Expanding the Competitive Edge

The AFA 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference is in full swing and we will be bringing you the latest news every day. 

This year’s conference theme is “Expanding the Competitive Edge.”  AFA Executive Vice President and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Douglas Raaberg noted that companies who are expanding the competitive edge are looking beyond the horizon and helping the industry think innovatively, creatively, and specifically to the future.

AFa Conference Floor
AFA 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference

Richard Branson, the Virgin Group founder, billionaire businessman, and space entrepreneur kicked off the conference today with a keynote address on thinking outside the box.

Branson talked about his goal for Virgin Galactic, which is to make space accessible in a way that has only been dreamed about previously, and in doing so bringing positive change to life on Earth. Their new space port in New Mexico will be among the first to offer commercial space travel.

Branson also discussed their work with Virgin Orbit and announced that it will launch a small satellite from Guam for the Air Force in the next few months using a rocket carried by a 747 aircraft. The Guam launch would be the first Air Force launch for Virgin, via its US subsidiary VOX, under DoD’s Space Test Program. 

This test is a vital step forward in Virgin Orbit’s plan to perfect the ability to replace downed low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites in a day or less—a capability that could make satellites less desirable targets of cyberattacks. Branson said that this capability can also make networks more reliable by eliminating the need for network disruptions when LEO satellites fail.

When asked how he continues to expand the competitive edge for his companies, he said,

“My attitude in life is giving everything I have to solve a problem. I get enormous satisfaction trying to achieve something that has never been achieved before.”

At Mercury’s booth #126, our team will talk about how we are focused on solving tough computing challenges, from secure AI-enabled processing solutions to safety-certified avionics subsystems, and more. We are talking to airmen coming directly from real-world operations as well as to defense companies looking for innovative approaches. The exchange of ideas and joining of creative minds gives us the opportunity to develop more advanced solutions that meet the needs of warfighters today and into the future. Like Branson, we too are driven to give our all for our customers to help them solve their toughest challenges. 

AFA Conference - Mercury solving thoughest challenges
What are your toughest challenges?
Bring them to Booth #126

Check back with us tomorrow. There is a lot going on and we’ll be bringing you another update from the show floor.

Growing and Grateful

By: Emma Woodthorpe

Last week we celebrated another milestone at Mercury when Boston Business Journal named us one of the “Fastest-Growing Public Companies in Massachusetts.” Earlier this year, we ranked No. 27 on Fortune Magazine’s “100 Fasted Growing Companies in 2018” list. It’s worth noting that we’re the only aerospace and defense company to receive either of these accolades. And just this week, we made the “Top 100” list compiled by Defense News, which identifies the world’s biggest defense companies.

As I reflect on how far we’ve come in just a few short years ago, it’s both exhilarating and humbling. We often chide ourselves for being results driven, but our ability to achieve four straight years of double digit revenue growth, which has taken us from a $350 million company, when I joined three years ago, to almost double that today, is nothing short of amazing.

As I reflect on Mercury’s many accomplishments, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of the unique factors that have contributed to our remarkable growth and success:

  • We’re fortunate to be in a market that is growing
  • Our culture and values are foundational to who we are and why we win in the market
  • We have an incredible team that drives our vision and works to achieve ambitious goals
  • Our employees embody the scrappy mentality of a start-up despite our continued growth

I am proud of the team we have created and all that we continue to achieve. I am also incredibly thankful for the dedication and hard work of our team members. Mercury has a bright future thanks to all of them!

We believe our hyper-growth is proof positive that there has never been a more exciting time to be a part of Mercury. And in fact, we just hired our 1,665th employee this week! Interested in joining our team? Check out our Career Site to learn more about the opportunities that exist at Mercury.

#PAS19 Day Three: The Right Flight Stuff

It’s Day Three of PAS 2019 and we were fortunate to spent some time down on the flight line with the skilled pilots of aircraft such as the F-35 and the KC-46, who were excited to pose for photos with fellow flying enthusiasts.

These pilots have the Right Stuff: they have honed their tactical training flight skills for thousands of hours in order to do their jobs to ensure our safety and security. When you see them in action— the Boeing A350, behemoth that it is, flying in what seems like slow motion without falling straight out of the sky or the F-22 flying low and faster than the speed of sound, then up so high it seems it will touch the sun and back down in a nose-dive spiral—you can sense, if only vicariously, that these pilots are consummate professionals.

But these aviators are the first to tell you that they are only part of a larger team: they need their mechanics, their flight engineers, and their ground crew in order to fly these exquisite machines. Mercury is part of this larger team as well.

