All posts by Val

A Victory for Whales

Do we want to kill and maim some of the most majestic creatures on earth to defend our seas and shores?

No, we don’t – and now we have a federal court settlement to prove it.

After years of litigation, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and their partners reached a legal settlement requiring the U.S. Navy to take common-sense measures to protect endangered blue whales and other marine mammals from needless harm and hazard during training exercises and testing operations off the coasts of Hawaii and Southern California.

For decades, far too many of these animals have suffered from the Navy’s use of powerful sonar and high explosives undersea. As marine mammals depend on their finely tuned sense of hearing to survive, sonar and explosives can cause injuries or impair their ability to communicate, navigate, and find food. They can go silent, become panicked, or be driven from their habitats. In some cases, high-intensity sonar has caused whales to beach themselves in large groups or left them with serious injuries.

As a result of the settlement, spelled out in a September 14, 2015, order from the

Blainville's beaked whale

, the U.S. Navy must cease using sonar and high explosives in waters critical to the most vulnerable of these creatures. Captains and commanders must plan their expeditions and steer their vessels to give a wide berth to whales in these areas.


Naval security and readiness remain sound. The commander of the Pacific Fleet may override these measures if necessary for national defense, provided such decisions are made public afterward.

This settlement shows the way to both protect our fleet and our whales, ensuring the security of naval operations while reducing the mortal hazard to some of the most magnificent animals on the planet. Our navy will be the better for this – and so will the oceans our sailors defend.

That’s good news for the hundreds of endangered blue whales that return each year to feed off the coast of Southern California. The world’s largest creatures, blue whales can grow up to 110 feet long and weigh upwards of 330,000 pounds – as much as 100 Chevy sedans. They were hunted to near extinction, though, and are now endangered, with as few as 10,000 estimated alive in the wild.

It’s good news for beaked whales, champion divers that can plunge to depths of 9,000 feet or more in search of fish and squid. And it’s good news for the many small populations of whales and dolphins that cluster around the Hawaiian Islands.

Next, we need to protect important whale habitat on other U.S. Navy ranges: from the coasts of Virginia to central Florida, off the coasts of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, in the Gulf of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, and off the Marianas Islands.

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter

China Threat: More Submarines Than US Navy

Applied Technology Institute (ATICourses) offers a variety of courses on Acoustic & Sonar Engineering as well as Radar, Defense, Missiles and Combat Systems.  The new below would be of interest to our readers.

China is building some “fairly amazing submarines” and now has more diesel- and nuclear-powered vessels than the United States.  China is also expanding the geographic areas of operation for its submarines, and their length of deployment.  For instance, China had carried out three deployments in the Indian Ocean, and had kept vessels out at sea for 95 days.

U.S. military officials in recent months have grown increasingly vocal about China’s military buildup and launched a major push to ensure that U.S. military technology stays ahead of rapid advances by China and Russia.

The quality of China’s submarines is reportedly lower than those built by the United States, but the size of its undersea fleet had now surpassed that of the U.S. fleet. A spokeswoman said the U.S. Navy had 71 commissioned U.S. submarines.  U.S. submarines are built by Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. and General Dynamics Corp.

In its last annual report to Congress about China’s military and security developments, the Pentagon said China had 77 principal surface combatant ships, more than 60 submarines, 55 large and medium amphibious ships, and about 85 missile-equipped small combatants.

Read more here.

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter


Suntory is possibly best known to moviegoers as the client that brought “Bob Harris” to Japan to film a commercial, in Sofia Coppola’s 2003 gem Lost in Translation. It’s Japan’s oldest whisky distillery, and if that makes you think that it is in any way dusty or not keeping up with the current trends in whiskeyology, note that just last year its Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 secured the award for “Best Whisky in the World.”

Not only that, Suntory recently announced that it intends to send some of its delightful spirits to age in outer space. They suspect that the zero-gravity environment may result in nothing less than the smoothest whiskey ever produced.

Suntory will be sending six varieties of whiskey, aged for 10, 18, and 21 years, along with recently distilled beverages, to outer space as part of an experiment. Their theory is that the weightlessness of space will result in a smoother aged whiskey than is possible to attain on Earth. Employees at JAXA’s Tsukuba City Space Center in Ibaraki Prefecture recently prepared glass flasks that will be used to transport the spirits when Konotori Vehicle 5 (HTV-5) launches from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center on August 16.

