Now is the time to cast your vote for the DesignCon 2020 Engineer of the Year. This award is given out each year during the DesignCon event and seeks to recognize the best of the best in engineering and new product advancements at the chip, board, or system level, with a special emphasis on signal integrity and power integrity.

Editors of Design News and the staff of DesignCon would like to offer hearty congratulations to the finalists. For this year’s award, the winner (or his/her representative) will be able to direct a $1,000 donation to any secondary educational institution in the United States. The details on each nominee are below as provided in their published biographies and by the person/s who made the nomination. Please cast your vote by following this link.

Voting closes at noon Pacific Time on Friday, December 27. The winner will be announced at DesignCon 2020, January 28-30, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA.

The six finalists for the 2020 DesignCon Engineer of the Year Award are (click each name to see finalist’s bio and community activity):

Cast your vote for the 2020 Engineer of the Year by noon PT, December 27.

See the Official Rules of the Engineer of the Year Award

Please click here to learn more about DesignCon and register to attend

Jay Diepenbrock

Consultant, SIRF Consultants LLC

DesignCon 2020 Engineer of the Year finalist Jay Diepenbrock from SIRF ConsultantsJoseph C. (Jay) Diepenbrock holds an Sc. B. (EE) from Brown University and an MSEE from Syracuse University. He worked in a number of development areas in IBM including IC, analog and RF circuit, and backplane design. He then moved to IBM’s Integrated Supply Chain, working on the electrical specification, testing, and modeling of connectors and cables and was IBM’s Subject Matter Expert on high speed cables. After a long career at IBM he left there and joined Lorom America as Senior Vice President, High Speed Engineering, and led the Lorom Signal Integrity team, supporting its high speed product development. He left Lorom in 2015 and is now a signal integrity consultant with SIRF Consultants, LLC. 

Holding 12 patents, 30 publications, and a recognized expert in SI, Jay is currently the technical editor of the IEEE P370 standard and has worked on numerous other industry standards. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE and was an EMC Society Distinguished Lecturer. Jay has a steadfast commitment to solid engineering and communicating/teaching about it. He regularly contributes to industry discourse and education at events and in trade publications. He has made a distinguished career in high-speed product development, including backplane design, high speed connectors and cables, and signal integrity consulting. Beyond that, Jay actively volunteers his time for disaster and humanitarian relief around the world, including being part of the IEEE MOVE truck, which provides emergency communications during and after a disaster. He truly uses his engineering skills to make the world a better place.

Jay is a long-time, active member of the DesignCon Technical Program Committee.

This year at DesignCon, Jay will be presenting the tutorial “Introduction to the IEEE P370 Standard & Its Applications for High Speed Interconnect Characterization” and speaking in the panel “Untangling Standards: The Challenges Inside the Box.”

Cast your vote for the 2020 Engineer of the Year by noon PT, December 27.

Vladimir Dmitriev-Zdorov

Senior Key Expert, EBS Product Development, Mentor, A Siemens Business

DesignCon 2020 Engineer of the Year finalist Vladimir Dmitriew-Zhorov from Mentor, A Siemens BusinessDr. Vladimir Dmitriev-Zdorov has developed a number of advanced models and novel simulation methods used in Mentor products. His current work includes development of efficient methods of circuit/system simulation in the time and frequency domains, transformation and analysis of multi-port systems, and statistical and time-domain analysis of SERDES links. He received Ph.D. and D.Sc. degrees (1986, 1998) based on his work on circuit and system simulation methods. The results have been published in numerous papers and conference proceedings, including DesignCon. Several DesignCon papers such as “BER-and COM-Way of Channel-Compliance Evaluation: What are the Sources of Differences?” and “A Causal Conductor Roughness Model and its Effect on Transmission Line Characteristics” have received the Best Paper Award. Dr. Vladimir Dmitriev-Zdorov holds 9 patents.

Vladimir is an active member of the DesignCon Technical Program Committee.

This year at DesignCon, Vladimir will be presenting the technical session, “How to Enforce Causality of Standard & “Custom” Metal Roughness Models” and on the panel “Stump the SI/PI Experts.”

Cast your vote for the 2020 Engineer of the Year by noon PT, December 27.

Tim Hollis

Fellow, Micron Technology

DesignCon 2020 Engineer of the Year finalist Tim Hollis from Micron TechnologiesTim Hollis is a distinguished member of the Macron Technologies technical staff and an advanced signaling R&D lead. His main focus is in identifying and directing forward-looking projects for the SI R&D team to pursue and driving a cross-functional working group intended to provide forward-looking technical guidance to upper management.

Tim has shown outstanding technical leadership in solving numerous challenges with regard to high-speed DDR memory interfaces, for both computing and graphics applications. He has contributed papers to DesignCon as received a Best Paper Award in 2018 as lead author for “16Gb/s and Beyond with Single-Ended I/O in High-Performance Graphics Memory.” His 85 patents reflect his innovative mind and his prodigious contributions to technology.

Tim received a BS in Electrical Engineering from University of Utah and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Brigham Young University.

Cast your vote for the 2020 Engineer of the Year by noon PT, December 27.

