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Kymeta wins FCC’s OK for pizza-box antennas

Kymeta RAV4 SUV
During an 8,000-mile test drive known as “Kytrek 2,” Kymeta demonstrated how its KyWay terminal could provide coast-to-coast satellite connectivity for a Toyota RAV4 SUV. (Kymeta Photo)

Kymeta Corp., the flat-panel antenna startup backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, has won key approvals from the Federal Communications Commission and its British counterpart for thousands of satellite antennas and the terminals to go with them.

Until now, the company has been providing its mTenna antennas and KyWay data terminals under the terms of special, temporary or experimental licenses, said Carl Novello, vice president of solutions for the Redmond, Wash.-based company.

“This is the big one that says, ‘Yup, you’re well on your way to commercialization,’” he told GeekWire today.

The FCC issued the blanket license on Aug. 24, authorizing 5,000 terminals for land mobile applications, 1,000 for maritime applications and 5,000 for fixed satellite service.

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Hubble keeps hope alive for alien oceans

Red dwarf planet
This artist’s impression shows how the surface of a planet orbiting a red dwarf star may appear. The planet is in the habitable zone, so liquid water exists. (CFA Illustration / M. Weiss)

Do some of the Earth-sized planets around a dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1, just 40 light-years away, have liquid water? Newly reported findings from the Hubble Space Telescope give astrobiologists continued cause for hope.

The seven TRAPPIST-1 planets created a sensation in February because they’re the biggest assemblage of Earth-scale worlds known to exist in a single planetary system. What’s more, three of the planets – known by the letters e, f and g – are in an orbital region where scientists say water could exist in liquid form.

That’s thought to be a key condition for life as we know it, which is why the region is known as TRAPPIST-1’s “habitable zone.”

But is the water really there? To get at that question, astronomers used Hubble to study the amount of ultraviolet radiation received by the planets, and what that might be doing to their atmospheres.

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Amazon sued over solar eclipse glasses

Eclipse glasses
A boy wearing protective glasses watches a partial solar eclipse from Arlington, Va., in 2014. (NASA Photo / Bill Ingalls)

A South Carolina couple has filed a lawsuit against Amazon, claiming that they suffered eye damage even though they used protective glasses sold through the online retailer.

In the lawsuit, filed Aug. 29 in U.S. District Court in Charleston, S.C., Thomas Corey Payne and his fiancee, Kayla Harris, say that the glasses were defective and that Amazon was negligent in allowing them to be sold. They also accuse Amazon of unfair and deceptive trade practices.

They’re asking the court to grant the lawsuit class-action status, which could let other customers across the country join in the effort to seek as-yet unspecified damages. They’re also asking for a jury trial.

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Alien hunters track strange radio bursts

Green Bank Telescope
Intriguing signals have been picked up via West Virginia’s Green Bank Telescope. (NRAO Photo)

Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million initiative aimed at stepping up the search for alien signals, says it’s picked up an intriguing series of 15 fast radio bursts emanating from a dwarf galaxy 3 billion light-years away.

It’s way too early to claim that the signals from the galaxy, which hosts a radio source known as FRB 121102, constitute the kind of evidence sought for decades by researchers specializing in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI.

But Breakthrough Listen’s researchers say that possibility can’t yet be ruled out.

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Dream Chaser space plane takes to the air

Dream Chaser space plane
Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser prototype space plane is suspended beneath a helicopter during a captive-carry flight test at Edwards Air Force Base in California. (SNC via Facebook Live)

Sierra Nevada Corp.’s prototype Dream Chaser space plane, also known as the “mini-space shuttle,” successfully went through its first in-the-air test in four years today at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California’s Mojave Desert.

The uncrewed Dream Chaser stayed suspended beneath a Columbia 234-UT helicopter throughout today’s 101-minute flight.

The point of the captive-carry test was to collect data about the aerodynamics of the winged vehicle as well as the performance of Dream Chaser’s guidance and navigation control software.

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BlackSky wins $16.4M Air Force contract

Image: BlackSky platform provides Aleppo data
BlackSky’s online imaging platform can link a satellite view of the Syrian city of Aleppo to real-time social media streams about the area to provide greater context. (Spaceflight Industries Graphic)

BlackSky, a division of Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries, has been awarded a two-year, $16.4 million cost-plus prime contract with the Air Force Research Laboratoryto deliver a cloud-based platform that can provide geospatial intelligence to government agencies.

The platform will provide on-demand analytics, collection and information services from global data sources, including satellite imagery, Spaceflight Industries said today in a news release.

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Startup plans charter flights at $15K an hour

Emerald jet in action
Emerald’s business model calls for customers to charter a 737 jet by the hour. (Emerald Illustration)

Seattle-based Emerald Corporate Jets is taking the wraps off a charter jet service that offers flights on 737 jets, priced at $15,000 per hour of flight time.

The startup is the brainchild of Russell Belden, who tried unsuccessfully to get Arrow Flight Club off the ground in Seattle a few years ago. Emerald unveiled its website today, effectively opening for business. Flights have yet to begin, however, and one aviation-industry expert told GeekWire that the startup is likely to face big challenges.

Belden, the company’s president, said operations would start with three planes in the Bay Area. Seattle’s Boeing Field is on the list for potential future expansion.

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Eclipse Journal: Mystery plane identified

Plane and corona
The sun’s corona silhouettes an airplane during the total solar eclipse. (Dustin Huntington Photo via SpaceWeather.com)

GeekWire reporters and correspondents documented the 2017 solar eclipse from the Pacific Northwest, including our home base in Seattle and locations in the “Path of Totality” in Oregon. Follow our eclipse adventures, including the mysterious case of the plane and the corona, in our running live blog.

Check out all the blog items on GeekWire.

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Jeff Bezos: Thanks for the philanthropy ideas

Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is honored at the Museum of Flight’s 2016 Pathfinder Awards ceremony in Seattle. (Photo by GeekWire / Kevin Lisota)

Two months after he asked the Twitterverse to suggest short-term options for future philanthropy, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos passed along his appreciation for the tens of thousands of responses that were sent in.

“I’m really glad I asked – the responses have been very helpful and have already changes my thinking about how to approach this,” said Bezos, who currently ranks as the world’s third-richest person.

He said there’d be “more to come.”

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Smartphone selfie system seeks cancer signs

Smartphone selfie system
A 3-D-printed viewing box holds a smartphone in place to take a picture of the user’s eyes. The BiliScreen app analyzes the eye image to look for signs of jaundice, which could point to pancreatic cancer. (University of Washington Photo / Dennis Wise)

University of Washington researchers have created a smartphone app that can let users screen themselves for pancreatic cancer and other diseases by taking a selfie.

But not just any selfie.

The BiliScreen app is designed to focus in on the whites of your eyes. If your whites have an overly yellowish tinge, that could suggest you have increased levels of a compound known as bilirubin. That’s a sign of jaundice, and also one of the earliest indicators of pancreatic cancer.

The first effects on the whites of a person’s eyes, also known as the sclera, are too subtle to be noticeable to the naked eye. Heightened levels typically show up in blood tests, but the UW team says BiliScreen can serve as an effective, low-cost, low-impact screening tool.

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