Elon Musk says Saudis will back Tesla privatization

Elon Musk with Tesla Semi and Roadster

Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduces the Semi truck and an updated Roadster at an unveiling event in 2017. (Tesla via YouTube)

When Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he had “funding secured” for a plan to take the company private, he was referring to the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund — whose executives had been pressing him for almost two years to take such a step.

That’s according to an update that Musk posted to Tesla’s website today. The update sheds more light on Aug. 7’s cryptic and seemingly sudden tweets revealing that he was considering a plan to buy up shares from whoever wanted to sell, at a premium price of $420 a share.

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Stratolaunch rolls out monster airplane for tests

Stratolaunch plane

Stratolaunch’s plane sits at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port. (Stratolaunch Photo)

Stratolaunch, the launch venture created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, took the world’s biggest airplane out of its hangar this weekend at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port and revved up its engines in preparation for the next step toward shooting rockets into space from midair.

The rocket-launching part is still a year or two away, but Stratolaunch is aiming to put the 385-foot-wide, twin-fuselage plane through its first test flight within the next couple of months.

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Parker Solar Probe blasts off to ‘touch the sun’

Parker Solar Probe launch

A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket sends NASA’s Parker Solar Probe spaceward from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (NASA via YouTube)

NASA today sent a super-shielded spacecraft known as the Parker Solar Probe on a mission that will take it closer to the sun than any other spacecraft has flown, with the probe’s namesake, a 91-year-old physicist, watching the launch.

A blazing United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket rose into the night sky from its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:31 a.m. ET (12:31 a.m. PT), one day after concerns over a data glitch forced a postponement.

Three rocket stages powered the probe on the first leg of its sunward journey.

“All I can say is, wow, here we go, we’re in for some learning over the next several years,” University of Chicago solar physicist Eugene Parker said just after liftoff.

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Fatal joyride points to gaps in airport security

Plane in the air

A stolen Horizon Air turboprop plane does maneuvers. (John Waldron via KING5)

The day after a Horizon Air employee stole an airplane, flew aerial stunts and crashed into a sparsely inhabited island in Puget Sound, airline executives acknowledged that more will have to be done about insider air security.

“Yesterday’s events will push us to learn what we can from this tragedy so that we can help prevent it from ever happening again, at our airline or any other,” Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Air Group, said today during a news briefing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Authorities said the pilot who made an unauthorized takeoff at 7:32 p.m. PT Friday was a 29-year-old ground service agent for Horizon Air, an Alaska Air subsidiary. “His job was to be around airplanes,” Tilden said.

Ground service agents typically load and unload baggage, tidy up the airplane after arrivals and take on other ground duties. The rogue pilot was authorized to operate the equipment that tows airplanes to and from runways.

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Bizarre airplane theft ends in lone fatality

Scenes from fatal joyride

A Horizon Air plane, commandeered by an airline employee without passengers, was chased by F-15 fighter jets before crashing on an island southwest of Seattle. (Images: KING 5 News and Twitter)

By Alan Boyle and Todd Bishop

A distressed Horizon Air employee stole one of the airline’s planes from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport tonight and roamed through the air with F-15 fighter jets in pursuit until the plane crashed on Ketron Island, southwest of Seattle, authorities said.

No passengers were aboard the Bombardier Q400 turboprop plane, and authorities did not immediately release information about the fate of the employee — but video from the scene showed burning debris strewn across the island.

Air traffic at Sea-Tac Airport was temporarily grounded due to the security threat, according to reports from Horizon Air’s parent company, Alaska Air.

In audio recordings from the air traffic control system, the man flying the plane said that he was “just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it, until now.”

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Blue Origin shows off upper-stage rocket engine

BE-3U rocket engine testing

Blue Origin’s BE-3U upper-stage rocket engine undergoes testing. (Blue Origin via Twitter)

Blue Origin, the space venture founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is sharing a short video clip featuring the lesser-known rocket engine for its orbital-class New Glenn rocket.

The spotlight on the hydrogen-fueled BE-3U engine comes amid reports that Blue Origin is rapidly ramping up its New Glenn development program — and amid questions over whether Blue Origin can start launching New Glenn by the end of 2020, as originally planned.

There’s also lots of activity relating to other aspects of Bezos’ aspirations.

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How to catch a perfect Perseid meteor shower

Perseid over Mount Rainier

A Perseid meteor flashes above Mount Rainier in 2016. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The outlook for this year’s Perseid meteor shower is checking all the boxes. Up to a meteor a minute? Check. Moonless sky? Check. Peaking during the weekend? Check. Clear weather? That even looks like a check mark for the night of Aug. 12-13 in Seattle.

Only two clouds hang over what’s traditionally the year’s most watched meteor display. One is literal clouds: The skies won’t always be totally clear for this weekend’s peak, although the National Weather Service shows the cloud cover forecast improving as the weekend wears on. There’s also the smoke from Western wildfires to contend with.

The other cloud has to do with expectations: Yes, the Perseids can produce a meteor per minute, but that’s at the very peak of the shower, under peak conditions. So don’t be disappointed if your meteor mileage varies.

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