-shaped formations to reduce their exertion during long migrations."

He said during a recent ferry ride in Washington State, he mused at how seagulls employed the method.

"I observed seagulls riding the air bow wave off the top of a ferry" said Erbschloe. "Just as we were starting our crossing, a seagull positioned itself and established a sustained glide - it never flapped its wings once during the entire 20-minute transit. Only when the ship slowed and maneuvered to dock did the bird start to fly on its own."

AMC aircrews and 412th Test Wing personnel, along with Boeing researchers, were on the two C-17 aircraft in the $AVE configuration. The July flights followed previous test flights at Edwards in October, which proved the science behind the concept. Results from those tests were compelling enough to warrant the follow-on tests on an actual operational mission, which also included flying at night.

"We were very pleased with the results of the long range demo. We demonstrated in-flight rendezvous, day and night operations, and flew several hours in each direction in our $AVE formation," said Bill Blake, the Air Force Research Laboratory $AVE Program Manager. "With only minor changes, we were able to attain double-digit fuel savings, which exceeded what we measured during our 2012 proof-of-concept test."

Erbschloe said other tests in years past involved fighter aircraft, which had to fly closely at "fingertip" intervals for any benefit, requiring a lot of pilot effort for what he described as "white-knuckle" flying. Not the case with the larger C-17. With minor software changes,
the C-17's autopilot sustains the $AVE position at safe distances ranging from 3,000-6,000 feet between the lead and trailing aircraft, so the aircrew workload is minimal. He said in addition to confirming the fuel savings, assessing how $AVE affected the aircrew was an important part of these latest tests.

"Maintaining position in the $AVE formation is no more task- saturating for the aircrew than flying at cruise on any other worldwide mission," said Maj. Kyle Clinton, director of 62nd Airlift Wing weapons and tactics from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and one of the pilots who flew the trailing C-17 during the tests. "Across the board, I believe the potential benefits could be worthwhile for the aviation community - not just for C-17 formations but also for mixed formations, such as tankers (accompanying) fighters."

The tests are done, and the concept is validated. The next step involves funding for a DoD Advanced Technology Demonstrator to figure out the exact procedures and processes needed to introduce this fuel-saving concept to other Air Force aircraft. The two- to three-year project could begin as early as next year, Erbschloe said.

$AVE is the culmination of an ongoing, combined effort between AMC, the AFRL, the 412th TW, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Boeing Company, and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center.

Navy Researcher: Historic Study May Lead to Malaria Vaccine

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2013 – A small clinical trial of a malaria vaccine candidate recently showed 100-percent protection against the disease. This could mean, with enough funding, that a first-generation vaccine may be ready in 4 to 5 years for deployed warfighters and people in endemic areas, a Navy researcher said.


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U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Timothy Dobson takes doxycycline, used to prevent malaria, once a day in accordance with a weekly dosage of mefloquine, also an antimalarial, April 23, 2011, in Toubakouta, Senegal. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Timothy L. Solano
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Dr. Judith Epstein, clinical director of malaria vaccine development at the Naval Medical Research Center and NMRC’s lead investigator on the study, told American Forces Press Service that the 40-person phase 1 clinical trial is historic in its success and has come after decades of work on a vaccine to prevent the ancient, deadly disease.

“My effort as a Navy captain is to develop a vaccine that can be used for warfighters,” Epstein said.

Malaria is a major challenge in many parts of the world. This includes most of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania, Central Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

“As a bonus, we are also hoping that vaccine could be used in endemic countries,” Epstein added. “… We need something for the military that’s highly effective, meaning you take the vaccine, you don’t get malaria. That’s the same thing they need in countries where they have malaria.”

For the trial, NMRC collaborated with federal scientists from the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health, Army and civilian scientists from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and scientists from vaccine developer and manufacturer Sanaria Inc., all in Maryland.
In the clinical trial, the vaccine candidate was given at different dosages by intravenous injection to 40 volunteers from October 2011 to October 2012. The trial ended in June 2013.

Three weeks after the final dose of vaccine, Epstein said, “we did what’s called a controlled human malaria infection. We challenged them with mosquitoes that carry malaria. We put five infected mosquitoes in a cup [upside down] on the person’s arm. The mosquitoes bit them and we carefully followed the patients over the next week. In fact, we admitted them [to the medical center] so we could watch them and we tested to see if they developed malaria or not.”

She added, “In the group that got the highest dose of vaccine and that got five doses, all six of the six were protected. In the group that got the highest dose but that got only four doses -- so they got the highest amount per vaccination -- six of nine were protected.”