Istvan Novak

Principle SI and PI Engineer, Samtec

DesignCon 2020 Engineer of the Year finalist Istvan Novak from SamtecIstvan Novak is a Principle Signal and Power Integrity Engineer at Samtec, working on advanced signal and power integrity designs. Prior to 2018 he was a Distinguished Engineer at SUN Microsystems, later Oracle. He worked on new technology development, advanced power distribution and signal integrity design and validation methodologies for SUN’s successful workgroup server families. He introduced the industry’s first 25um power-ground laminates for large rigid computer boards, and worked with component vendors to create a series of low-inductance and controlled-ESR bypass capacitors. He also served as SUN’s representative on the Copper Cable and Connector Workgroup of InfiniBand, and was engaged in the methodologies, designs and characterization of power-distribution networks from silicon to DC-DC converters. He is a Life Fellow of the IEEE with twenty-five patents to his name, author of two books on power integrity, teaches signal and power integrity courses, and maintains a popular SI/PI website.

Istvan has in many cases single handedly helped the test and measurement industry develop completely new instruments and methods of measurement. New VNA types and Scope probes and methodologies are in the market today thanks to Istvan’s efforts and openness to help others. He was responsible for the power distribution and high-speed signal integrity designs of SUN’s V880, V480, V890, V490, V440, T1000, T2000, T5120 and T5220 midrange server families. Last, but not least, Istvan has been a tremendous contributor to SI List, educating and helping engineers across the world with their SI/PI problems. Istvan is an active member of the DesignCon Technical Program Committee, sharing his expertise by participating in the review of content for multiple tracks. He is an IEEE Fellow and has been a tutor at the University of Oxford, Oxford, UK for the past 10 years. He has also been a faculty member at CEI Europe AB since 1991 and served as Vice Dean of Faculty, Associate Professor at the Technical University of Budapest.

At DesignCon 2020, Istvan will be participating in the technical session, “Current Distribution, Resistance & Inductance in Power Connectors,” and the panel, “Stump the SI/PI Experts.”

Cast your vote for the 2020 Engineer of the Year by noon PT, December 27.

Michael Schnecker

Business Development Manager, Rohde & Schwarz

DesignCon 2020 Engineer of the Year finalist JMichael Schnecker from Rohde & SchwarzMichael Schnecker’s experience in the test and measurement industry includes applications, sales and product development and specialization in signal integrity applications using oscilloscopes and other instruments. Prior to joining Rohde & Schwarz, Mike held positions at LeCroy and Tektronix. While at LeCroy, he was responsible for the deployment of the SDA series of serial data analyzers.    

Mike has more than two decades of experience working with oscilloscope measurements. His background in time and frequency domains provides him with unique insight into the challenges engineers face when testing high-speed systems for both power and signal integrity. Interacting with engineers in the industry daily has allowed Mike to master the ability to explain complex measurement science to engineers at any level. He also holds several patents, including methods and apparatus for analyzing serial data streams as well as coherent interleaved sampling. Thus, Mike is recognized as a thought leader and exceptional mentor in the signal and power integrity community.

Mike has a BS from Lehigh University and an MS from Georgia Tech, both in electrical engineering. 

This year at DesignCon, Mike will be presenting the tutorial “Signal Integrity: Measurements & Instrumentation“ and at the technical session, “Real-Time Jitter Analysis Using Hardware Based Clock Recovery & Serial Pattern Trigger.”

Cast your vote for the 2020 Engineer of the Year by noon PT, December 27.

Yuriy Shlepnev

President and Founder, Simberian

DesignCon 2020 Engineer of the Year finalist Yuriy Shlepnev from SimberianYuriy Shlepnev is President and Founder of Simberian Inc., where he develops Simbeor electromagnetic signal integrity software. He received M.S. degree in radio engineering from Novosibirsk State Technical University in 1983, and the Ph.D. degree in computational electromagnetics from Siberian State University of Telecommunications and Informatics. He was principal developer of electromagnetic simulator for Eagleware Corporation and leading developer of electromagnetic software for simulation of signal and power distribution networks at Mentor Graphics. The results of his research are published in multiple papers and conference proceedings.

Yuriy conceived and brought to market a state of the art electromagnetic field solver tool suite and is considered an expert in his field and regularly posts teaching videos. He is a senior member of IEEE AP, MYY, EMC, and CPMT societies. He is also a Fellow of Kong’s Electromagnetics Academy and a member of the Applied Computational Electromagnetics Society (ACES).

Yuriy is active in the Technical Program Committee for DesignCon and has served a track co-chair in the past. At DesignCon this year he will be presenting the tutorial “Design Insights from Electromagnetic Analysis & Measurements of PCB & Packaging Interconnects Operating at 6- to 112-Gbps & Beyond” and speaking in the technical session “Machine Learning Applications for COM Based Simulation of 112Gb Systems.”

Cast your vote for the 2020 Engineer of the Year by noon PT, December 27.

