Balloons Launch Satellite from Edge of Space

It's the same company pushing space tourism via giant balloon. Also, Voodoo launches Project Skywalker and FitBits attacked with sound.

Attacking Sensors with Sound

Discovering hardware vulnerabilities and cybersecurity failings has become an increasingly important process. The University of Buffalo proved that 3D printers were vulnerable to malicious spies, and a team of researchers at the University of California, Irvine found a way to reverse engineer 3D-printed designs by simply recording the sounds that they make when they're printing. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan are using sound to attack the hardware.

They are studying hardware component vulnerabilities to help prevent cyber-attacks against autonomous cars, the industrial IoT, and healthcare, basically, they can hack anything with an accelerometer.

Their work is based on the idea that software always trusts hardware sensor data to make decisions. Turns out that it was pretty easy to fool the sensors, and they did it with acoustics.

They specifically attacked capacitive MEMS sensors. Using precisely tuned acoustic tones, they were able to trick 15 different devices, including faking FitBit steps, and hacking a remote-control car.

By exploiting these vulnerabilities, they think they have found a way to make devices safer. The researchers have ways to adjust hardware design to eliminate the problems. They also developed two low-cost software defenses that could minimize the vulnerabilities, and they've alerted manufacturers to these issues.

Voodoo Manufacturing Unveils Project Skywalker

Yesterday, Voodoo Manufacturing unveiled Project Skywalker. They describe it as a "robot-operated 3D printing cluster," but it's essentially a rack of 3D printers tended by a UR10 robotic arm from Universal Robots.

Right now, the 2,000 sq-foot 3D printer factory floor uses 160 3D printers for part production, but the CEO envisions one day scaling to 10,000 3D printers on the factory floor, and becoming a big competitor to injection molding.


That day may not be too far into the future. According to a report from, the company, which was started by a group of former MarkerBot engineers, received $1.4 million in seed funding.

To be successful, the company will need to cut costs. They believe that, by integrating robotics into the manufacturing process, they will be able reduce costs by 90% over the next 3-5 years. The robots will have a particular impact trimming labor costs (they run all day and night), as well improving machine efficiency.

Robots tend to the 3D printers in an operation they call "harvesting." A robot gripper grabs the plate, pulls it out of a special harness, and drops it on a conveyor, grabs a new plate, places it, and restarts the printer.

According to the CEO, and hundreds of managers investing in automation, the robots take over menial and repetitive tasks that he says aren’t meant for humans. He hopes that his automated 3D printing factory helps free humans up to do what he says they do best, and think.

But isn't the problem that the people surviving on menial and repetitive jobs don't necessarily want to think? They want to pull the plate, scrape the part, put in the plate, and push the button — with benefits, and a semi-regular schedule.

Zero 2 Infinity Launches Satellites with Balloons 

Zero 2 Infinity, the company that wants to send tourists to the edge of space in a giant balloon, has set its sights on the rocket business. This week, the company successfully launched its first rocket, from a balloon, at the edge of space.

The launch took place about two weeks ago, when half of the Zero 2 Infinity team sailed a few miles off the Spanish coast to launch the balloon carrying the rocket. After soaring more than 15.5 miles into the sky, the other half of the team launched the first Bloostar prototype from the National Institute of Aerospace Technology.

The goals of the mission were:

  1. Validation of the telemetry systems in Space conditions
  2. Controlled ignition
  3. Stabilization of the rocket
  4. Monitoring of the launch sequence
  5. Parachute deployment, and
  6. Sea recovery.

All the goals were achieved in full, according to the company. 

According to the company, Bloostar is the first small satellite launcher to use a stratospheric balloon as a first stage. By initiating the rocket ignition from above airspace, the targeted orbit can be reached with expediency and efficiency.

Apparently, the patented technique is less risky than any systems currently used, because when the rocket-powered phase starts, it’s already above 95% of the mass of the atmosphere. The new method also gives the company more flexibility, you could launch your satellite on a little as two weeks’ notice, at a much lower cost.

According to the company, this opens the door for safer and more efficient access to space for small satellites.

This is Engineering By Design with David Mantey.