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Weather forces a delay in William Shatner’s space trek

The Starship Enterprise never had to delay its mission to seek out new life and new civilizations due to bad weather, but that’s precisely what Star Trek captain William Shatner is facing in his real-life bid to become the world’s oldest spaceflier aboard Blue Origin’s suborbital rocket ship.

Blue Origin, the space venture created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, says the 90-year-old actor and his three shipmates are now due to fly on the company’s New Shepard craft on Oct. 13 rather than Oct. 12, due to a forecast for unacceptable winds at the West Texas launch site on the originally scheduled date.

Shatner is already at Blue Origin’s Launch Site One after flying in from the New York Comic Con. He’s joined by Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen, Medidata co-founder Glen de Vries and Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president for New Shepard mission and flight operations.

Boshuizen and de Vries are paying an undisclosed fare for their trips, while Powers and Shatner are flying as Blue Origin’s special guests.

According to today’s advisory, weather is the only concern for launch.

“As part of today’s Flight Readiness Review, the mission operations team confirmed the vehicle has met all mission requirements and astronauts began their training today,” Blue Origin said.

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Startup’s AI software tackles stage fright

If you’re intimidated by the prospect of giving a speech, going through a job interview or doing a wedding toast, a Seattle startup called Yoodli might have just the thing: an AI-enabled software platform that analyzes your delivery and gives you tips for improvement — in a non-judgmental way.

Today the venture is coming out of stealth mode, opening up the waitlist for early access to their beta product and announcing a $1 million pre-seed funding round from Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Madrona Venture Group.

Yoodli is a spinout from the incubator program at the institute, also known as AI2. Two of the founders — Varun Puri and Esha Joshi — are AI2 entrepreneurs-in-residence. The third founder is Ehsan Hoque, co-director of the Rochester Human Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Rochester. All three are drawing upon their personal experience as they take the leap into the startup world.

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How a hockey team uses data to shoot for business goals

When it comes to sports data, most people think about RBIs, third-down conversions or shots on goal — but Kendall Tyson, the Seattle Kraken hockey team’s vice president for strategy and business intelligence, has a completely different kind of statistics in mind.

Which videos do you watch on the Kraken’s website? Are you going to the big game on your birthday or anniversary? What kind of wine will you be ordering at Climate Pledge Arena?

“We’re bringing together ticket purchases to hockey games, ticket purchases to concerts, food and beverage data, retail data and membership data across all of the people who come to Climate Pledge Arena — and not just our fans,” Tyson said today at the GeekWire Summit. “We take that information, and we pull it into a database, and we’re creating Customer 360 profiles.”

If you’re partial to a particular video series about the Kraken, you might see a link to the latest installment at the top of your membership email. If it’s your birthday, the Kraken might offer you a deal on a private suite for the game.

And then there’s the wine.

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First Mode gets $8.5M boost from mining partnership

Seattle-based First Mode says it’s partnering with the global mining company Anglo American in a multi-year joint development deal that includes an $8.5 million investment in First Mode.

The newly announced deal builds on the engineering company’s previous work on a hydrogen fuel-cell power plant for Anglo American’s monster ore-hauling truck.

Anglo American is one of the world’s largest mining companies, with a portfolio that includes platinum-group metals, copper and iron ore, and diamond mines. Its operations are spread out from South Africa to Western Australia.

Mining isn’t exactly an environmentally friendly industry, but Anglo American is pursuing an initiative called FutureSmart Mining that’s aimed at reducing its environmental footprint. The hydrogen-powered vehicle that First Mode is working on could become one of the largest zero-emissions vehicles on Earth.

First Mode was founded in 2018 by veterans of Planetary Resources, an asteroid mining venture that fizzled out. Much of First Mode’s work has to do with supporting space projects such as NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars and the Psyche mission to a metal-rich asteroid. But the partnership with Anglo American signals that First Mode is serious about addressing earthly engineering challenges as well.

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Blue Origin confirms Star Trek captain’s space trip

It’s official: Star Trek actor William Shatner is due to fly on Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spaceship next week, becoming the oldest person to go into space at the age of 90.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ space venture made the announcement this morning, confirming a report published by the TMZ celebrity news site 10 days earlier.

“I’ve heard about space for a long time now. I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle,” Shatner said in the news release.

Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, Audrey Powers, will also be on board for New Shepard’s launch. That rounds out a crew of four that also includes tech entrepreneurs Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries, whose names came to light last week.

Next week’s countdown and launch will be live-streamed via Blue Origin’s website, starting at the T-minus-90-minute mark. Liftoff from Launch Site One in West Texas is currently set for 8:30 a.m. CT (6:30 a.m. PT) Oct. 12.

This will be Blue Origin’s second crewed suborbital spaceflight, following up on the trip that Bezos and three other fliers took in July.