Learn more about DesignCon and register to attend


Most second-year university engineering students can easily explain the differences between force, torque and pressure. The reason for their confident answers is that engineering schools typically require a term of study in both static and dynamic forces by a student’s sophomore year. However, from that point on, further studies in these areas are usually confined to aerospace, civil and mechanical engineering disciplines. Few electronic engineers need or will take advanced force mechanic courses.

But modern advances in material properties and device miniaturization as in micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) and sensors mean that force, torque and pressure are relevant across all of the major disciplines. A quick technical review will help remind everyone of these basic concepts.


Simply put, a force is a push or a pull upon an object. A force can cause an object with mass to change its velocity, i.e., to accelerate. Since a force has both magnitude and direction, it is a vector quantity.

A unit of force in the International Systems (or SI) of units is a newton. One newton is defined as the unit of force which would give to a mass of one kilogram an acceleration of 1 meter per second, per second. In terms of an equation, force equals mass times acceleration (F = ma).

Actually, Newton’s Second Law of Motion defines force as the change in momentum over time, not mass through an acceleration. But the momentum equation is reduced to F=ma for basic engineering calculations.

Sometimes the word “load” is used instead of force. Civil and mechanical engineers tend to make calculations based on the load in which a system (e.g., a bridge) is resisting the force of gravity from both the weight of the bridge as well as the vehicles driving over it.

Newton’s Laws have been called the basis for space flight. According to NASA, understanding how space travel is possible requires an understanding of the concept of mass, force, and acceleration as described in Newton’s Three Laws of Motion. Consider a space rocket in which the pressure created by the controlled explosion inside the rocket’s engines results in a tremendous force known as thrust. The gas from the explosion escapes through the engine’s nozzles which propels the rocket in the opposite direction (Law #3), thus following F=MA (Law #2) which lifts the rocket into space. Assuming the rocket travels beyond Earth’s atmosphere, it will continue to move into space even after the propellant gas is gone (Law #1).

Newton’s Three Laws of Motion


Every object in a state of uniform motion will remain in that state of motion unless an external force acts on it.


Force equals mass times acceleration [F = ma]


For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.


The first university course in static forces is usually followed by a course in dynamic forces in which the idea of rational force or torque is introduced. Torque is the tendency of a force to rotate or twist an object about an axis, fulcrum, or pivot. It is the rotational equivalent of linear force.

Formally, torque (or the moment of force) is the product of the magnitude of the force and the perpendicular distance of the line of action of force from the axis of rotation.  The SI unit for torque is the newton metre (N•m). 

Image Source: Wikipedia by Yawe (Public Domain)

Deriving the equation for torque is often done from a purely force perspective. But it can also be accomplished by looking at the amount of work required to rotate an object. This was the approach the Richard Feynman used in one of his lectures on rotation in two-dimensions.

“We shall get to the theory of torques quantitatively by studying the work done in turning an object, for one very nice way of defining a force is to say how much work it does when it acts through a given displacement,” explained Feynman.

Feynman was able to show that, just as force times distance is work, torque times angle equals work. This point is highlighted in several avionic and aeronautical examples from NASA’s Glenn Research Center where NASA designs and develops technologies for aeronautics and space exploration. Force, torque and pressure concepts continue to exert their influences far beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Concern the release of a large satellite like the Cygnus Cargo Craft from the International Space Station (ISS). The satellite is connected to a large robotic arm that removes it from the ISS prior to release into space. The robotic arm acts just like a huge moment of force in space subject to forces, torques and pressure acting in space.

Image Source: NASA Glenn Research Center


Pressure is the force per unit area applied in a direction perpendicular to the surface of an object. Many of us are familiar with gauge pressure from measuring tire pressures. Gage pressure is the pressure relative to the local atmospheric or ambient pressure. This is in contrast to absolute pressure or the actual value of the pressure at any point.  This will make more sense shortly.

Pressure is the amount of force acting per unit area. The SI unit for pressure is the pascal (Pa), equal to one newton per square meter (N/m2). Pressure is also measured in non-SI units such as bar and psi.

In his lecture on the The Kinetic Theory of Gases, Feynman introduced the concept of pressure by thinking about the force needed for a piston plunger to contain a certain volume of gas inside a box. The amount of force needed to keep a plunger or lid of area A would be a measure of the force per unit area of pressure. In other words, pressure is equal to the force that must be applied on a piston, divided by the area of the piston (P = F/A).

Image Source: CalTech – Feynman Lectures

Applications for pressure technologies exist both on and off the planet. In space, however, pressure is so low that it may almost be considered as non-existent. That’s why engineers often talk about vacuum rather than pressure in space applications. A vacuum is any pressure less than the local atmospheric pressure. It is defined as the difference between the local atmospheric pressure and the point of a measurement. 

While space has a very low pressure, it is not a perfect vacuum. It is an approximation, a place where the gaseous pressure is much, MUCH less than the Earth’s atmospheric pressure.

The extremely low pressure in the vacuum of space is why humans need space suits to provide a pressurized environment. A space suit provides air pressure to keep the fluids in our body in a liquid state, i.e., to prevent our bodily fluids from boiling due to low pressure (via PV = nRT). Like a tire, a space suit is essentially an inflated balloon that is restricted by some rubberized fabric.

