Spacewalkers Complete Battery Swaps for Station Power Upgrades

Spacewalkers Nick Hague and Anne McClain
NASA astronauts Nick Hague (top) and Anne McClain work to swap batteries in the Port-4 truss structure during today’s spacewalk.

Expedition 59 Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Anne McClain of NASA concluded their spacewalk at 2:40 p.m. EDT. During the six-hour, 39-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts successfully replaced nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries for the power channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays.

Astronauts were also able to accomplish several get-ahead tasks including removing debris from outside of the station, securing a tieback for restraints on the Solar Array Blanket Box, and photographing a bag of tools for contingency repairs and the airlock thermal cover that is opened and closed for spacewalks.

These new batteries provide an improved power capacity for operations with a lighter mass and a smaller volume than the nickel-hydrogen batteries. Next week, McClain and flight engineer Christina Koch are scheduled to venture outside on the March 29 spacewalk to work on a second set of battery replacements on a different power channel in the same area of the station. This would be the first-ever spacewalk with all-female spacewalkers.

Hague and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency are scheduled to conduct a third spacewalk April 8 to lay out jumper cables between the Unity module and the S0 truss, at the midpoint of the station’s backbone. This work will establish a redundant path of power to the Canadian-built robotic arm, known as Canadarm2. They also will install cables to provide for more expansive wireless communications coverage outside the orbital complex, as well as for enhanced hardwired computer network capability.

Space station crew members have conducted 214 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. This was the first spacewalk for both McClain and Hague. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 55 days, 21 hours and 39 minutes working outside the station.

Keep up with the crew aboard the International Space Station on the agency’s blog, follow @ISS on Instagram, and @space_station on Twitter.

Spacewalkers Working Outside to Upgrade Station Power

NASA astronaut Nick Hague
NASA astronaut Nick Hague verifies his U.S. spacesuit is sized correctly and fits properly ahead of a set of upcoming spacewalks.

Two astronauts switched their spacesuits to battery power this morning at 8:01 a.m. EDT aboard the International Space Station to begin a spacewalk planned to last about six-and-a-half hours.

Expedition 59 Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Anne McClain of NASA will install adapter plates and hook up electrical connections for three of six new lithium-ion batteries installed on the station’s starboard truss. McClain is designated extravehicular crewmember 1 (EV 1), wearing the suit with red stripes, and with the helmet camera labeled #20. Hague is designated extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the suit with no stripes, and with helmet camera #17.

The batteries store power generated by the station’s solar arrays to provide power to the station when the station is not in the sunlight, as it orbits the Earth during orbital night. Next week, McClain and flight engineer Christina Koch are scheduled to venture outside on the March 29 spacewalk to work on a second set of battery replacements on a different power channel in the same area of the station. Additional batteries will be replaced as part of this power upgrade over the next couple of years as new batteries are delivered to station.

Watch the spacewalk on NASA TV and on the agency’s website.

Follow @space_station on Twitter for updates online. Learn more about the International Space Station online, including additional information about the current crew members.

NASA TV Broadcasts Station Spacewalk Live Today

NASA astronaut Nick Hague
NASA astronaut Nick Hague verifies his U.S. spacesuit is sized correctly and fits properly ahead of a set of upcoming spacewalks.

Expedition 59 Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Anne McClain of NASA will begin a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station at about 8 a.m. EDT Friday, March 22. NASA Television coverage of the spacewalk will begin at 6:30 a.m.

Watch the spacewalk on NASA TV and on the agency’s website.

This will be the 214th spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance. McClain will be designated extravehicular crewmember 1 (EV 1), wearing the suit with red stripes. Hague will be designated extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the suit with no stripes.

This is the first of two battery replacement spacewalks this month. McClain and Hague will replace nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries for the power channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays. The batteries were transported to the station in September aboard the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle. The spacewalking work continues the overall upgrade of the station’s power system that began with similar battery replacement during spacewalks in January 2017.

Follow @space_station on Twitter for updates online. For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Manus VR Launches VR Training Development Studio

‘Studio’ offers immersive, easy-to-learn VR training with Manus VR Gloves.