The whiskey samples will be left on the International Space Station for an unspecified number of years before being brought home to be inspected. Unfortunately for drink connoisseurs, Suntory has already stated that they have no plans to sell space whiskey as a product to the general public.

Take that, Wild Turkey!

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter

3D-Printed UAV-Noah Eat Your Heart Out

Applied Technology Institute (ATI Courses) prides itself on offering the technical training in the latest technologies, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or drones.

UAS Multi-Rotor Small Operations Aug 24-30, 2015 Seattle, WA
UAS Multi-Rotor Small Operations Sep 28- Oct 4, 2015 New York, NY
UAS Multi-Rotor Small Operations Oct 3-9, 2015 Denver, CO
Unmanned Aircraft Systems-Sensing, Payloads & Products On Site Your Facility
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Guidance & Control On Site Your Facility
Unmanned Air Vehicle Design On Site Your Facility
Unmanned Aircraft System Fundamentals On Site Your Facility

We believe the news below would be of interest to our readers.

It’s straight out of the classic Biblical tale, Noah’s Ark—when Noah deploys a dove from his vessel for a reconnaissance mission, post-flood. Except that the ark is a Royal Navy warship and the dove is a 3D-printed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Last Tuesday, the HMS Mersey launched its Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft (SULSA), the world’s first 3D-printed UAV, off the coast of Dorset, England—an aerodynamic feat that could revolutionize the economics of aircraft design.

SULSA was printed using laser-sintered nylon and is capable of flying up to 58 mph in near-perfect silence. With a wingspan of 1.5 meters, the six and a half pound craft flew 500 meters into the Wyke Regis Training Facility before landing on Chesil Beach.

The UAV is the brainchild of Project Triangle, a University of Southampton research team that has been working on perfecting designs for a 3D-printed UAV since 2011. Engineers wanted to focus on how a simple, yet rugged UAV frame could be constructed at a low cost. (Although other ship-launched drones exist, they are larger and cost millions of dollars.)

The frame itself required no assembly. Accessory equipment, such as the automation system and on-board camera, were attached, post-print, using “snap fit” techniques so that the entire aircraft could be assembled quickly and without any tools.

3D printing also afforded engineers with considerable design flexibility. For example, laser sintering has allowed the team to inexpensively manufacture an elliptical wing platform, which is known to offer drag benefits.

SULSA’s successful flight has demonstrated how small, lightweight UAVs can be easily created, assembled, and launched at sea should necessity arise (for example, in the aftermath of a natural disaster—Biblical or otherwise).

Check out the epic flight for yourself:

New Horizons: Recollections of Ground System Engineer, Steve Gemeny

This image of Pluto from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) was received on July 8, and has been combined with lower-resolution color information from the Ralph instrument.

When we think about the ground system on a space mission we tend to consider all the systems associated with commanding, receiving and archiving telemetry, and all the communications systems and equipment that makes that all work.  We plan contingencies, and redundancies, we back up everything in multiple formats, and on long duration missions like New Horizons someone eventually has to address “how are we going to keep all that stuff on the ground running for 10 – 20 years”-  and produces a Longevity Plan.

But once everything is all setup, and operational, and all the staff are at their stations on launch day – having already given the first “Go For Launch” pole responses with 5 hours till launch – You have to wonder, did anyone ever consider what to do if the entire JHU/APL campus goes dark!

No one had.  And with a newly installed cutover for the main (PEPCO) power feed providing an automatic transfer to a backup (BGE) feed  no one expected to ever need the capability, let alone that it would failed to transfer.  It did- at about 5:30 am on launch day while I was on console at KSC.  The rapid application of backup generators to sustain the Mission Operations Center at APL only solved half of the issues…  Network switches and routers were scattered across campus, most only running on UPS Power until that failed too… there was no cooling air to keep everything operating within normal temperatures on January 18, 2006…  Things were going from bad to worse and the Mission System Engineer was heard to say “  I’ve seen how quickly a Launch day can get deep into the contingency  plan, I’m not starting a launch when we are already this deep into solving unplanned contingencies”. This resulted in the launch being scrubbed and resumed on January 19th after power and environmental control systems were restored campus wide at APL.

