News Briefs – January 2, 2019


U.S. Army looks for a few good robots, sparks industry battle

The Army is looking for a few good robots.
These robots won’t be designed to fight, but to help the men and women who do by defusing bombs and scouting enemy positions.
Though the robots aren’t expected to take up arms, the companies making them have waged a different kind of battle. At stake is a contract worth almost half a billion dollars for 3,000 backpack-sized robots. Competition for the work has spilled over into Congress and federal court.
Regardless of which companies prevail, the competition foreshadows a future in which robots become even more common. The Army’s immediate plans alone envision a new fleet of 5,000 ground robots of varying sizes and levels of autonomy. The Marines, Navy and Air Force are making similar investments. AP

California launch of U.S. intelligence satellite pushed back

The repeatedly delayed launch of a National Reconnaissance Office satellite from California has been pushed back another week.
United Launch Alliance said Friday the launch of the NROL-71 satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base will now occur no earlier than Jan. 6.
After the most recent launch attempt was scrubbed on Dec. 19, United Launch Alliance initially aimed for a 24-hour turnaround but then said Dec. 30 would be the earliest attempt.
That scrub was due to elevated hydrogen concentrations a booster engine section of the Delta 4 Heavy rocket.
The National Reconnaissance Office is responsible for U.S. intelligence satellites. AP

Russian, Turkish ministers meet for Syria talks

Russian and Turkish foreign and defense ministers have met in Moscow to discuss northern Syria as U.S. forces prepare to withdraw and Turkey threatens to launch a military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces controlling nearly a third of the country.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said before the talks began Dec. 29 they would focus on the situation in and around Idlib, as well as “what can and should be done” when the U.S. withdraws from Syria.
After the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters much of the discussion focused on the pending U.S. withdrawal, and that Russia and Turkey managed to agree on coordinating their steps in Syria “to ultimately eradicate the terrorist threat.”
Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said the meeting lasted an hour and a half. AP