Migraineman writes: In addition to the primary ISS construction mission, STS-127 is carrying two 19-inch spherical satellites scheduled for deployment on Mission Day 16. The two spheres, Castor and Pollux, are part of the Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment (ANDE) that studies atmospheric perturbations in the LEO environment. Castor contains an ARM processor, while Pollux is running an Atmel ATMega CPU. Pollux also contains student payloads developed with Arduino on Atmel AVRs. Both satellites transmit telemetry using the FX.25 FEC format developed by the Stensat guys. Many components are commercial-grade, purchased from Digikey. This is the second ANDE mission, following the successful deployment of MAA and FCal on STS-116 (both also flying commercial components.) Yes, I'm involved.
Migraineman writes: NASA has released a 400-page Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report [16MB PDF.] If you're interested in a detailed examination and timeline of the events leading to the destruction of Columbia, this is well worth the time. The report includes a number of recommendations to increase survivability of future missions.
Migraineman writes: A123 Systems is taking orders for their 100MPG battery upgrade for 2004-2008 Toyota Priuseses. Orders for the $9995 (+$400 S&H) package are expected to ship in November of 2008. The price includes professional installation at a certified installer. You get 30-40 miles of 100MPG behavior, then revert to the standard Prius performance. The new battery compliments the existing battery, and is rechargeable from a standard 120V outlet in about 4.5 hours. Yes, they've done crash testing. No, you may not buy the module independently or install it yourself.
Migraineman writes: Expected to be phased-in in January 2009, the UK's Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, Part 5 makes possession of "extreme" images a criminal act, punishable by imprisonment. What constitutes an "extreme" image? The image must be 63-2(a) pornographic; and 63-6(b) grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character. Grossly offensive or disgusting to whom? I find it quite disturbing that possession of an "extreme" image may carry a larger penalty than participating in the depicted act, as questioned by Baroness Miller [in the One Concession seciton.] Also of note, Section 72-1 criminalizes out-of-country behavior if it's prohibited in the UK. Scratch that trip to Vegas.
Migraineman writes: NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX has unveiled a prototype lunar truck. It offers six-wheel-drive, six-wheel-steering, and standing room for one person. They've tossed the "oversized golf cart" Apollo-era topology for something that more resembles the Mars Rovers' drivetrain. They also claim it to be "the ultimate low-rider," as it has the ability to squat for simplified payload and passenger loading. A video is expected on NASA-TV, but doesn't appear in the schedule yet.
Migraineman writes: Gibson has introduced it's auto-tuning Robot version of the classic Les Paul guitar. The volume knob has been updated with eleventeen functions, including multi-color tuning status LEDs. An NiMH battery lives in the guitar body. The CPU and motor-driven tuning pegs are integrated into the headstock. There's not much technical meat at Gibson's flash-encumbered website, but this Design News article gives some decent insight into the inner workings. The PDF manual is also available. Gibson has done a remarkable job integrating the additional features without tarnishing the classic visual appear. For example, the guitar strings are used to send power and telemetry from the body to the tuning head. Oh, and the MSRP for this beauty is $2499.
Migraineman writes: "Elon Musk has posted a preliminary post-flight analysis of the Falcon 1 flight. Initial indications are that the oscillations of the second stage were caused by a combination of slosh in the LOX tank and an impact event between the interstage ring and the second-stage rocket nozzle — ultimately the sloshing caused the LOX to move away from the fuel sump, starving the engine of oxidizer and resulting in premature engine shutdown. Baffles are to be added to the LOX tank, and the thrust vector algorithms are getting updates. They're also considering changes to the first-stage engine shutdown profile to reduce the chance of nozzle-smackage.
In spite of not getting to LEO, the Falcon 1 flight is being considered a success, and SpaceX is moving forward with the TacSat-1 launch scheduled for September."
Migraineman writes: "I stumbled upon a clever hack by Sprite. He reverse engineered the pin functions on an HP inkjet cartridge, and built a simple driver board that converts the cartridge into a hand-held inkjet printer. The driver board is programmed with a fixed message. Moving the "print head" is your responsibility, but it leads to some interesting applications. Printing messages on a whiteboard was the original inspiration, but printing messages on the foam head of a Guinness is just inspired."