Manus VR, best known for their cutting-edge haptic feedback VR gloves, have been using their proprietary tech in a variety of fields for years, influencing everything from motion capture and automobile production, to immersive gaming and healthcare. Despite an impressive roster of high-profile clients, however, the company is far from satisfied.

In an effort to expand their hardware and software into new sectors, Manus VR has launched ‘Studio’, a full-service content house dedicated towards the development of AAA VR training experiences.

Manus VR Studio assists businesses, agencies, and various other organizations by guiding them through the intimidating VR development process, helping them build immersive, easy-to-use VR training simulations which incorporate the use of the highly-accurate Manus VR Gloves and their Apollo dashboard/driver.  

“We felt like there was an offset between getting the most out of the current VR hardware and creating VR trainings that work,” said Bart Loosman, Commercial Director at Manus VR, in an official release. “With our experience in virtual reality we feel like we can make a difference. By combining our own hardware with high detail virtual environments and top notch interactions, we can bring VR training to the next level.”

Image Credit: Manus VR

“VR saves money, time and resources,” continues Loosman. “It’s also a more fun and efficient way for employees to train. Manus VR Studio is hoped to be an eye-opener for companies. Virtual reality is here to stay. The paradigm shift in industrial training has already begun. We hope to contribute to this process with our latest venture. Manus VR Studio will set the standard in immersive training.”

Manus VR Gloves feature wireless full-finger tracking powered by eleven individual sensors, a gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer; haptic feedback with programmable vibration motors, and a cutting edge power cell which allows for 6 hours of uninterrupted wireless immersion–all coming together for a next-level VR experience where you can reach out and touch the virtual world with your own two hands.

Image Credit: Manus VR

With Manus VR Studio, businesses may have a cost-effective alternative to expensive-sometimes dangerous–conventional training exercises, enhanced further by Manus VR Gloves and Apollo dashboard and driver software.

Manus VR Studio officially launched earlier this week at the Laval Virtual event in Laval, France.

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Oculus Rift S Passes FCC Ahead Of Spring Launch, Original Rift Now ‘Unavailable’ In US

oculus rift and rift s

Facebook’s upcoming Oculus Rift S PC VR headset has received FCC approval. The FCC is a US regulatory agency with responsibility over wireless frequency use.

The headset has no specific date for release, but Facebook says it will launch in Spring. Compared to the original, the Rift S features higher resolution better lenses, five-camera inside-out tracking and a halo strap. However, it no longer features IPD adjustment and doesn’t come with headphones.

FCC filings publicly disclose the exact wireless frequencies a device uses, as well as the peak power output of each. The filing shows no hidden secrets, the headset uses the same 2.4 GHz frequency the original Rift used. This is to communicate with the Touch controllers.

Original Rift Unavailable

The original Rift has been sold out at all retailers for over a week now. Until today, it was only available from Oculus.com.

Today the Oculus website in the US states the Rift is “unavailable”. Some customers have reported their orders from earlier this week were canceled. It still shows up as available when visiting the website from some other countries, but that stock is likely to be gone soon too.

The Rift’s price was $399 since summer 2017, but in January of this year was reduced to $349. In the context of this week’s announcement and current stock situation, this was likely a clearance sale.

Rift S is positioned as a full replacement for the Rift, taking its place in the market. But if you’re not planning on upgrading don’t worry. Facebook told us the Rift will be supported “for the forseeable future”.

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PSVR’s Golem Makes Surprise Return At PAX East 2019

PSVR’s Golem Makes Surprise Return At PAX East 2019

It’s been over a year now since the long-anticipated PSVR exclusive, Golem, was delayed at the last minute. Questions about cancellation have spiraled the project since but developer Highware Games has occasionally spoken up to deny them. Well, we’ve got some good news for you; Golem is stepping back into the spotlight at PAX East next weekend.

