SpaceX launches heaviest telecom satellite

SpaceX Falcon 9 launch

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from its Florida launch pad, sending the Telstar 19V satellite into space. (SpaceX via YouTube)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket executed a textbook launch to put the heavy-duty Telstar 19 Vantage telecommunications satellite into orbit tonight and bring back the first-stage booster for an at-sea landing.

The successful mission kicked off what’s expected to be a rapid-fire series of three liftoffs in less than two weeks’ time.

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Loon strikes deal to beam internet access in Kenya

Loon balloon launch

A balloon equipped with a transceiver takes off from Loon’s test facility in Nevada. (Loon Photo)

A week after becoming an independent business under Alphabet’s wing, the venture formerly known as Google’s Project Loon has struck its first commercial deal to provide balloon-powered 4G/LTE internet service to regions of central Kenya starting next year.

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Boeing outdoes Airbus in sales at air show

Boeing and Embraer executives

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is flanked on the left by Boeing’s chief financial officer, Greg Smith, and on the right by Embraer CEO Paulo Cesar Silva. (Boeing Photo)

Boeing declared victory in its multibillion-dollar sales competition with Airbus at this week’s Farnborough International Airshow — but the details are murkier than usual, in part due to international trade frictions.

Boeing chalked up 528 orders and commitments for airplanes during the show. Airbus’ corresponding tally came to 431, including up to 60 of the A220 jets formerly known as the Bombardier CSeries. Those single-aisle jets would go to a new airline called Moxy, with the first deliveries due in 2021.

To counter that Airbus-Bombardier partnership, Boeing struck a deal of its own earlier this month with Brazil’s Embraer to market small-size passenger jets.

Farnborough’s list-price sales total for Boeing added up to $98.4 billion on the commercial airplane side of its business, and $2.1 billion on the services side. Airbus’ corresponding number shaped up in the range of $50 billion to $60 billion, according to 24/7 Wall Street.

“Boeing led the way at Farnborough, demonstrating value for our customers, capturing important new business in products and services, and announcing the unique strength of our strategic partnership with Embraer,” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a news release.

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T-minus-1 year for Apollo 11’s golden anniversary

Apollo 11 snapshot

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin salutes the U.S. flag during 1969’s Apollo 11 moon mission. (NASA Photo)

Forty-nine years ago today, humans first set foot on a world beyond Earth — and by the time the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing rolls around, a year from now, there’s likely to be more moon milestones to celebrate.

Today NASA’s myriad Twitter accounts are buzzing with #NationalMoonDay shout-outs, and the space agency’s website is filled with links to Apollo 11 lore.

You can bet next year’s #Apollo50 observances will take on a far higher profile. Even Seattle’s Museum of Flight is getting in on the action: Apollo 11 artifacts on loan from the Smithsonian, including the Columbia command module, will be on display starting next April and running through the 50th anniversary.

But the year ahead isn’t just about past glories: We’re due to see a ramping-up of missions to the moon, in part because of the Trump administration’s initiative aimed at lunar exploration and settlement.

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Enjoy July’s gems from Juno at Jupiter

Jupiter clouds

Jupiter’s clouds swirl in a view captured by NASA’s Juno orbiter during Perijove 14. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran)

NASA’s Juno orbiter made another close pass of Jupiter this week, and that means there’s another crop of stunning pictures embellished by legions of citizen scientists.

Every 53 days, the bus-sized spacecraft reaches the closest point in its orbit around the giant planet.  The latest flyby, known as Perijove 14, took place late July 15 and brought Juno within about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) of the giant planet’s cloud tops.

Juno’s main mission is to measure Jupiter’s magnetic field and gravitational field, and gain insights about its internal composition. But it has a camera called JunoCam that’s specifically designed to provide data for image-processing gurus to work their magic with.

Offerings are being posted on the Juno mission’s website, and on Twitter as well.

Check out a sampling of the top tweets on GeekWire.

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Black sarcophagus opened … and it’s a soggy mess

Opening the sarcophagus

Egyptian experts open an ancient sarcophagus in Alexandria. (Ministry of Antiquities via Facebook)

Egyptian archaeologists say they’ve opened up a mysterious black sarcophagus found during excavations in Alexandria, and although they didn’t uncover the evil curse that some feared, they did uncover an evil-looking mess.

The coffin was “filled with sewage which leaked through the grove in this area, plus three skeletons,” Mostafa Waziri, general secretary of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, reported today in an Arabic-language Facebook update.

Photos showed the bones sitting in a pool of dark muck.

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Amazon patents robot that tosses warehouse items

Robotic tossing machine

A diagram from Amazon’s patent application shows robotic arms coordinating their movements to toss a dwarf figurine, a mug and a rubber ducky into designated warehouse bins. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

Robots are nothing new for Amazon’s fulfillment centers, but a newly issued Amazon patent envisions robots that could toss items around those centers.

The 27-page patent, published July 17, describes robotic arms or manipulators that can use sensors to identify objects, figure out how best to grab onto them, calculate the required trajectories and fling the objects into chutes or bins.

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