Homework question: Why didn’t’ the wheels on the Space Shuttle bust while in space, i.e., in the presence of a vacuum? Look for the answer in the comments section. 

In summary, force, torque, pressure and vacuum are important physical concepts that – thanks to advances in material sciences and MEMS devices – cross all of the major disciplines. Further, these fundamental concepts continue to have relevance in applications like space systems among many others.


Insects that can survive in water are the inspiration behind a new type of metal developed by researchers at the University of Rochester that is so water-resistant it doesn’t sink.

A team in the lab of Chunlei Guo, a university professor of optics and physics, developed the metal, which in tests showed such a high water-repellent aspect that it would not go under the surface even after being punctured and damaged.

unsinkable metal, insects, University of Rochester, water resistant metal
The superhydrophobic metallic structure developed by researchers at the University of Rochester remains afloat even after significant structural damage—punctured with six 3-millimeter diameter holes and one 6-millimeter hole. (Image source: University of Rochester)

Diving bell spiders and rafts of fire ants inspired the design of the structure—in particular, the way these creatures can survive long periods under water or on its surface. These creatures manage by trapping air in enclosed areas in their bodies.

For example, the diving bell spider creates a dome-shaped web that is filled with air. The spider carries the air between its hydrophobic legs and abdomen, Guo said. In a similar way, fire ants can form a raft in the water by trapping air in their bodies.

Guo and his team developed a way to use femtosecond bursts of lasers to “etch” the surfaces of metals with intricate micro- and nanoscale patterns. Like the insect behavior, these trap air to make the surfaces superhydrophobic, or water repellent. “The key insight is that multifaceted superhydrophobic (SH) surfaces can trap a large air volume, which points towards the possibility of using SH surfaces to create buoyant devices,” researchers wrote in a paper in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

Creating the ‘unsinkable’ factor

However, the etching alone wasn’t enough to cause a more permanent unsinkable factor; researchers found that after being immersed in water for long periods of time, the surfaces of the etched metal showed a loss of hydrophobic properties.  So the team went one step further and created a structure in which they etched two parallel aluminum plates and faced them inward, not outward, so they are enclosed and free from external wear and abrasion.

Researchers also separated the surfaces of the metallic structure by just the right distance to trap and hold enough air to keep it floating, which acts to create a waterproof compartment. The superhydrophobic surfaces manage to keep the water from entering the compartment even when the structure is submerged in water.

Though the team used aluminum here, the etching process “could be used for literally any metals, or other materials,” Guo said. They tested the metallic structures by forcing them to submerge for two months. Even after this time they immediately bounced back to the surface.

The team even found the structure didn’t sink even after puncturing it multiple times. This is because air remains trapped in the other parts of the compartment or adjoining structures.

The team expects its work can be used to inform the design of metals for ships that will be nearly impossible to sink. It can also be used for wearable floatation devices that remain afloat even after being punctured.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

DesignCon 2020 25th anniversary Logo

January 28-30: North America’s largest chip, board, and systems event, DesignCon, returns to Silicon Valley for its 25th year! The premier educational conference and technology exhibition, this three-day event brings together the brightest minds across the high-speed communications and semiconductor industries, who are looking to engineer the technology of tomorrow. DesignCon is your rocket to the future. Ready to come aboard? Register to attend!


Tiny satellites have made space accessible to a new generation of university students, private companies and even helped cash-strapped government agencies like NASA. Generally known as nano-satellites (nanosats) or cube-satellites (cubesats), this technology has been made possible by the semiconductor driven miniaturization of electronic and electro-mechanical systems. In recognition of the trend, the IEEE has even launched a new journal on, “ Miniaturization for Air and Space Systems (J-MASS).”

Mass is a premium consideration when placing anything into space. That’s why the names of tiny satellites depends upon their mass. Nanosats are the general category for any satellite with a mass from 1 kg to 10 kg. Nanosats include the categories of well-known cubesats and perhaps less well known PocketQubes, TubeSats, SunCubes, ThinSats and non-standard picosatellites. Chipsats – cracker-size, gram-scale wafer miniprobes – are not considered nanosats but have been called attosats by some.

Cubesats (cubesatellite, cube satellite) are a type of nanosatellites defined by the CubeSat Design Specification (CSD), unofficially called the Cubesat standard.

The original goal of all these tiny, miniature satellites was to provide affordable access to space for the university science community. Many major universities now have a space program, as do several private company startups and even government agencies like NASA and the DoD.

The focus of this slideshow is to show nanosat technologies, from the carriers and launch mechanisms to several NASA cubesats performing a variety of missions. We’ll end with an example of a chipsat. Let’s begin!

John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.


Years ago, I covered the infamous 3G wars in which the upstart 802.11a/b wireless local-area-network (WLAN) companies took on the mighty telecommunication networks for voice and data supremacy. It wasn’t really a war, but it did mark the first co-existence battles between the communication (telecom) and computational (datacom) industries. In essence, the telecom providers realized the importance of supporting data while the data rich Wi-Fi companies realized they might compete with the telecoms via Voice-Over-Internet-Protocols (VOIP). In other words, each industry understood that they could play a significant role in the other’s market.