Golem will be one of seven games Sony is showcasing on PSVR at the Boston show. To be clear, we don’t yet know if this will be a brand new demo for Golem or if it’ll be something older. That said, we don’t recall seeing at the game at any trade shows last year. Even if it is old, its presence at least suggests the game is still very much in the works. It’s quite possible we see an announcement surrounding the project in Sony’s newly-announced State of Play showcase next week, then.

The game casts players as young girl confined to her bedroom. Early on, she discovers the ability to possess gigantic stone golems. Using a single PlayStation Move controller, you explore a new land, taking part in sword battles with similarly massive enemies. Golem was originally scheduled to come out on March 13th 2018 until the delay came just the week before. Such a long delay so close to release was unexpected to say the least.

Elsewhere Sony will be showcasing some promising PSVR games at PAX East. Ghost Giant, Falcon Age, Jupiter & Mars, Space Channel 5 VR, Trover Saves The Universe and Vacation Simulator will all be there. Should be a lot of fun!

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Here’s How Dead And Buried 2 Looks On Rift S And Quest

Here’s How Dead And Buried 2 Looks On Rift S And Quest

Looking to see how Oculus Quest games stack up to Rift S? These assets for Oculus’ Dead and Buried 2 should give you some idea.

We’ve uploaded a bunch of videos of the upcoming VR shooter, which is appearing on both platforms. Oculus provided them to us at GDC this week. Sadly we don’t have screenshots for a direct comparison; we were only provided with Quest images on that front. So we decided to put a bunch of the clips together so that people could see what the game looks like for themselves.

Okay and we’ll throw in some GIFs too just for good measure. Here it is again on Quest.

And here it is one last time on Rift.

How do you think they stack up? Personally speaking it looks like the Quest version holds its own pretty well. We’ll have to wait until both headsets our in our hands to give it a really accurate rundown, though.

Then again, this is an internally-developed Oculus project with the full might of Facebook on its side. It remains to be seen if other developers will have a similar level of success getting their Rift games to run on the platform.

We’re expecting Dead and Buried 2 to launch alongside both Rift S and Quest this spring. It’s also thought that this will be one of the cross-platform titles to support both cross-buy and cross-play. The former means that anyone that buys one version gets the other, while the latter means you can play together regardless of platform. Neat!

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Oculus: Rift S, Quest Price Cuts Won’t Be As ‘Aggressive’ As Rift

Oculus Quest + Rift S

Oculus has two VR headsets launching at $399 this spring. Unlike the original Oculus Rift, though, you shouldn’t hold your breath for price cuts on either any time soon.

Speaking to Tested at GDC this week, Oculus VP of Product Nate Mitchell said that the Oculus Quest and newly-announced Oculus Rift S headsets likely won’t see the same aggressive price cuts as the first Rift.

“Hopefully we’re able to bring down the costs on both these products over time,” Mitchell said. “Rift started out at $599 for the headset, plus $200 for the Touch controllers, so $799 product. And we’ve been able to cost that down. We probably won’t be able to cost down Quest and Rift S so aggressively, but certainly, hopefully, we’ll be able to cost down these products over time.”

Oculus was indeed aggressive with Rift’s pricing, slashing the headset and controller’s price by more than half in less than three years. Still, at $399, Rift S is $50 more expensive than the current Rift, which it will replace. That news no doubt came as a disappointment to many when the headset was announced.

“It’s a matter of different trade-offs for the device,” Mitchell said of the price. “Ultimately we went with different architecture, very different architecture with a slightly modified inside system. Where we’re landing with both products is this sweet spot, right? This $399 price point, we think it’s the right price point for both products.”

Oculus Rift and Quest should both be launching within the next few months. Will you be getting either on day one? Or will you be waiting for one of those price cuts?

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Space Junkies Works Surprisingly Well On PSVR

Space Junkies Works Surprisingly Well On PSVR

Like a lot of you, I wondered how Space Junkies could possibly work on PSVR. Ubisoft’s frantic zero-gravity shooter was first and foremost designed for PC VR and the 360 degree tracking it affords. But, not only is Space Junkies arriving on Sony’s 180-degree setup next week, but it’s only supporting the DualShock 4 controller, too. How on earth can that possibly work?

Surprisingly well, as it turns out.

