Below the sea and above the sky

News editor

We start the week with some good news from the Ministry of Defence, which today committed £1.2bn for Audacious, the fourth of the Royal Navy’s Astute class submarines.

Main contractor BAE Systems has over 5,000 staff in its submarines division with over half directly involved in the Astute programme.

Currently under construction at BAE’s Barrow-in-Furness facility, Audacious will incorporate a number of design changes to the first three Astute class vessels, with most relating to the submarine’s combat configuration, primarily the command, navigation and sonar systems.

A further £1.5bn has been committed to the Astute programme by the MoD today for the remaining three nuclear-powered submarines.  

In October 2008 John Hudson BAE Systems Maritime – Submarines Managing Director spoke to The Engineer’s Stuart Nathan about the Astute programme. Click here to learn more. New vessels, however, aren’t without their teething problems, as reported here.

Still at sea and news that a presentation on the challenges facing offshore wind developers is to take place this Wednesday in Sheffield.

Delivered by Matthew Knight CEng, MIET, director of business development, Siemens Energy, the event will address challenges found in connecting offshore wind farms to the onshore grid including planning, regulation, financing and installation.

According to the IET, Knight’s talk will cover these technical and non-technical issues, progress to date and the future for offshore electricity grids. So far around 50GW of projects are planned, representing an investment of around £150bn.

The Engineer has been keenly following the progress of Britain’s offshore wind industry, looking at issues surrounding assurances on costs and the logistical challenges to be surmounted when building and maintaining such installations.

Back in August NASA successfully landed its Mars rover Curiosity onto the surface of the Red Planet and since then organization’s press office has been busy updating the public on the robotic mission’s progress.

The mission is barely four months old yet NASA has announced plans for another Mars mission intended to build on the success of Curiosity.

Common to both is the use of robotics and this Wednesday the IET hosts an event looking at the role played by robotics in space exploration, with presentations entitled ‘Remote handling for space applications’ and ‘Space maintenance robot and Mars Rover conceptual development’.

Taking place in Glasgow, the event features Stephen Sanders and Dr Xiu T Yan discussing remote handling of robots for complex assembly and maintenance tasks, and will show some conceptual development work to improve the sustainability of space technology related systems such as satellites in service and refuelling.

One of the Curiosity mission’s biggest challenges was actually landing the Rover on Mars, which is covered in detail here.

From tomorrow prospective bidders will be able to submit their applications (and deposits) to Ofcom for a slice of the 4G spectrum that is up for auction.

The bidding phase is expected to start in January, while mobile operators are expected to find out in February or March if they have won and at what cost, and then start rolling out 4G services using the auctioned spectrum in May or June.

According to Ofcom, 4G services will operate at speeds similar to home broadband, adding that 4G is suited for high-bandwidth data services such as streaming high-quality video, watching live TV and downloading large files.