Friday, March 24, 2017

NASA taking first steps toward high-speed space internet

NASA taking first steps toward high-speed space internet: The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will help NASA understand the best ways to operate laser communications systems. They could enable much higher data rates for connections between spacecraft and Earth, such as scientific data downlink and astronaut communications.

"LCRD is the next step in implementing NASA's vision of using optical communications for both near-Earth and deep space missions," said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, which leads the LCRD project. "This technology has the potential to revolutionize space communications, and we are excited to partner with the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate's Space Communications and Navigation program office, MIT Lincoln Labs and the U.S. Air Force on this effort."

Laser communications, also known as optical communications, encodes data onto a beam of light, which is then transmitted between spacecraft and eventually to Earth terminals. This technology offers data rates that are 10 to 100 times better than current radio-frequency (RF) communications systems.

Just as important, laser communication systems can be much smaller than radio systems, allowing the spacecraft communication systems to have lower size, weight and power requirements. Such capability will become critically important as humans embark on long journeys to the moon, Mars and beyond.

Top U.S. General in Europe Says Russia May Be Supplying Taliban in Afghanistan - NBC News

Top U.S. General in Europe Says Russia May Be Supplying Taliban in Afghanistan - NBC News: Russia may be influencing and supplying the Taliban in Afghanistan, the top U.S. general in Europe said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday.

Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who also serves as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told Senators that Russia's role in Afghanistan seemed to be growing, according to Reuters.

"I've seen the influence of Russia of late — increased influence in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban," Gen. Scaparrotti said.

EUCOM commander: US needs stronger response to Russian disinformation

EUCOM commander: US needs stronger response to Russian disinformation: The U.S. has not done enough to reinforce its own and NATO’s nascent efforts to fight Russia’s prolific propaganda against European allies, the top military commander in Europe told lawmakers Thursday.





Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe and chief of U.S. European Command, said both should do more to confront Russian disinformation campaigns.




“I think we’re focused on it, I don’t think we’ve had enough of a response at this point,” Scaparrotti told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We have to both as the U.S. and also as allies come together and take a more aggressive confrontation of Russia, particularly in this grey area.”




The general recommended bolstering two existing efforts, beyond the military’s one-off tactical efforts. The Russian Information Group, co-chaired by his command and the State Department, should be reinforced, financed and granted expanded legal authorities, he said. There’s also the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, whose scope includes countering disinformation from state and non-state actors, but “it’s not robustly supported,” he said.

U.S. turns down Russia invitation to Afghan peace conference

U.S. turns down Russia invitation to Afghan peace conference: The United States won't attend a multinational peace conference on Afghanistan next month in Russia, a State Department official said Thursday.



The reasons: The U.S. wasn't consulted before receiving the invitation and doesn't know Russia's objectives for the gathering.



The official said that Washington wants to work with Moscow on regional efforts to end the 16-year war, and that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would bring up the matter when he visits Russia in April. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.



Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India and several Central Asian nations are among the invitees to the Moscow conference. Afghan and U.S. officials say the Taliban aren't invited. The State Department hasn't publicly announced its position on the planned conference.



Last year, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States met to jump-start the peace process but that effort faltered.



The official said the U.S. wants nations in the region, which have a shared interest in peace in Afghanistan, to increase pressure on the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government.

Reports of Sangin’s fall are 'complete fabrication,' U.S. military insists

Reports of Sangin’s fall are 'complete fabrication,' U.S. military insists: U.S. officials are disputing reports the Taliban have retaken a hotly contested region in the opium-rich Helmand valley, saying local security forces made a planned, deliberate withdrawal from the Sangin district center after months of heavy fighting left their facilities in ruins.

"It is a complete fabrication," Navy Capt. William Salvin, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Kabul, told Military Times on Thursday. "This move has been in the planning for months. ... There is nothing left in the old district center except dirt and rubble."

The Taliban, he added, caused extensive damage to the local bazaar in Sangin, rendering it impossible for citizens to access government officials and services. A new municipal complex has been established about a mile to the south. From there, "the Afghan police can now do their jobs effectively," Salvin said, and the Afghan army elements posted to Sangin are "better positioned to take the fight to the Taliban."

An Afghan defense official echoed those sentiments.

U.S. aircraft were called in to airlift Afghan personnel to the new facility and, once the transfer was complete, destroy remaining structures and inoperable vehicles left behind. And while Afghan officials said they're preparing to mount an offensive aimed at reclaiming lost territory, the Taliban have branded the incident a retreat. Veterans of the war and those who've followed it closely over the years seem to agree, with some openly ridiculing the Americans' explanation of what transpired on Thursday.

Army Chief in Europe Wants More Weapons to Combat Russian Threat | Military.com

Army Chief in Europe Wants More Weapons to Combat Russian Threat | Military.com: NATO's supreme commander called Thursday for an escalated military buildup in Europe to deter Russia as senators from both sides of the aisle questioned whether President Donald Trump would confront or cooperate with President Vladimir Putin.

"His intent is to fracture NATO," Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti said of Putin. NATO needs more troops, ships, planes and munitions -- including an aircraft carrier battle group -- to shore up allies against Russia, he said, adding he also needs strong support from the State Department.

"I rely heavily on our relationships with the other agencies in our government," Scaparrotti, who doubles as NATO supreme commander and head of U.S. European Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "That's the way we traditionally operate."

Trump's budget outline, released last week, proposes a 28 percent cut to the State Department in part to pay for a $54 billion increase in military spending.

Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican and the SASC chairman, asked, "It wouldn't help if we slashed spending for the State Department?" Scaparrotti replied, "No, sir."

US Pilot Describes Challenges of Bombing ISIS | Military.com

US Pilot Describes Challenges of Bombing ISIS | Military.com: The crowded skies over Islamic State-held territory have complicated U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the extremists, though military planners are working to keep fliers safe, an American pilot involved in the bombing campaign has told The Associated Press.

Lt. Cmdr. William Vuillet also described the efforts American forces use to try to minimize civilian casualties from strikes on major cities such as Mosul, where allied forces are trying to sweep the remaining militants out of the western half of Iraq's second-largest city.

Vuillet said he believes coalition forces will "eradicate" the extremist group responsible for mass killings, beheadings and other atrocities targeting civilians across the Middle East and around the world.

It "is really above and beyond what we saw in the past from al-Qaida," he said. "It is really a fight of good and evil."