Posts Tagged ‘SNL’

9 May, 2011

The week of April 28th, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) highlighted its supercomputers in what they call “Supercomputing Week 2011” (ECHO, Echo, echo).

NNSA’s three national laboratories house some of the world’s fastest supercomputers: Roadrunner, Cielo, BlueGene/L, Dawn/Sequoia, and RedStorm. I was intrigued when I came across an article on a recent project preformed by the Advances Simulation and Computing (ASC) program that modeled space debris. Do we really have that much junk up there that we can model it?

Over two years ago, a defunct Russian satellite and a privately owned American communications satellite collided near the North Pole. The incident produced clouds of debris that quickly joined the orbital parade of junk that includes hundreds of active and inactive satellites, bits of booster rockets, and even lost astronaut tools from the more than 80 countries that have joined the space community. Needless to say, we are running out of space in this orbital… well, space.

Russian satellite and a privately owned American communications satellite that collided near the North Pole

Russian satellite and a privately owned American communications satellite that collided near the North Pole

As a child, I always thought a great solution to dumps here on Earth would be to launch it into space. Childish, I know. Yet, it appears that 50 years of launching “stuff” into orbit adds up. Various nations have already collectively polluted space, without ever purposely firing a single one of my ill-conceived “trash-hauling” or “dump-truck” rockets. The NNSA, Sandia National Laboratory (SNL), and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have put together a team of computational physics and engineering experts to better understand the impact of such space debris.

Will old junk in slow-decaying orbits someday rain down fiery molten balls of metal? It appears that we shall soon know. A crack crew of scientists and engineers has developed the Testbed for Space Situational Awareness (TESSA). It is designed to enable them to simulate the position of objects in orbit and detect objects by telescope and radar systems, helping to prevent a space disaster (a.k.a., a fiery death from above).

This geek truly hopes that his first trip into space isn’t reminiscent of a trip to the dump with his father or, maybe I do. I always did find some pretty cool stuff to geek out on there! Heck, I even have colleagues who still go “dumpster diving.”

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9 February, 2011

Scene: A geek (me) and his executive team have just finished a round of power meetings in a foreign country. As they boarding the private, corporate jet, John Smith proclaims: “That food from dinner last night isn’t sitting well for me.” I turn to him and say, “That’s fine John. There is no need to fret because we just had that new take-off and landing toilet seat upgrade installed!” Phew, crisis averted.

This may sound like a skit straight off of Saturday Night Live (SNL) but, alas, it isn’t. It’s news. This month, a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer announced: “Embraer Certifies Belted Toilet for the Phenom 100 Jet.” The certifications were received from Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency (Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil, or ANAC) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA); U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval is expected in the coming weeks.

To receive certification, the belted toilet seat had to undergo a variety of tests. For example, it had to withstand an impact of 21 times the force of gravity and provide adequate safety for the passenger. Modifications to pass this test included adding a belt to the toilet seat and reinforcement of the aft bulkhead divider.

This upgrade provides a seventh seat on the popular six-seat jet from the third or fourth largest aircraft manufacturer in the world (Bombardier and Embraer often switch positions in the rankings).

“This much-awaited product improvement comes to enhance the Phenom 100’s seating capacity, and is a result of listening to our customers,” Maurício Almeida, Embraer vice president, Programs – Executive Jets, said in a news release. “Embraer is committed to offering unique, customer-centered solutions, and continues to work hard to further improve this successful and highly popular airplane.”

Embraer's new  belted toilet

Embraer's new belted toilet

Really!? I am astounded that people really requested a feature such as a take-off and landing toilet, and so much so that it has been built and certified for flight. In high school, we used to call shotgun for the front seat. What fun games will these executive passengers invent?

Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Nonetheless, I am always excited to hear of new mil/aero innovations and companies proactively moving the industry forward. What will we think of next? This geek can’t wait to find out.

P.S., Please keep the seat in its downright and locked position during take-off and landing.

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