But what’s in the latest malaria vaccine is nearly as historic as its success: Whole parasites -- the very Plasmodium falciparum parasites that infect 30 or 40 species of female Anopheles mosquitoes whose bites transfer the parasites to people and give them malaria.

But the parasites that make up the vaccine are irradiated so they are weakened and don’t cause disease, Epstein said, the same way viruses that make up vaccines for smallpox, polio and measles are weakened to produce immunity rather than disease.

Also, she added, the parasites come from mosquitoes that are grown aseptically in a laboratory built for that purpose that meets strict Food and Drug Administration requirements.

Most malaria vaccines in clinical development today are made from genetically engineered proteins that represent small parts of the malaria parasite. But Epstein said that studies in the early 1970s by Navy and University of Maryland researchers showed the benefit of full-organism immunity using irradiated mosquitoes.

In those studies, Epstein said, the researchers irradiated mosquitoes, and the parasites inside them, and then had lots of the mosquitoes bite volunteers. At the time, this was the only way to inject irradiated parasites into the volunteers.

“They knew that if you gave people enough of the mosquito [bites] you could protect them [from malaria], but in everyone’s mind they said, ‘How can we have a vaccine that’s made up of mosquitoes? That’s not possible,’” she said.

Researchers thought they’d use the idea as a model and try to understand why it worked, she added.
“Then about 2004 or 2005,” Epstein said, “our collaborators at Sanaria along with Navy investigators said, ‘We think we can do what everyone thinks is crazy and impossible, and that is grow up these mosquitoes in what we call a [good manufacturing practice] facility so it goes through all the FDA requirements. We can dissect out those parasites after they’ve been irradiated and put them in a vial … and give them safely to people.’”

The vaccine is a clear liquid, about a fifth of a milliliter, given into a vein with a very small syringe. People barely feel the shot, Epstein said.

The next steps for the vaccine, which the developer calls the Sanaria PfSPZ vaccine, will be a series of trials in the United States and around the world.

In September, Sanaria will do a field trial in Tanzania and within the next year NIH will do a trial with Navy involvement that will test the durability of the vaccine over six months.

The next Navy trial, Epstein said, “will be with the Naval Medical Research Center and the Walter Reed Institute of Research. We’re hoping to begin in the first quarter of next year if we have adequate funding.”

That trial will determine how long the vaccine will last in adult volunteers. The researchers will also test a fewer number of doses and, working with Sanaria, will do controlled tests with different strains of malaria.

“When people get infected with malaria they’re getting infected sometimes with several different strains at once,” Epstein said. “Malaria is a very formidable enemy. I think that’s why we’re so excited about this [vaccine] working is because there are so many challenges in trying to deal with malaria.”
In controlled tests, she explained, one group will test one strain and another group will test another strain. When people in the wild are bitten by mosquitoes, they get a few different strains at once. All field trials in other countries will be testing multiple strains of malaria.

Another NIH trial, at the end of this year or next year, will be held in Mali or Uganda, Epstein said, adding, “There’s a lot of activity going on.”

Ultimately, she hopes to license the vaccine through the FDA within 4 to 5 years for a first-generation vaccine that is ready for broader testing. Down the road, a second- or third-generation vaccine may reflect findings from worldwide use.

Epstein says millions of dollars will be needed to complete the trials, and that so far major funding has come from the Defense Department, the National Institutes of Health, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Some funding also will come from the consortium of federal agencies, academia and industry that will conduct trials with partners.

“This trial is the beginning,” Epstein said. “We have proved in a small group of people that this can be done. I think someone might say, ‘Well, okay, six people. Why is that so important?’ It’s so important because nothing like this has ever been done before. This is proof of concept.”

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Air Force Space Command discontinues space surveillance system

Release Number: 030813

8/13/2013 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Due to resource constraints caused by sequestration, Air Force Space Command has directed the 21st Space Wing to prepare to discontinue operations at the Air Force Space Surveillance System by Oct. 1. Final decisions on all Fiscal Year 2014 budget issues will be made over the next few weeks. By discontinuing operations, the AFSSS would not be maintained in operational status; however, equipment will not be removed until a final disposition determination is made.

The AFSSS sites are operated under contract and the 21st SW has notified the vendor, Five Rivers Services in Colorado Springs, Colo., that it most likely will not exercise the next contract option beginning Oct. 1. By de-activating the AFSSS by Oct. 1, AFSPC would see a cost savings of approximately $14 million per year, beginning in Fiscal Year 2014.

AFSPC has devised modified operating modes for the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization System at Cavalier AFS, N.D., and for the space surveillance Radar at Eglin AFB, Fla., which allows the discontinuation of AFSSS operations while still maintaining solid space situational awareness.