Here’s the way I put it back in the early 2000’s: “The struggles of these two powerful, yet quite different wireless networks—the much-heralded 3G (telecom) and the dark horse known as Wi-Fi—will determine the direction of wireless technology for years to come. As a result, design engineers, market investors, chip manufacturers, and infrastructure vendors are closely watching this evolving struggle.” (Penton’s Wireless Systems Design magazine)

Today, however, the battle has far less to do with communication vs computational dominance and more to do with global infrastructure and spectrum conflicts between the US DoD, China and the rest of the world. But before we get into that, a very brief overview of telecom vs. datacom history is needed.

Image Source: US DOD Defense Innovation Board (DIB) Report / Researchgate

Wireless cellular technology has been around since the late 1970s, at least a decade before the emergence of the wireless LAN datacom industries. Each generation of cellular mobile wireless technologies has taken about a decade to be fully implement. Conversely, wireless LAN devices have been upgraded to the next generation every half a decade or so. Here’s a brief historical summary of generational differences amongst the cellular technologies:

1G (Voice Calls): 1G mobile networks appeared in the early 80s. They mainly provided analog voice communications with limited data capabilities (~2.4Kbps). Analog signal hand-offs between cell users was accomplished with AMPS and TACS.

2G (Messaging): The first digitally encrypted telecommunications arrived in the 1990s with 2G mobile networks. Digital networks improved voice quality, data security, and data bandwidth. 2G networks used GSM, GRPS and EDGE (for 2.75G) standards. These latter 2G iterations introduced data transmission via packet-switching, which eased the transition to 3G technology.

3G (Limited Multimedia, Text, Internet): In the late 1990s and early 2000s, 3G networks were introduced to provide faster data transfer speeds thanks to data packet-switching. This enabled data streaming. Then, in 2003, the first commercial 3G service was launched with mobile internet access, fixed wireless access, and video calls. 3G networks utilized UMTS and WCDMA standards.

4G and LTE (Real data: dynamic information access, a variety of devices): 4G network services were introduced in 2008 and featured data transfer at 10 times the speed of 3G by using all-IP networks and relying entirely on packet-switching. Video quality was also enhanced from larger bandwidths which further increased network speed. The LTE network greatly enhanced the services to mobile devices.

5G: Networks that support 5G wireless communication are only just beginning to emerge with network launches in major US cities and early availability of 5G-ready mobile phones. In 2017, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) issued the non-stand-alone standard for 5G, which allows 5G to coexist alongside 4G. In June 2018, the 3GPP finalized the standard for stand-alone 5G. 

The speed, capacity and latency of data transfer for 5G depends upon the spectrum bands used as well as the type of application, i.e., fixed or mobile. For example, a mmWave 5G network could be incredibly fast for fixed LANs within a specific range, typically on the cell edge. Conversely, a sub-6 5G network might have a speed slower than mmWave but could cover a much broader area without risk of interruption.

In the U.S., carriers are primarily focused on mmWave deployment for 5G since some of the sub-6 5G spectrum is in the exclusive domain of the DOD – specifically the 3 and 4 GHz bands. However, the rest of the world uses these 3 to 4 GHz band for commercial 5G and seems to have less interest in mmWave deployment.

Current 5G deployment plans present a potentially serious risk for the DOD especially if China leads the world in rolling-out of 5G (sub-6 GHz) infrastructures and embedded device technologies, e.g., Huawei telecom equipment. Without going into all the details, the DOD has few alternatives aside from preparing to operate in the global sub-6 5G ecosystem. In other words, the DOD must learn to share the bandwidth in the sub-6 spectrum.

Sharing a limited resource like the wireless spectrum is not a new idea. For example, in 2015, the FCC formally authorized the 3.5 GHz band for shared wireless access in an area that was previously utilized by the DOD. Since the DOD was the first to have access to this spectrum band, they had priority over its usage. Commercial users were allowed access when the spectrum was not occupied by the DOD. This may well be the approach for 5G in the global sub-6 GHz band.

In summary, both communication and computational technologies have advanced to such a degree that both are available to everyone – thanks in large measure to advances in the semiconductor space and system-on-chip (SoC) designs. Today, the 5G challenge is one of global spectrum allocation and related conflicts between the US and potentially harmful foreign nations. But rather than push for US preferred spectrums (e.g., mmWave), the DOD should participate in innovations that allow careful sharing in global spectrums (e.g., sub-6 GHz). Otherwise, others will be able to guide the direction of the global 5G market.

John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.

Can you name the leading private companies and nations that have the launch capability to maintain a presence in space?

  • It seems like every few months news of yet another successful rocket launch into space is announced. Most – but not all – of these announcements come from private companies launching communication satellites payloads. The rocket companies are hoping to capitalize on the coming Internet of Space (IoS), which promises global broadband communications.

