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Space junk harpooned like whale in orbit-cleanup test

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Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press


Published Friday, February 15, 2019 2:07PM EST


Last Updated Friday, February 15, 2019 3:01PM EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A harpoon flung from a satellite has successfully captured a piece of pretend space junk, like a whale.

The British-led experiment is part of an effort to clean up debris in orbit, hundreds of miles above Earth.

The University of Surrey’s Guglielmo Aglietti said Friday that the steel-tipped harpoon scored a bull’s-eye last Friday. The harpoon — no bigger than a writing pen — pierced an aluminum panel the size of a table tennis racket attached to the end of a satellite boom. The distance was just 5 feet (1.5 metres), but researchers were delighted.

A video shows the harpoon slamming into the target and knocking it off its perch, and then the harpoon cable becoming entangled around the boom.

Aglietti said a much bigger harpoon will be needed in order to snare a real dead satellite — “Moby Dick style.” Thousands of old satellite and rocket parts, and other junk circle Earth, a potential threat to working spacecraft, including the International Space Station.

The same team used a net to capture a piece of space junk, in a test last September. And in December, they tracked a tiny satellite ejected from the mother ship, using lasers.

“We are very happy because so far, we have done three experiments and all three have been working,” Aglietti said by phone from England.

All that remains is for the 250-mile-high (400 -kilometre-high) satellite to re-enter the atmosphere and burn up. If all goes according to plan, a sail will inflate in March and eventually drag the satellite down, its mission accomplished.

Aglietti said the next step for the consortium, which includes Airbus, would be to offer this as a real service and go after real space debris.

The experiment was launched to the space station last April and released from the station last June.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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