The Mercury team’s commitment to safety, innovation, agility and security delivers the Right Stuff to these pilots, mechanisms, engineers, and crews that allows them to practice their skills and to maximize the potential of their aircraft in order to accomplish their missions. We salute them.

#PAS19 Day Two: Agility and Mobility

We’ve just wrapped Day Two at the Paris Air Show and much like the latest Parisian fashions, “agility” and “mobility” are all the rage. Today’s climate demands our collection of offerings is versatile,  runway-ready, with the ability to adjust on the fly, literally.

In this video Philippe Weber, Sr. Director, International Sales at Mercury explains how our RES series rackmount servers provide the latest in battle management resiliency and thrives in handling multi-domain combat operations. RES Mini fits in a brief case and is smaller and lighter than a carry-on.  Completely modular and composable. If that isn’t pret-a-porter, we’re not sure what is.

#PAS19: Cleared for Takeoff!

Day one of the Paris Air Show is in the books and it was all systems go. Our stand was packed with our product displays and partners from Daedalean attracting a crowd. Watch this short video of Daedalean’s Boris Videnov talking through their demo and you’ll see why.

The floor was overflowing and full of energy, and we at Mercury had our fair share of the action. Over the course of the day, we hosted over 30 of our valued customers and even scored a visit from Italy’s the Prime Minister , Giuseppe Conte! Other notables included: the AIA Roundtable with Ellen Lord conversations with Acting Air Force Secretary, Matthew Donovan and a meeting with Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Dr. Will Roper. We even ran into  President  Macron.

President Macron

Tomorrow will be another full day. Stay tuned as we share some of the technology highlights from the floor!

Assured Signal Integrity in stacked, high-speed DDR4 and DDR5 memory

Edge processing architectures in today’s autonomous and AI military systems, process an ever growing amount of sensor data. Many of these systems or devices used for edge processing applications in forward-deployed environments need to be small, rugged and agile.  To handle this extreme workload, system architects must design boards using the fastest field-programmable gate array (FPGA) devices and multicore processors. These devices cannot provide peak performance without massive amounts of high-speed DDR4 memory for resident data and real-time execution.  Faced with additional challenges, the system architect must design these systems to meet the size, weight and power (SWaP) constraints of smaller, more agile edge processing platforms integral to our warfighters’ mission success.   To support the system requirements, each embedded board within the system could need a minimum of 64GB of memory per processor, equating to more than 128 separate commercial-grade memory devices or multiple dual inline memory modules (DIMM), for layout on a printed circuit board. This is not a feasible solution for the embedded boards at the core of ultra-compact edge processing architectures in military systems operating in harsh, forward-deployed environments. Instead, high-density, military-grade memory manufactured with state-of-the-art 3D packaging technology must be utilized for space and power savings, while maintaining reliability in harsh environments. 

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#PAS19: Forklifts and Nail Guns and Drills, Oh My!

Paris Air Show - yellow and orange safety vests
Paris Air Show 2019 – Arriving on the Scene

Arriving on the scene at le Bourget today, was akin to being immersed in the first sketch of a pointillist painting dotted with “hi-vis” yellow and orange safety vests. Those wearing them are the smart, safety-conscious people who are working to get the 53rd International Paris Air Show ready for launch (pun intended). It doesn’t look like much now (truthfully, we’re struggling to fathom how it will all come together in time), but by Monday, thanks to the long days and all-nighters of talented carpenters, electricians, plumbers, heavy equipment operators, IT/AV professionals, security and law enforcement officers, among many others, it will be spectacular, fully realized Seurat of 142,000 professionals blending together to create their own Sunday Afternoon at Le Bourget.

Our exhibition space (Hall 4, stand B41) will be host to myriad flight-safety assurance offerings including the ROCK-2 mission computing platform, as well as our esteemed Mercury ground team, nine GIFAS delegations and in our conference room, upward of 50 meetings with both existing and prospective customers and partners. Stay tuned for daily updates and a vlog or two so you can share in the action of the Mercury stand!

Safe AND secure avionics? You can do that? Yup!

Although we all love connectivity and the benefits it brings us, there is a downside. By now, we’ve all heard about cars that have been hacked. Wired magazine even has an entire section of their website dedicated to the subject. Anytime you connect to a network, you open up your system to vulnerabilities.

Avionics systems are the same. These critical systems operate our airplanes, helicopters and airborne unmanned vehicles. Everything is moving to digital and they are increasingly being networked.