Fortunately, I spent the time that afternoon to write the whole thing up in case I was asked to give a report, I’ve got pictures of generators outside Building 13, with external air handlers and chillers hosed up to blowers and leaks flooding the hallways…  It was a ZOO!.  I was safe at KSC and we restarted the count for a successful launch on the 19th.

Steve Gemeny teaches Ground Systems Design & Operations course for ATICourses.

Other scientists & engineers that worked on the New Horizons and also teach for ATI are:

1. Dr. Alan Stern

2. Eric Hoffman

3. Chris DeBoy

4. Dr. Mark E. Pittelkau

5. Douglas Mehoke

6. John Penn

7. Timothy Cole

8. Robert Moore

9. Jay Jenkins


Read more


Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter

Attend Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) Fundamentals (1-day) and the follow-on MBSE Applications courses (2-days)

My name is Zane Scott and I teach the Model-Based Systems Engineering courses for Applied Technology Institute (ATICourses).  I want to invite you the ATI’s Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) Fundamentals (1-day) and the follow-on MBSE Applications courses (2-days). The Model-Based Systems Engineering Fundamentals course includes discussion of real-life benefits from this approach versus the traditional document-centric systems design methodology. The two-day follow-on class provides in-depth practical advice and case studies based on specific satellite and defense systems case studies.

Model-based Systems Engineering Fundamentals Aug 11, 2015 Columbia, MD
Model-based Systems Engineering (2 day) Aug 12-13, 2015 Columbia, MD


The benefits of MBSE from a program manager/sponsor perspective are emphasized in day 1, which is available as a stand-along course for Program Managers and other non-technical sponsors. The two-day follow-on class provides in-depth knowledge for the working systems engineer. These courses are practical and useful in managing complex systems design projects utilizing MBSE which promises to impact projects positively by improving communication among the team, promoting reuse (and associated cost/risk reduction), and maintaining traceability from the requirements through validation and verification.

But are these promises fulfilled and results documented? Case studies are used to illustrate the practical benefits of MBSE.  MBSE was recently used on a student project at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. The student team was so impressed by the effectiveness of this approach that they recorded a 2014 case study webinar. This success story is especially beneficial for Systems Engineering Managers seeking to clearly understand the Return on Investment from MBSE.

Systems Engineering practitioners will appreciate the in-depth practical system design process outlined in day 2 and 3 of this course with reference to the CubeSat program case study. The Embry-Riddle EagleSat program took off in 2012 as part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. The student-run, professor-guided organization has a goal of flying Embry-Riddle’s first satellite, a fully functioning 10-centimeter cube focused on analyzing the susceptibility of computer memory to solar radiation, while also mapping the body’s orbital decay over time.


The systems engineering effort, undertaken through the use of MBSE, has played a critical role in requirements management and maintaining design traceability throughout the development process and across all six subsystems. The choice to use MBSE comes from the approach’s inherent ability to document complex element relationships while easily and fully communicating these to other team members through generated reports and descriptive diagrams.

Please consider attending either the 1-day Fundamentals class if you need an overview, or the full 3-day class to learn how to effectively apply MBSE to real-world, complex systems engineering projects.

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter

Perspective On South China Sea “Aggression”

Battle of the Paracel Islands


Applied Technology Institute (ATI Courses) and Applied Technology Institute (ATII) offer a variety of courses in Defense, Radar, Electronic Warfare and Missiles.  We believe the story below would be of interest to our readers.  It was written by Nguyen Hong Thao who is an Assistant Professor in Law at the National University of Hanoi, Vietnam. He also serves at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.

Satellite images showing the extent of land reclamation of China and Vietnam in South China Sea have sparked debates about who the biggest aggressor is and what the status quo is (see: “Who Is the Biggest Aggressor in the South China Sea?,” “Who Is the Biggest Aggressor in the South China Sea? (A Rejoinder),” and “The South China Sea: Defining the ‘Status Quo’“).

To be specific, concept of “aggression” is mentioned in the Resolution 3314 of United Nations General Assembly on the 14th of December, 1972. Aggression is the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations. The aggressed Nation has the right to defend itself.

