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Satellites Mating Via Robotic Arm 91

Roland Piquepaille writes "The launch of the Orbital Express mission, with its two satellites ASTRO and NextSat, the first one servicing the other, was widely covered a month ago. But what is happening in space now? In 'Robotic satellite servicer rehearsal underway in orbit,' Spaceflight Now reports about the progress done. A week ago, the two satellites were able to link to each other to operate the first transfer of hydrazine fuel from ASTRO's propellant tanks into NextSat. This weekend, ASTRO's ten-foot-long robotic arm is going to be used to move objects to NextSat. But what does it mean for international satellite operators when they need help with their space birds? Will they use a system designed for U.S.'s DARPA? "

3-D Virtual Maps For the Blind 50

Roland Piquepaille writes to let us know about research into producing palpable maps for the blind. Scientific American has the story of Greek researchers who produce 3D "haptic" maps that "use force fields to represent walls and roads so the visually impaired can better understand the layout of buildings and cities." Two separate systems produce haptic output from standard video and from 2D maps. The systems have been tested on a small number of users. Currently the devices that interpret the "force fields" for sight-impaired users are not portable, and so the systems are most appropriate for doing research before, e.g., visiting a new city.

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