Digital display in cockpit
Increase use of digital cockpits

Historically (despite the recent 737 max 8 incidents), avionics systems have been remarkably safe – much safer than driving. One example of this can be found in this USA Today article quoted below.

“In absolute numbers, driving is more dangerous, with more than 5 million accidents compared to 20 accidents in flying. A more direct comparison per 100 million miles pits driving’s 1.27 fatalities and 80 injuries against flying’s lack of deaths and almost no injuries, which again shows air travel to be safer.”

How has air travel achieved such safe success? Through very diligent design methodologies combined with testing and verification procedures. These procedures are captured in the certification process known as DAL (Design Assurance Level). And the intensity of the testing and compliance depends on the system involved as noted below.

Design Assurance Levels

There are two components of this process, one for software and one for hardware:

The move to digital

But now the world is changing. These platforms are being networked for a number of reasons:

  • Connections to satellites for flight information, on-board entertainment and more
  • Nose-to-tail connectivity
  • Increasing use of AI and machine learning algorithms
  • Predictive real-time system monitoring

Even when a plane isn’t flying, it gets connected to testing equipment that receives updates through the internet. Any of these networks can introduce security issues.

Add to this, there is a push for open system architectures. For avionics, FACE is one of these important design paradigms. The goal of FACE is to make military computing more robust, interoperable and portable through use of a common operating environment.

So now design engineers need to balance the needs and requirements of safety with open architectures and security. Here are a couple of recent articles on the topic:

  • From Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine:
    Safety- and security-critical avionics software
    Functionality of avionics software continues to expand. Additional software capabilities bring many more lines of code, and greater opportunity for error. At the same time, the more critical an avionics software suite becomes, the higher its risk of cyber terrorism and of being hacked, so current and future avionics software offer safety and security through software development tools, testing and verification utilities, and operating systems that are tamper-proof.

What to do?

Mercury has invested in security for defense electronics for many years. We have designed techniques to detect and prohibit intrusion to key systems. Combined with our avionics safety capabilities, we are uniquely prepared to address the convergence of safety, open architectures and security.

Listen to this podcast

Scott Engle, Business Development Director for Mercury, was just interviewed for a podcast entitled Wheels Up! In this episode, Scott talks about the coexistence of safety and security in world of avionics and why the key to security in aviation may be tied to the reclassification of security-related failures.

And to learn more about secure design and manufacturing, read our recent whitepaper entitled: Next Generation Defense Electronics Manufacturing

City Year – Spring Into Service

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”
– Elizabeth Andrew

Boston City Year Spring Into Service Volunteer Event
March 22nd, 2019

On a rainy March day, 5 Mercury employees based in Andover trekked into Boston to participate in our first Boston City Year volunteer event. Cutting a wide swath across functions (HR, Engineering, Marketing, and IT) we represented Mercury with a good cross section of the company.

City Year, a part of the Americorps national service network, strives to place college graduates, who commit to one year of service, in schools throughout the country. Their mission is to support at risk children based on 3 key indicators: attendance, poor behavior, and failure in math and English. Through “near-peer” relationships, City Year members work to provide academic and social-emotional support.

Our role was to support the City Year members any way we could so we made pencil and pen holders that would be part of an MCAS kit students would receive. With duct tape in every color imaginable, the competition was on.

Susan Steward wins the day!

After our shift was over, it was time for lunch and to talk about future volunteer endeavors. I think we all had almost as much fun talking about our different day jobs as we did volunteering. Many thanks to the Andover Engagement Team for their support and to Emma Woodthorpe, CHRO, for her advice and guidance.

If you have a volunteer idea, make sure to contact your Site Engagement team and get their support. Start small and just get out their and do something. Remember, big things often have small beginnings!

Enabling Edge Processing in Military Intelligent Sensors

In military environments, seconds can be the difference between life or death and mission success or failure. A soldier in hostile territory needs their mobile system to rapidly process sensor data to accurately analyze threats and take action. Intelligent sensor systems using artificial intelligence (AI) to make automatic critical decisions without human intervention rely on sophisticated algorithms to process sensor data real-time at the point of generation to ensure a rapid and accurate decision can be made. This real-time processing of data at the point of generation and consumption, decentralized from a data center or the cloud, is Edge Processing. Each local system or device at the “edge” is self-sufficient to collect, process, store and disseminate data into action enabling the intelligent sensor and effector mission systems our military needs to carry out daily operations. These systems that enable mobile computing and artificial intelligence could be part of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV),unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) or a base camp collecting surveillance data of its surroundings to warn of incoming threats.

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