The recent land reclamation work in South China Sea is tied closely to the issue of sovereignty claims. Historical evidence proves that Vietnam has been the first state to have administration over the Spratly and Paracel Islands dating back to at least the 17th century. China, by contrast, only took interest in the Paracels in 1909 and claimed them as the southern terminus of its land in 1932. China was also the last country to set foot in the Spratlys in 1988 after using force to shoot down three Vietnamese ships and brutally massacring 64 Vietnamese without any weapons in their hands. The Philippines took interest in Spratlys at the end of 1950s, while Malaysia was attending to the southern part of these islands in 1980s.

The first step that any sovereign state which has gotten attacked by force would take is reinforcing its garrisons to prevent any violation of its sovereignty. In 1988, Vietnam increased its troops on 21 features in the Spratlys and clearly informed the world that it was doing so. The Philippines has stationed troops on 8 features, China on 9, and Taiwan on 1. Malaysia has increased its occupation from 3 in 1980 to 5 features in 1999.

In his recent article for The Diplomat, Greg Austin wrote that: “By 2015, according to the United States government, Vietnam occupied 48 features and China occupied eight”.  First, Austin misquoted from the remarks of U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense, David Shear, on May 13, 2015. Shear actually said that “Vietnam has 48 outposts,” but Austin reported it as “features” instead of “outposts” in the initial part of his piece.

Second, it is important to look more closely at the nature of Vietnamese behavior in the South China Sea beyond just that statistic. For instance, in 1995, in order to minimize tensions and create favorable conditions for the settlement of disputes, Vietnam was the first one to call on other countries of concern to preserve the status quo. More generally, Vietnam tends to limit the ‘outposts’ on its features to include only some observation points to ensure proper administration as well as security from foreign invasion. For example, on Barque Canada Shoal (Bai Thuyen Chai), which is 17 nautical miles long and 3 nautical miles wide, Vietnam has a garrison in the center and two observation outposts in the two termini of the shoal.

Given this, it is quite unfair to compare Vietnam’s activities in the South China Sea with that of China’s. According to comments by General Phùng Quang Thanh, on June 1, 2015, Vietnam still maintains outposts in 9 islands and 12 reefs. But having several outposts in one natural feature is not like reclaiming land to create a feature many times larger than its original size to build a military complex, as China is doing.

Third, it is important to distinguish China’s activities from that of other claimants and be clear about the consequences of Beijing’s actions. The construction by Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia started all before the conclusion of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed between China and ASEAN in 2002. They have similarities: they are being undertaken in islands and reefs naturally surrounded by water at high tide; they aim to prevent erosion and improve the standard of living, they include materials being transported from mainland; they occur on features which are being increasingly civilized and starting to open for tourism; they do not include heavy weapons; they are meant for defense rather than creating military bases that can threat other nations; and they are not changing nature of the feature.

The land reclamation made by China on the low tide elevations (LTE) far from the Chinese mainland, which is approximately 1000km, has started since 1988 and has occurred at a very fast pace and huge scale. Satellite images show that China has been expanding the land reclamation area from 20 hectares to 810 hectares. In Subi, an LTE, the speed of land reclamation from May to June 2015 is 8 hectares per day, transforming the LTE to a military base of around 3.87 square kilometers capable of building an airfield strip of about 3km. Remember that the whole area encompassing all islands and reefs in Spratlys is not more than 10 square kilometers, stretched over the sea area which is about 160,000 to 180,000 square kilometers.

Besides the scale of these activities, China’s actions are also negatively impacting the region and infringing on international law. China uses the biggest dredge ships in the world to destroy the coral reef ecosystem for extracted material. This damages over 300 hectares of coral reef, creating initial loss of more than $100 million every year for countries in South China Sea, in addition of course to the damage to the environment which. And as many others have pointed out, China’s transformation of LTEs into artificial islands, followed by demands by the international community to give them the legal status of natural islands and recognize a 12 nautical mile territorial sea and even a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, violated the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which China is a party to.

In contrast, Vietnam’s land reclamation is only 0.2% of China’s land reclamation made as of March 2015. China has declared that construction work in these LTEs is in the interest of marine protection, marine science research, and SAR (search and rescue). However, above all, they are designed to be military bases equipped with heavy guns, ports and airfields. The consequences of this are quite dire. Given the extent and speed of Chinese land reclamation, the world has reason to worry about the threat to freedom of navigation, at least around 12 nautical miles from Chinese construction. Furthermore, these bases can serve as departure points for Chinese coast guard, navy, and fishery inspection forces to drive away, shoot, loot and rob Malaysian, Filipino, and Vietnamese fishing boats, all the while slowly establishing a ban on fishing in the area and advancing the nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea.