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How laser beams can power up 5G networks

Beaming power wirelessly using laser beams has been the stuff of science fiction for decades — but Kent, Wash.-based PowerLight Technologies and Ericsson, the Swedish-based multinational telecommunications company, have shown how it can become a reality for 5G wireless service.

It may take a couple of years for PowerLight’s beamed-power system to get integrated into Ericsson’s 5G equipment, but the proof-of-concept demonstration could help usher in an age when wireless power is as widely accepted as wireless communication is today.

“The idea that Ericsson is promoting is, we now have wireless connectivity,” PowerLight CEO Richard Gustafson told GeekWire. “It’s time to cut the final cord — and that’s the power cord.”

Gustafson said PowerLight is taking a “crawl, walk, run” approach to wireless power.

“That is not to go from our proof of concept to an urban environment, but to start to work toward packaging for an environment such as disaster response or emergency response, where you’ve got to get equipment up and running quickly,” he said.

The demonstration for Ericsson was conducted at and around PowerLight’s facilities in Kent at the end of July.

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Late-night TV skit skewers space billionaires

You know that the billionaire space race has entered the nation’s mainstream when it’s skewered by NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

On tonight’s season premiere, guest host Owen Wilson played the starring role in “Star Trek: Ego Quest” as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who in July took a suborbital space ride on the New Shepard rocket built by his own Blue Origin space venture.

SNL’s writers even went so far as to write Wilson’s brother, fellow actor Luke Wilson, into the script as Mark Bezos (credited in the opening titles as “First Mate Jeff Bezos’ Brother, Whose Name Escapes Me”). Other prime-time players portrayed the Bezos brothers’ companions in what it called a “crew of random weirdos,” including Dutch student Oliver Daemen (“Science Officer Rich Kid From the Netherlands”) and 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk.

“Their mission: to just sort of fly around space, goofing off, in a ship that looks like a penis,” the narrator intones.

Naturally, Bezos and his crew get into a drag race with Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, who in real life went on his own suborbital space journey on SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity just nine days before Bezos’ flight. The narrator calls it “A Midlife Crisis of Cosmic Proportions.”

But the race ends up going to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (played by Mikey Day), who blasts Bezos’ craft with photon torpedoes. “Space is only big enough for one weird white billionaire,” Musk says. “So you could say beating you is my … Prime objective.” (Or should that be “Prime Directive”?)

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NASA boosts electric aviation efforts at MagniX and GE

Everett, Wash.-based MagniX will be getting $74.3 million from NASA over the next five years to demonstrate electric propulsion technologies for aircraft.

The fixed-price / cost-share award is being made through NASA’s Electric Powertrain Flight Demonstration program, or EPFD, which aims to introduce electric powertrain technologies to U.S. aviation fleets no later than 2035.

Another company, Cincinnati-based GE Aviation, is being awarded $179 million through the same program.

“This award from NASA is a testament to the fantastic work being done every day by the team at MagniX,” Roei Ganzarski, MagniX’s CEO, told GeekWire in an email. “This program will enable the next-generation commercial aircraft. We are proud to be in the same cohort with a great company like GE.”

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Blue Origin’s reputation comes under fire from within

A former employee of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has given up her anonymity to lead a campaign accusing the company of laxity when it comes to safety and sexual harassment.

The allegations from Alexandra Abrams, who served as Blue Origin’s head of employee communications until her dismissal in 2019, are detailed in an essay published on Lioness.co and in an interview with CBS News. Abrams said the Lioness essay was written in collaboration with 20 former and current Blue Origin employees who aren’t identified.

Abrams and her co-writers say that the types of gender gaps often seen in the aerospace industry “manifest in a particular brand of sexism,” that dissent is suppressed, and that Bezos’ competition with fellow billionaires Elon Musk and Richard Branson “seemed to take precedence over safety concerns” in planning for crewed spaceflights.

Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith was portrayed as leading the push toward flying people on Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spacecraft. Bezos and three crewmates rode on the first crewed New Shepard flight in July, and the second crewed flight is due for launch from Blue Origin’s West Texas spaceport in two weeks.

In response to an emailed inquiry, Blue Origin said it takes allegations of sexual harassment seriously and stands by its safety record.

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How the cloud supports Satellogic’s whole Earth catalog

It’s one thing to send down more than a trillion bytes of satellite data every day, and quite another thing to turn all that data into a complete picture of our planet that’s updated daily.

For the first part of the task, Satellogic — a global company that’s headquartered in Uruguay — turns to a constellation of Earth observation satellites that’s expected to grow from its current 17 spacecraft to more than 300 by 2025.

To help with the processing part of the job, Satellogic turns to Amazon Web Services.

“We’ve built the future together, between Satellogic and AWS,” Clint Crosier, director of AWS Aerospace and Satellite Solutions, told GeekWire. “We’ve enabled them to plan to their goal of being able to image every square kilometer of the Earth every single day.”