I played my first ever match of Space Junkies this week and it was on PSVR. Not only did I pick the game up pretty fast, but I’m pretty sure I won against PC VR players using the game’s cross-play support too.

Intuitive Controls

DualShock 4 support trades some of the PC VR freedom in the name of approachability. The game still uses the controller’s position tracking, but the outcome is a little different. Space Junkies is a dual-wielding game but here both weapons will be locked to where you’re controller is facing. In games like Farpoint and Firewall, using the DualShock 4 meant you still had to line the controller up with your sight for accurate shots. In Space Junkies, laser sights mean you can pretty easily keep your controller centered and just tilt it to aim. It might not be the most realistic interpretation of the game but it’s intuitive and accessible.

Other than that, navigation on works really well on gamepad. You simply hold a button down to propel yourself forwards and use the sticks to alter height and direction. If you were worried that Space Junkies might leave you disorientated then worry not; it’s even simpler to play than games like Starblood Arena.

Finally, there’s some smart button mapping to replace other interactions. The shoulder buttons double as both equip and fire buttons. When a hand is free you use the L1 or L2 button to grab one of the items stored in your left-side inventory, for example. Then when it’s equipped, L2 uses the item in question and L1 tosses it aside. It can be a little tricky to get used to but it ultimately gets you up and running quickly.

But Where’s Move Support?

All that said, however, the controls work well enough for me to question why Ubisoft left out Move support. I don’t see anything in this setup, from the gaze-based movement to the blink turning, that couldn’t be done on Sony’s motion controllers. Maybe I’m missing something. Perhaps there was concern over the limited tracking range that some players would encounter. But I suspect as players get into the beta and, from next week, the game itself Ubisoft will see sufficient demand to let players make that choice for themselves.

PSVR aside, I quite enjoyed the time I spent with Space Junkies. Arena shooters aren’t traditionally my thing but the game’s fluid controls, tight confines, and enjoyable arsenal kept me entertained. We’ll have more in-depth thoughts for you when the game launches in full.

Space Junkies launches on PSVR, Rift, Vive and Windows VR on March 26th.

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Final Suit Checks and Reviews before Friday’s Spacewalk

Astronaut Anne McClain assists fellow astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Nick Hague
NASA astronaut Anne McClain assists fellow NASA astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Nick Hague as they verify their U.S. spacesuits are sized correctly and fit properly ahead of a set of upcoming spacewalks.

Two Expedition 59 astronauts are checking their spacesuits today and reviewing procedures one final time before tomorrow’s spacewalk. The other four residents aboard the International Space Station assisted the spacewalkers, maintained the orbital lab and conducted space science.

NASA Flight Engineers Anne McClain and Nick Hague readied the Quest airlock today where they will begin the first spacewalk of 2019 Friday at 8:05 a.m. EDT. The spacewalkers will work outside for about 6.5 hours of battery upgrade work on the Port-4 truss structure. NASA TV begins its live spacewalk coverage at 6:30 a.m.

VIDEO: NASA experts discuss the upcoming power upgrade spacewalks

The duo also confirmed their U.S. spacesuits are ready for the excursion with all the necessary components, such as helmet lights and communications gear, installed. Afterward, Hague and McClain conducted one more spacewalk timeline review.

They then joined astronauts Christina Koch and David Saint-Jacques for a final conference with spacewalk experts in Mission Control. Both astronauts also charged and set up GoPro cameras before attaching them to the spacewalkers’ suit helmets.

Koch started her day cleaning ventilation screens in the Unity module and installing lights in the Permanent Multi-purpose Module. Saint-Jacques set up the AstroPi science education hardware in the Harmony module’s window then swapped fan cables in the Life Sciences Glovebox.

Commander Oleg Kononenko and fellow cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin spent the majority of their day in the station’s Russian segment. Kononenko and Ovchinin first collected and stowed their blood samples in a science freezer for a Russian metabolism experiment. Ovchinin then unpacked supplies from the recently arrived Soyuz MS-12 crew ship. Kononenko also worked on heart and radiation detection research before assisting the U.S. spacewalkers.