China’s bases are clearly of an offensive nature and threaten regional peace and stability. This is why the United States, the G7 and other countries have felt compelled to protest. If China continues its activities in the South China Sea, this has the potential trigger an arms race in the region as smaller nations feel they need to invest more in weapons as the only guarantee of their security and sovereignty. Because in the South China Sea, China seems to not only be violating international law, but setting its own rules.

Nguyen Hong Thao is an Assistant Professor in Law at the National University of Hanoi, Vietnam. He also serves at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.


Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter

STEM- The Latest Trend For Kids- Vote For Your Favorite Starter Kit

The latest trend in toys isn’t an app or a TV character, it’s STEM: aka, science, technology, engineering, and math. More companies are creating toys that improve these particular skill sets without boring children. Now is your chance to vote for the best STEM starter kit! Each week you can choose your favorite STEM Starters to move to the next round. Winners of each round (declared by the majority reader-vote) advance to the next round for future voting.

Vote here to support young scientists and engineers!

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter

Secretive US Air Force space plane X-37B back in orbit

Applied Technology Institute (ATICourses) offers a variety of courses on Space, Satellite & Aerospace Engineering. The news on mysterious US Air Force X-37B space plane would be of interest to our readers.

The US Air Force launched its robotic space plane into orbit for a fourth flight on May 19, 2015 aboard an Atlas 5 rocket, in a mission aimed at testing a new engine to steer satellites, officials said.

The rocket carrying the X-37B successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida and officials said the scheduled return of the unmanned plane had yet to be determined.

The mini-shuttle has been shrouded in secrecy and military officers have refused to discuss its purpose. But defense experts have speculated it might be meant for spying from space, fixing broken satellites or even as a space “bomber.”

Captain Chris Hoyler, a spokesman for the US Air Force, told AFP the latest flight was part of efforts looking at the “technical parameters for an affordable, reusable space vehicle.”

The X-37B will be testing a new orbital “thruster system” — which uses electricity and xenon — that could be employed to maneuver satellites in space, officials said.

Asked if the plane could be used for surveillance, Hoyler declined to comment.

The X-37B payload also includes a NASA experiment, which will study how a range of materials can endure conditions in space. The results could help scientists working on the possible design of future spacecraft.

The last mission for the X-37B in 2014 extended over 674 days but officials never said what the plane was up to.

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter

U.S. Submarines To Be Upgraded With New Generation COTS Systems

SAN DIEGO (Feb. 6, 2015) The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Albuquerque (SSN 706) departs San Diego for a deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom/Released)

Applied Technology Institute (ATICourses) offers a variety of courses on Acoustic, Noise & Sonar Engineering.  The news below should be of interest to our readers.

COTS stands for commercial off-the-shelf stands for commercial items and available in the commercial marketplace that can be bought and used under government contract.  Motivations for using COTS components include hopes for reduction of overall system-development and costs (as components can be bought or licensed instead of being developed from scratch) and reduced long-term maintenance costs.

Now COTS computer equipment for sonar signal processing designed by General Dynamics Corp. will be introduced to to US Navy submarines.

A $47 million dollars were granted to the company to deliver Multipurpose Processor (MPP) engineering services and Total Ship Monitoring Systems (TSMS) for Ohio-class missile submarines as well as on Los Angeles-, Seawolf-, and Virginia-class fast attack submarines.  The goal of the Naval Sea Systems Command is to increase effectiveness of the following:

  • towed array
  • hull array
  • sphere array
  • sonar signal processing

The MPP is a multi-array interface receiver that provides signal conditioning for received array signals; data processing; digital formatting of data; beam formation; and signal processing for A-RCI display data.

The TSMS, meanwhile, monitors and localizes the submarine’s own noise sources including transients, so onboard sonar systems can compensate for it and improve its ability to detect and identify sound emissions from other submarines ad surface ships. The TSMS feeds its data to the MPP.

Sign Up For ATI Courses eNewsletter