    The rise of private spaceflight companies – primarily in the US – means more rockets are launching into space than ever before. Most of these rockets launch satellites into low orbit but some carry astronauts into much higher orbits. In the near future, some launch vehicles will even carry tourists, e.g., SpaceX’s Dragon, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin. (The latter two seem primarily focused on the nascent space tourist industry).

    Here are 10 major space launch vehicle companies and national organizations.  

  • SpaceX-Dragon


    Space Exploration Technologies, also known as SpaceX, was founded by Elon Musk with the aim of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars. SpaceX has developed the Falcon launch vehicle family and the Dragon spacecraft family, among others. The company made history again in 2012 when its Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS). The company’s Starlink mission is a satellite constellation design to provide satellite Internet access. The constellation will consist of thousands of mass-produced small satellites.

  • United Launch Alliance

    ULA was formed by the union of Boeing and Lockheed Martin in 2005, using the Delta IV Heavy launcher to get large payloads into space. But the price tag for that rocket is high, several times more than SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy platform. That’s why ULA is working on a more powerful and semi-reusable launcher known as the Vulcan. The recyclable portion of the Vulcan system will be the engines.

  • ArianeGroup

    The ArianeGroup is billed as the guarantor of Europe’s autonomous, reliable access to space. In 2015, the ArianeGroup was founded as a joint venture of the European aerospace company Airbus and the French group Safran. The ArianeGroup is the primary contractor for manufacturing of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, and provides commercial launch services through its subsidiary Arianespace. In 2018, Ariane 5 celebrated its 100th launch. The company is working on the Ariane 6 to carry heavier payloads, which may launch in 2020.

  • Amazon/Blue Origin

    Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2001 to be initially focused on suborbital spaceflight. Several of its suborbital New Shepard vehicles have been built and flown, although only a handful of satellite missions have been performed. The main focus of the company seems to be launching people to space aboard the New Shepard. In September 2016, Blue Origin announced its plans for the enormous, reusable, and orbit-capable New Glenn rocket system.

  • Virgin Orbit

    The company was formed in 2017 to developed an air-launched rocket carried by the Cosmic Girl aircraft – a previous project of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. Virgin Orbit (part of the Virgin Group) plans to provide launch services for small satellites. In July 2019, the company announced that it had completed a key drop test of its LauncherOne vehicle, the last major step in the development program of the launch service. More recently, Virgin Galactic opened a ‘Gateway to Space’ in New Mexico for its tourists in space program using the USS Unity aircraft.

  • Stratolaunch Systems

    Stratolaunch Systems, founded by Paul G. Allen, consists of a carrier aircraft called the Stratolaunch and a multi-stage payload launch vehicle (still being built). The payload vehicle would be launched at high altitude into space from under the carrier aircraft. In April 2019, the Stratoluanch aircraft completed its first complete flight. In October 2019, the company announced continuing regular operation and change of ownership without naming the owner.

  • National Rockets

    US – NASA and Military

    The US Government/Military still rely heavily on Delta IV, Atlas V and more recently SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets to launch most of their satellite and other payloads. Meanwhile, NASA has designed and is testing the Space Launch System (SLS)as the foundation for a generation of human exploration missions to deep space, including missions to the Moon and Mars. The SLS will send the Orion spacecraft, its astronaut crew and cargo to deep space.

  • China

    The China National Space Administration (CNSA) is the national agency that co-ordinates the country’s space activities. In 2019, China launched 27 orbital missions – more than Russia or the US separately for the same time period. One of the recent launches was for the Beidou navigation satellite launched by a Long March 3b carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

  • India

    The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is the space agency of the Government of India. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is the workhorse and third generation launch vehicle of India. The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark II (GSLV Mk II) is currently the largest Indian launch vehicle. The most upcoming event will be the launch of PSLV-C47 carrying Cartosat-3 scheduled on November 25, 2019.

  • Russia

    The Agency that coordinates the space activities for Russian is known as Roscosmos. It performs numerous civilian activities including Earth monitoring and the astronaut program. Roscosmos launch vehicles include the R-7 (commonly known as the Soyuz rocket) and the Proton.

John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.


Our favorite movies show how we troubleshoot and invent.

The new film, Ford v Ferrari, has us thinking about other movies where engineers get their due for problem-solving and invention. These aren’t space operas or faster-than-light theories, but real problems solved by methodical processes.

Apollo 13. Engineers on the ground scramble to save astronauts from an accident in space.


There are technologies that exist today that aren’t far off from what you’ve seen in superhero movies and comic books.

  • The Avengers may have had their endgame. But the superhero craze isn’t slowing down. As implausible as a lot of superhero technologies and abilities are, you might be surprised to know that a lot of the gadgets seen in comic books and movies aren’t dissimilar to real technologies being developed today. While it’s definitely not a good idea to don a mask and fight crime, there are innovations around today that could make your life as a crime fighter easier (or at least much cooler).

    Check out the slideshow to see some of today’s most promising superhero-related technologies.

    (Image source:  Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay )

  • Body Armor

    Every hero needs protection. Black Panther has a special armor that absorbs and redistributes kinetic energy. And while nothing on par with that actually exists today, the real world isn’t far off from it. Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed an armor made of composite metal foam that weighs half as much as metal armor but can stop armor-piercing .50-caliber rounds just as effectively.

