White House launches American AI Initiative

AI illustration / N. Hanacek / NIST

Artificial intelligence could open the door to a variety of applications. (NIST Illustration / N. Hanacek)

The White House is moving forward with the American AI Initiative, a set of policies aimed at focusing the full resources of the federal government on the frontiers of artificial intelligence.

President Donald Trump is due to sign an executive order launching the initiative on Feb. 11. Among its provisions is a call for federal agencies to prioritize AI in their research and development missions, and to prioritize fellowship and training programs to help American workers gain AI-relevant skills.

The initiative also directs agencies to make federal data, models and computing resources more available to academic and industry researchers, “while maintaining the security and confidentiality protections we all expect.”

“This action will drive our top-notch AI research toward new technological breakthroughs and promote scientific discovery, economic competitiveness and national security,” the White House said in a statement.

As a trust-building measure, federal agencies are being asked to establish regulatory guidelines for AI development and use across different types of technology and industrial sectors. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is being given the lead role in the development of technical standards for reliable, trustworthy, secure and interoperable AI systems.

The White House says an action plan will be developed “to preserve America’s advantage in collaboration with our international partners and allies.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

SpaceX seeks OK for a million earth stations

Starlink simulation

A simulation shows how a 4,425-satellite constellation could be deployed for SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service. (Mark Handley / University College London)

SpaceX has opened a new window into its ambitious plans for a global satellite broadband data network, thanks to an earth-station license application filed with the Federal Communications Commission.

The application, filed on behalf of a sister company called SpaceX Services, seeks blanket approval for up to a million earth stations that would be used by customers of the Starlink satellite internet service. The stations would rely on a flat-panel, phased-array system to transmit and receive signals in the Ku-band to and from the Starlink constellation.

Those satellites have already received clearance from the FCC, and SpaceX plans to launch the first elements of the initial 4,425-satellite constellation this year, using Falcon 9 rockets. The company sent up its first two experimental broadband satellites last year and has been tweaking its plans for Starlink as a result of those space-to-ground tests. Eventually, SpaceX wants to build up the network to take in as many as 12,000 satellites in low Earth orbit.

The application filed with the FCC on Feb. 1 focuses on the receiving end of the space-based service.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

3-D printer plus recycler installed in orbit

Installation of Refabricator

NASA astronaut Anne McClain installs Tethers Unlimited’s Refabricator recycling and 3-D printing payload aboard the International Space Station. (NASA Photo via Tethers Unlimited)

NASA astronauts on the International Space Station have installed the first integrated 3-D printer and plastic recycler to go into orbit, and it’s currently being checked out for experiments that are due to start in the next few weeks.

The Refabricator, a device about the size of a dorm-room refrigerator, was built at Tethers Unlimited’s headquarters in Bothell, Wash., under the terms of a $2.5 million contract from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research program. It was tested at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and sent up to the station on a Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply flight in November.

Tethers Unlimited engineers supported the space station operations team while NASA astronaut (and Spokane native) Anne McClain installed the Refabricator into the space station’s experiment racks.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

ZTF team shares sky scanner’s greatest hits

Andromeda galaxy

This composite image of the Andromeda galaxy was made by combining images from the Zwicky Transient Facility in three bands of visible light. The image covers 2.9 square degrees, which is one-sixteenth of ZTF’s full field of view. (ZTF Photo / D. Goldstein / R. Hurt / Caltech)

A state-of-the-art astronomical camera system in California known as the Zwicky Transient Facility is rolling out an early batch of greatest hits with an assist from the University of Washington.

The wide-angle camera makes use of the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope at Southern California’s Palomar Observatory, with Caltech playing the principal role in the $24 million project. But UW is one of the partners in the ZTF consortium, and UW’s DIRAC Institute plays a key role in the automated alert system that lets astronomers know when the instrument has picked up a hot one.

Technical details and early results from the ZTF are laid out in a flurry of six papers accepted by the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. The discoveries include more than 1,100 supernovae and 50 near-Earth asteroids. One of the finds is a strange space rock known as 2019 AQ3. It makes an orbit around the sun every 165 days, which gives it the shortest “year” of any known asteroid.

“It’s a cornucopia of results,” Caltech astronomer Shri Kulkarni, the ZTF project’s principal investigator, said in a news release. “We are up and running and delivering data to the astronomical community. Astronomers are energized.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Virgin Galactic test pilots get astronaut wings

Astronaut wings ceremony

Wearing their astronaut wings, SpaceShipTwo test pilots Rick Sturckow and Mark Stucky face the cameras as Virgin Galactic’s billionaire founder, Richard Branson, flashes a thumbs-up sign. (FAA / Virgin Galactic Photo)

Two Virgin Galactic test pilots are now wearing the first commercial astronaut wings to be awarded since SpaceShipOne’s historic spaceflights in 2004.

Last December’s test flight, piloted by Mark “Forger” Stucky and Rick “CJ” Sturckow in the SpaceShipTwo Unity rocket plane, was nearly as historic. It rose to an altitude of 51.4 miles, exceeding the 50-mile benchmark that’s used by the U.S. military and the Federal Aviation Administration for conferring astronaut wings.

Stucky and Sturckow received their wings today during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Later in the day, the rocket motor that powered the pair past the milestone was officially turned over to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum for exhibit.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

NASA pays tribute to fallen astronauts

Wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery

Vice President Mike Pence and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine set a memorial wreath among the gravestones for the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire of 1967, with former NASA administrators, family members and other VIPs surrounding them at Arlington National Cemetery. (NASA / White House Photo)

NASA highlighted the legacy of astronauts lost in tragic missions including 1967’s Apollo 1, the shuttle Challenger’s launch in 1986 and the shuttle Columbia’s breakup in 2003 today — a week later than originally planned due to the partial government shutdown.

The observance was postponed because NASA had to forgo non-essential activities during the 35-day hiatus in funding. A deal was struck to end the shutdown on Jan. 25, but by then NASA had already decided to reschedule. Now another shutdown deadline is looming on Feb. 15.

Nary a word was spoken about the delay, either in NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s remarks or in a written statement from President Donald Trump.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mini-probes fade into the sunset beyond Mars

MarCO view of Mars

This image of Mars was captured by one of NASA’s MarCO satellites from a distance of about 4,700 miles, about 10 minutes after the descent of NASA’s Mars InSight lander on Nov. 26, 2018. The grid seen on the right edge of the image is the spacecraft’s high-gain antenna. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Photo)

Farewell, WALL-E and EVE: NASA says it’s lost contact with two briefcase-sized MarCO nanosatellites, more than two months after their history-making Mars flyby.

And yet another robotic explorer, NASA’s Opportunity rover, has been mute on Mars for eight months, heightening suspicions that its 15-year watch could be at an end.

There’s still hope for Oppy: Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory say they haven’t been able to rouse the golf-cart-sized robot since a global dust storm wiped kept it from recharging its solar-powered battery system last June. But with Martian winter closing in, they’ve just begun a new set of wakeup strategies.

There’s less hope for the two MarCO satellites, whose nicknames come from a couple of robotic characters in the Disney/Pixar animated film “WALL-E.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment