British-Indian team buys OneWeb network for $1B

OneWeb satellites

An artist’s conception shows OneWeb’s satellites circling the globe. (OneWeb Illustration)

The British government and Bharti Global Ltd., which is part of the world’s third-largest mobile operator, have successfully bid more than $1 billion to acquire the bankrupt OneWeb satellite broadband internet venture.

London-based OneWeb said the deal, resulting from an auction held this week in New York, will enable it to resume plans to add to its 74-satellite constellation and offer global internet access from above, starting with the Arctic.

The sale still has to be approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and regulatory authorities, but the transaction is expected to close late this year.

“With differentiated and flexible technology, unique spectrum assets and a compelling market opportunity ahead of us, we are eager to conclude the process and get back to launching our satellites as soon as possible,” OneWeb CEO Adrian Steckel said today in a news release.

The deal breathes new life into a rival of SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, which already has more than 500 satellites in orbit and could begin limited service this year. OneWeb is also perceived as a competitor of Amazon’s Project Kuiper, which is working out the regulatory requirements for putting more than 3,000 satellites in orbit for a global broadband internet network.

At one point, Amazon was rumored to be interested in bidding on OneWeb’s assets, including its spectrum licenses, but nothing came of those rumors.

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FAA and Boeing complete 737 MAX flight tests

The Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing today completed three days’ worth of certification flight tests on the Boeing 737 MAX, but it’ll take weeks longer for the FAA to review the fixes that Boeing made and decide whether to end the yearlong grounding of the planes.

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Physics professor tackles another quantum mystery

Quantum handshake

This computer-generated visualization shows the wavelike pattern of a “quantum handshake” between a hydrogen atom emitting energy and another atom receiving the energy. (J. Cramer and C. Mead via arXiv)

The University of Washington physicist who once ran a crowdfunded experiment on backward causation is now weighing in with a potential solution to one of the longest-running puzzles in quantum mechanics.

John Cramer, a UW physics professor emeritus, teamed up with Caltech electrical engineer and physicist Carver Mead to put forward an explanation for how the indefinite one-and-zero, alive-and-dead state of a quantum system gets translated into a definite observation — a phenomenon known as wave function collapse.

“Up to now, the mechanism behind wave function collapse has been considered a mystery that is disconnected from established wave mechanics. The result has been that a large number of attempts to explain it have looked elsewhere,” Cramer told GeekWire in an email.

“In our work, we have discovered that wave function collapse, at least in a simple case, is implicit in the existing formalism,” he said, “as long as one allows the use of advanced as well as retarded electromagnetic potentials.”

In other words, the explanation requires accepting the possibility that time can flow backward as well as forward. And for some physicists, that might be too big of a quantum leap.

“Most people just don’t like the idea of having the kind of time symmetry that sort of implies that time isn’t strictly speaking a one-way street,” Cramer acknowledged during a phone interview.

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NASA funds 400 bright ideas from small businesses

Space medicine

Astronauts can perform basic medical checks on the International Space Station, but crews heading to Mars may need to do more complicated medical procedures without the ability to communicate in real time with Mission Control back on Earth. A system being developed by Redmond, Wash.-based Retrocausal could serve as an AI-generated medical assistant. (NASA Photo)

NASA says it’ll fund more than 400 ideas from small businesses, aimed at creating technologies ranging from plumbing fixtures suitable for the moon to AI-based medical assistants that can provide “an extra pair of trained eyes” for crews on Mars.

The contracts will provide about $51 million to 312 small businesses in 44 states and Washington, D.C., to support the development of technologies that could come in handy for space exploration or Earth-based applications.

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SpaceX launches GPS III satellite for Space Force

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the third in a series of next-generation GPS III satellites into orbit today, marking another step forward for America’s satellite-based navigation system and the Space Force that manages it.

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Asteroid Day serves as a teachable moment

DART spacecraft

An artist’s conception shows the spacecraft for NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test approaching its target. (NASA / JHUAPL Illustration)

Today’s 112th anniversary of a close brush with a cosmic catastrophe serves as a teachable moment about the perils and prospects posed by near-Earth asteroids.

Asteroid Day is timed to commemorate a blast from space that occurred over a Siberian forest back on June 30, 1908. The explosion, thought to have been caused by the breakup of an asteroid or comet, wiped out millions of acres of trees — but because the area was so remote, the death toll was minimal.

Because of the Tunguska blast and more recent close calls, such as the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor blast, the threat from above is being taken more seriously. And although a Seattle-area asteroid mining venture called Planetary Resources fizzled, experts say the idea of extracting resources from near-Earth asteroids is worth taking seriously as well.

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AWS creates a space force for cloud computing

AWS Ground Station makes use of satellite ground stations. (AWS Photo)

Amazon Web Services today unveiled a new business unit devoted to developing data infrastructure and cloud services for the aerospace and satellite industry — and headed by someone who helped set up the U.S. Space Force.

The Aerospace and Satellite Solutions business segment will be headed by retired Air Force Major Gen. Clint Crosier, former director of Space Force Planning.

“We find ourselves in the most exciting time in space since the Apollo missions,” Crosier said in today’s announcement from Amazon. “I have watched AWS transform the IT industry over the last 10 years and be instrumental in so many space milestones. I am honored to join AWS to continue to transform the industry and propel the space enterprise forward.”

The unveiling was announced by Teresa Carlson at the AWS Public Sector Summit Online. “Whether on Earth or in space, AWS is committed to understanding our customers’ missions,” she said.

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Elon Musk’s COVID-19 tweets get a reality check

Test in lab

There’s a substantial increase in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19. Is it just because more tests are being done? (Public Health – Seattle & King County via Twitter)

Billionaire Elon Musk knows his stuff when it comes to rockets or electric cars. But does that translate into epidemiological expertise? Not completely, according to Washington state’s coronavirus trackers.

Musk weighed in today with a Twitter response to a GeekWire story that focused on Washington’s rising number of COVID-19 cases as well as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

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Bill Gates sounds the alarm on resurging pandemic

Bill Gates

Bill Gates chats with TED curator Chris Anderson as part of TED2020. (Photo Courtesy of TED)

Tech leaders typically use their TED talks to sketch out an optimistic vision of the future, but today Bill Gates used his to warn about a rough autumn ahead due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s good progress … but nothing that would fundamentally alter the fact that this fall in the United States could be quite bad, and that’s worse than I would have predicted a month ago,” he told moderator Chris Anderson during a live-streamed TED2020 Q&A.

Although Gates didn’t mention President Donald Trump by name, he faulted a lack of American leadership for making things worse.

“We need leadership in terms of admitting that we’ve still got a huge problem here, and not turning that into almost a political thing,” he said. “You know, ‘Isn’t it brilliant, what we did?’ No, it’s not brilliant. … We need a leader who keeps us up to date, is realistic, and shows us the right behavior as well as driving the innovation track.”

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FAA and Boeing begin flight tests for 737 MAX

737 MAX

An artist’s conception shows a Boeing 737 MAX in flight. (Boeing Illustration)

Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration took a major step toward returning the troubled 737 MAX to full operation today with the first of a series of flights aimed at recertifying the jet in the wake of two catastrophic crashes.

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