    (Image source: North Carolina State University)

  • Exoskeleton

    If your dream is to become the next Iron Man you’ll be happy to know the US military as well as several private groups are developing exosuits capable of augmenting human strength and physical performance. Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering is looking to improve on the typically bulky design of exosuits by using soft textiles to create an exoskeleton comfortable enough to be worn like clothing (shown above). Harvard recently released a study on the effectiveness of its exosuits in making walking and running less taxing.

    But exosuits are already out there in the real world as well. In 2018 Ford Motor Company launched a project with Ekso Bionics to outfit its plant workers with exosuits to help them with heavy lifting and repetitive assembly tasks.

    (Image source: Harvard University Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering)

  • Flying Car

    Every superhero needs a cool ride. So why not have a flying car? There’s a small, but growing, ecosystem of companies getting into the “urban aerial mobility” market and bringing flying cars to consumers. One of the most notable companies is Kitty Hawk, founded by serial entrepreneur and former Google researcher, Sebastian Thrun. The company is actively testing its flying vehicles and has made partnerships with major aerospace companies like Boeing to further develop them as personal vehicles and as autonomous flying taxis for the general public.

    (Image source: Kitty Hawk)

  • Gecko Gloves

    Want to scale walls like Spider-Man? DARPA’s Z-Man project has you covered. Inspired by geckos’ ability to cling to walls, researchers from the University of Massachusetts have developed Geckskin, a synthetic adhesive that allows for climbing of smooth surfaces like glass walls. During initial testing, an operator climbed 25 feet vertically on a glass surface using no climbing equipment except a pair of handheld paddles covered with the material.

    It’ll be up to you to figure out how to handle the swinging and jumping after you climb that high though.

    (Image source: DARPA)

  • Giant Robot

    If you prefer Japanese anime and manga over American comics, you may want to look into a giant robot. Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industry manufacturers a 13-foot, 4-ton robot called Kuratas that a single person can pilot via the cockpit or a smartphone interface. In 2017 Kuratas went head to head in a live-streamed battle against MegaBot – a two-pilot giant robot manufactured by US startup MegaBots Inc.

    (Image source: Suidobashi Heavy Industry)

  • Homing Bullets

    If you ask antiheroes like the Punisher they’ll tell you that sometimes justice calls for a more extreme approach. In 2015 DARPA started a project to give snipers an extra leg up with its Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO), a modified .50 caliber round that can be directed toward a target after firing – like a miniature guided missile. Computer simulations done on a similar guided bullet technology by Sandia National Laboratories showed much greater accuracy for self-guided bullets over their standard counterparts.

    (Image source: DARPA)

  • Mind-Controlled Electronics

    Why use your hands when you can use your mind? More and more advances in brain-computer interfaces are taking thought-controlled devices outside of the realm of science fiction. In 2015 DARPA researchers were able give a quadriplegic woman neural implants that allowed her to control a flight simulator with her mind.

    Companies like Neurable and CTRL Labs (shown) have been developing novel technologies to allow consumers to interact with and control electronic devices using external sensors – eliminating the need for the type of surgery that would lead to a great superhero origin story.

    And if you think no one is serious about this technology, consider that CTRL Labs was purchased by Facebook to the tune $1 billion.

    (Image source: CTRL Labs)

  • Patrol Robot

    A hero can’t be everywhere at once. Or maybe you’re just the type of crimefighter who prefers not to get their hands dirty. Robotics company Knightscope is giving law enforcement a hand with the K5. The robot is equipped with various sensors that allow it to patrol areas and report crimes in progress and even instances where it suspects a crime may be about to happen. The robot is already deployed in a few major cities. Knightscope recently announced it is developing new sensor technology for the K5 that will allow it to detect weapons.

    (Image source: Knightscope)

  • bionic eye

    Restored Vision for the Blind

    Blind superhero Daredevil can “see” thanks to years of martial arts training and a special radar sense (mostly the radar sense). But thanks to the latest advances in medical science we won’t need freak accidents to restore sight to the blind.

    In 2018 University of Minnesota researchers created a fully 3D-printed array of light receptors on a hemispherical surface – the first step toward what they say could be a bionic eye (shown). Researchers led by Laboratory of Organic Electronics at Linköping University in Sweden are also currently developing artificial retinas made from photoactive films that use organic pigments that could successfully repair certain types of blindness.

    There’s no word on anyone developing an easier way to train martial arts and gymnastics however.

    (Image source: University of Minnesota, McAlpine Group)

  • e-bandage

    Super Healing Technologies

    While human beings can’t heal as fast as Wolverine or Deadpool, there are medical technologies out there that can speed up the process. Engineers at the University of Wisconsin (UW)–Madison have developed a wound dressing that uses electrical pulses to speed up healing (shown above). For more serious injuries, Wake Forest University’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine has created a mobile skin bioprinting system that can print skin directly onto a wound. Combine this with innovations such as work done by Rice University and the University of Maryland to 3D-print materials that mimic bone and cartilage and you could be in for a quick and effective patch up from some very serious injuries someday.