The AFSSS is a series of three transmitters and six receivers along the 33rd parallel stretching across the southern United States. The three transmitter sites are located at Jordan Lake, Ala.; Lake Kickapoo, Texas; and Gila River, Ariz. The six receivers are located at Tattnall, Ga.; Hawkinsville, Ga.; Silver Lake, Miss.; Red River, Ark.; Elephant Butte, N.M.; and San Diego, Calif. The two receiver sites at Tattnall and Silver Lake were deactivated in April of this year.

The AFSSS, which has been operational since 1961, is just one part of AFSPC's global Space Surveillance Network. The system is designed to transmit a "fence" of radar energy vertically into space to detect all objects intersecting that fence. The operational advantage of the AFSSS is its ability to detect objects in an un-cued fashion, rather than tracking objects based on previous information. The disadvantage is the inherent inaccuracy of the data, based on its dated design. The new operating modes at Cavalier and Eglin will provide more accuracy than the AFSSS and still collect un-cued observations.

The AFSSS is typically referred to as the "Space Fence," which has caused confusion with the new Space Fence being developed for the future. "The AFSSS is much less capable than the Space Fence radar planned for Kwajalein Island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands," said General William L. Shelton, Commander, Air Force Space Command. "In fact, it's apples and oranges in trying to compare the two systems."

Unlike the AFSSS, the new Space Fence will provide very precise positional data on orbiting objects and will be the most accurate radar in the Space Surveillance Network. It will provide enhanced space surveillance capabilities to detect and track orbiting objects such as commercial and military satellites, depleted space boosters and space debris. The new Space Fence will have much greater sensitivity, allowing it to detect, track and measure an object the size of a softball orbiting more than 1,200 miles in space. Because it is also an un-cued tracking system, it will provide evidence of satellite break-ups, collisions, or unexpected maneuvers of satellites.

"When combined with the new Joint Space Operations Center's high performance computing environment, the new Fence will truly represent a quantum leap forward in space situational awareness for the Nation," General Shelton said.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Rescue Airmen support military communications satellite launch

by Maj. Don Kerr
920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs


8/8/2013 - CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- The U.S. Air Force launched its sixth high-capacity communications satellite into orbit last night strapped to a Medium+ Delta IV rocket as Airmen and HH-60G Pave Hawks from the 920th Rescue Wing safeguarded the hazard zone.

To view a slide show of the launch support, click here.

Shortly before dusk yesterday, two rescue helicopters took off from Patrick AFB in Cocoa Beach on its mission in support of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The 920th patrols the hazard or "safe" zone surrounding the launch pad to ensure boaters are a safe distance from potentially falling rocket debris.

"The 920th's primary mission is combat rescue, but our role in this unique mission is public safety," said Col. Jeffrey Macrander, 920th RQW commander. "Our job is to clear the launch hazard zone underneath the trajectory of the rocket, just in case there is a malfunction."

At 8:29 p.m. EDT, the four strap-on solid rocket motors and five-meter payload fairing of the Delta IV lit up the night sky of the Eastern Range leaving a bright trail of billowy smoke in its wake as it raced toward space. To ensure continued safety on the range, 920th Airmen remained airborne while the rocket dashed into space.

These things we do that others may live, is the creed Rescue Wing Airmen live by when carrying out their mission of saving lives, allowing them the benefit of having a front-row seat to dangerous, yet vital missions like combat rescue and rocket launches.

The rocket contained yet another satellite to support the Wideband Global SATCOM constellation, the nation's next-generation wideband satellite communications system. The satellite will provide additional wideband SATCOM coverage for U.S. defense forces and International partners, to include Australia, which supported the cost of the sixth spacecraft under a partnership agreement.

"Our public safety mission out at the Cape is unique - nobody else does it," said Macrander. "We've enjoyed a strong relationship for twenty years now with the 45th Space Wing and Air Force Space Command to provide those resources."

According to Los Angeles AFB, Boeing will begin on-orbit testing of the satellite soon to verify nominal performance and prepare the satellite for operational use. Ultimately, the satellite will be controlled by the 3rd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo. WGS-6 should enter operations in early 2014.

"WGS is providing unparalleled global communications capabilities to soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen for the United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and New Zealand," said Charlotte Gerhart, chief, Wideband SATCOM Division, MILSATCOM Directorate.

Wideband global SATCOM provides anytime, anywhere communication for the warfighter through broadcast, multicast, and point to point connections. WGS is the only military satellite communications system that can support simultaneous X and Ka band communications.