DIU Space Station? The Pentagon’s experimental technology unit is seeking industry input for an “Orbital Outpost” program that would look to build a mini space station to test autonomous and robotic capabilities. While DIU’s request for “solution brief” calls for a small capability that’s 1-meter cubed in size and capable of carrying an 80-kilogram payload, the notice does include mention of future interest in handling unmanned and manned spacecraft, and potentially hosting humans onboard. “The solution must be capable of supporting space assembly, microgravity experimentation, logistics and storage, manufacturing, training, test and evaluation, hosting payloads, and other functions,” officials wrote. DIU is seeking platforms capable of establishing low-Earth orbit within 2 years of the contract award. The two-phase program will begin with engineering and design work before moving onto fabrication and prototype testing. DIU is accepting submissions through July 9.
The Coast Guard 418-foot National Security Cutter Bertholf returned July 2 to its homeport of Alameda, Calif., following a 164-day patrol to the Western Pacific in support of the U.S. 7th Fleet. During the 32,000 nautical mile patrol the crew of the Bertholf became the first Guard Cutter to transit the Taiwan Strait, enforced United Nations sanctions against North Korea by monitoring and gathering intelligence on vessels conducting ship-to-ship transfers in the East China, South China and Yellow Seas and also conducted capacity-building exercises with navies and coast guards in Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. In June, the NSC Stratton left Alameda for a months-long patrol to the Western Pacific in support of the 7th Fleet.
Shoe Scanning. After failed efforts over decade ago to develop technology that could quickly and effectively scan a person’s shoes at an airport security checkpoint, the Department of Homeland Security is again examining shoe scanning technology and is planning to begin prototype testing later this year. The department’s Science and Technology branch, working with the Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, has spent the past two years developing the new millimeter wave based system and expects to test it with the Transportation Security Administration this year at the Transportation Security Laboratory in Atlantic City to see if it can meet threat detection standards, John Fortune, program manager for S&T’s Screening at Speed Program, told Defense Daily. Hopefully, within a year, the prototype will be ready for an operational test at a live airport checkpoint, he said. The millimeter wave technology is the same used in the current body scanners that TSA uses at checkpoints, but with some new science, he said, and currently requires an individual to stand briefly on the scanner to detect a potential threat.
Victim Fund. Boeing is providing $100 million over multiple years to families and communities affected by the catastrophic crashes of two of its 737 MAX passenger jets, Lion Air Flight 610 last October and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March. The company said the funds will be used for education, hardship and living expenses for impacted families, as well as programs and economic development in impacted communities. Boeing also said it will match its employee donations this year in support of the families and communities impacted by the accidents. Boeing didn’t say if its contribution will affect its earnings results this year. “We at Boeing are sorry for the tragic loss of lives in both these accidents and these lives lost will continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and on our minds for years to come,” said Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing chairman, president and CEO.
F-35 Lot 12. Lockheed Martin has received $348.2 million to move into low-rate production of Lot 12 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets, the Pentagon said on July 2. The latest contract modification covers production costs and special tooling and test equipment for the new aircraft. Lot 12 will cover aircraft for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, allies and foreign military sale customers. Work on the deal is expected to be completed in August 2022. In June, Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon reached agreement on a $34 billion deal for the next three lots of F-35 production. The agreement includes 157 aircraft for Lot 12.
AI Standards Report. NIST is soliciting industry feedback on its draft report for the federal government plans to advance standards for artificial intelligence development. The draft report released on July 2 recommends four government-related AI actions, including bolstering standards-related knowledge, addressing interagency coordination, promoting research on confidence in AI tools and expanding public-private partnerships. The document is in response to a directive in an executive order signed earlier this year for federal agencies to prioritize AI-related activities. NIST officials are seeking input on the document’s proposal for the government to take on the role of monitoring, participating, influencing or leading AI standards efforts. Comments are being accepted through July 19, with the final due to the White House on Aug. 10.