    (Image source: UW/Sam Million-Weaver)

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at   Design News  covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.


In DeepMind’s hypothetical college admissions example: qualifications (Q), gender (G), and choice of department (D), all factor into whether a candidate is admitted (A). A Causal Bayesian Network can identify causal and non casual relationships between these factors and look for unfairness. In this example gender can have a non-causal effect on admission due to its relationship with choice of department. (Image source: DeepMind)

DeepMind, a subsidiary of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) is working to remove the inherent human biases from machine learning algorithms.

The increased deployment of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms into the real world has coincided with increased concerns over biases in the algorithms’ decision making. From loan and job applications to surveillance and even criminal justice, AI has been shown to exhibit bias – particularly in terms of race and gender – in its decision making.

Researchers at DeepMind believe they’ve developed a useful framework for identifying and removing unfairness in AI decision making. Called Causal Bayesian Networks (CBNs), these are visual representations of datasets that can identify causal relationships within the data and help experts identify factors that might be unfairly weighed against or skewing others. The researchers describe their methodology in two recent papers, A Causal Bayesian Networks Viewpoint on Fairness and Path-Specific Counterfactual Fairness.

“By defining unfairness as the presence of a harmful influence from the sensitive attribute in the graph, CBNs provide us with a simple and intuitive visual tool for describing different possible unfairness scenarios underlying a dataset,” Silvia Chiappa and William S. Isaac, the authors of the studies, wrote in a blog post. “In addition, CBNs provide us with a powerful quantitative tool to measure unfairness in a dataset and to help researchers develop techniques for addressing it.”

To describe how CBNs can be applied to machine learning, Chiappa and Isaac use the example of a hypothetical college admissions algorithm. Imagine an algorithm designed to approve or reject applicants based on their qualifications, choice of department, and gender. While qualifications and gender can both have a direct (causal) relationship to whether a candidate is admitted, gender could also have an indirect (non-causal) impact as well due to its influence on choice of department. If a male and female are both equally qualified for admission, but they both applied to a department that historically admits men at a far higher rate, then the relationship between gender and choice of department is considered unfair.

“The direct influence captures the fact that individuals with the same qualifications who are applying to the same department might be treated differently based on their gender,” the researchers wrote. “The indirect influence captures differing admission rates between female and male applicants due to their differing department choices.”

This is not to say the algorithm is capable of correcting itself however. The AI would still need input and correction from human experts to make any adjustments to its decision making. And while a CBN could potentially provide insights into fair and unfair relationships in variables in random datasets, it would ultimately fall on humans to either proactively or retroactively take steps to ensure the algorithms are making objective decisions.

“While it is important to acknowledge the limitations and difficulties of using this tool – such as identifying a CBN that accurately describes the dataset’s generation, dealing with confounding variables, and performing counterfactual inference in complex settings – this unique combination of capabilities could enable a deeper understanding of complex systems and allow us to better align decision systems with society’s values,” Chiappa and Isaac wrote.

Improving algorithms themselves is only one half of the work to be done to safeguard against bias in AI. Figures released from studies such as one conducted by New York University’s AI Now Institute suggest there is a greater need to increase the diversity among the engineers and developers creating these algorithms. For example, as of this year only10 percent of the AI research staff at Google was female, according to the study.

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

The Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event!

Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!

(Image source: NASA)

October 5 marks the 10th-annual International Observe the Moon Night – a night in which scientists, engineers, and enthusiasts all over the world gather to celebrate lunar science.

Sponsored by NASA, the event occurs in September or October, when NASA says viewing conditions for the Moon are ideal because it is in its first quarter. Coincidentally, this also marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

To help get you into the lunar spirit, we’re sharing some of our favorite coverage around the Moon, including a brand-new e-book chronicling the journey of Apollo 11.

Space Week: 50 Years Ago (Free E-Book!)

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, Design News is taking you back in time with expertly curated articles and photos detailing the event.

8 Technologies We Owe to the Apollo Space Program

The innovations of the Apollo program didn’t stop at the Moon. Many technologies were created, or innovated into what they are today, thanks to the space program.

5 Engineering Facts About the Apollo Guidance Computer

It was one of the first modern embedded systems. But here are some more details about the Apollo Guidance Computer you may not have known.

Artemis – Apollo’s Twin Sister – Aims for the Moon

NASA’s Artemis million plans to return men and women to the moon over the next few years, concluding with a continuous human presence in lunar orbit.

Beyond the Right Stuff: Why the First Man on the Moon Had to Be an Engineer

Much like the astronauts who preceded him, Neil Armstrong was as much an engineer as a test pilot.

No Choice But to Be a Pioneer: The Story of Margaret Hamilton

You may be familiar with the famous image of Margaret Hamilton standing next to the Apollo Guidance Computer source code. What you may not know is her true importance to the Apollo program and the field of software engineering in general.

Private Companies Will Lead the Next Wave of Space Travel

Even NASA will incorporate a significant group of private space companies to launch and land spacecraft as we send humans back to the moon in the next few years.

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

The Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event!

Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!