Paul Allen’s deep legacy: Japanese shipwreck found

Hiei shipwreck

Guns of the Japanese battleship Hiei lie on the bottom of the Pacific. (© Navigea Ltd. / R/V Petrel via Vulcan)

A wide-ranging shipwreck survey funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is continuing after his death, and the latest discovery focuses on the Japanese battleship Hiei, which sank in the South Pacific during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942.

Japanese researchers picked up the sonar signature of the wreck off the Solomon Islands a year ago, sparking a voyage by the Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel to check out the site and get the first on-the-scene underwater views.

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SpaceX and Boeing space taxi trips delayed … again

SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner

An artist’s conception shows Boeing’s Starliner capsule and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon craft. (NASA Graphic)

NASA says the flight test schedule for space taxis designed by SpaceX and Boeing to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station has been stretched out further, as expected.

And it wouldn’t be surprising if additional postponements occur in the coming weeks and months.

The schedule announced today calls for SpaceX to launch its Crew Dragon capsule from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on an uncrewed demonstration flight to the station on March 2.

Boeing, meanwhile, aims to send an uncrewed Starliner space capsule from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to the station no earlier than April.

Each of those time frames is roughly a month later than the schedule laid out last November, and each is subject to further change.

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Amazon patents drone delivery targeting system

Amazon drone delivery

An Amazon delivery drone prepares to descend toward its target during a test run in England, as seen in an aerial view.  (Amazon via YouTube)

newly published patent hints at the system that Amazon just might use to guide delivery drones to their destinations, and verify that the drone’s payloads have been dropped off at the right locations.

The system, as described in an application that was filed in 2016 and published as an approved patent today, could involve having the drone recognize landmarks in the designated recipient’s yard or driveway — as well as a printed-out target with a barcode confirming the items to be delivered.

If the drone spots obstructions that could interfere with the delivery — for example, tree branches, an outdoor grill or a basketball — recipients could get a message on their mobile device telling them to move the delivery target or move the obstructions out of the way.

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Boeing partners with Aerion for supersonic jet

Aerion AS2 supersonic jet

An artist’s conception shows Aerion’s AS2 supersonic business jet flying over New York City. (Aerion Illustration via Boeing)

Boeing says it’s making a significant investment in Aerion to accelerate the development of the Nevada-based company’s supersonic business jet.

The partnership announced today appears to be a closer tie than the relationships Aerion once had with two of Boeing’s rivals, Airbus and Lockheed Martin.

Neither Aerion nor Boeing disclosed financial terms of the investment, but Boeing said it would provide Aerion with engineering, manufacturing and flight test resources, as well as strategic vertical content, to bring Aerion’s AS2 jet to market.

The AS2 is designed to fly at speeds as high as Mach 1.4, or about 1,000 mph. The companies said the AS2 could save about three hours on a transatlantic flight while meeting environmental performance requirements.

First flight is projected to take place in 2023, which roughly meshes with the timeline for establishing a new regulatory framework for supersonic flights. Federal authorities banned supersonic passenger flights over land in 1973, largely due to concerns about sonic booms.

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AI plays on your team in Iconary online game

Iconary's AllenAI

The artificial intelligence agent behind the Iconary picture puzzle game, known as AllenAI, has been given a decidedly un-Terminator-like persona. (AI2 Graphic)

For decades, the games that put artificial intelligence to the test have been played human vs. machine – whether it’s checkerschessGopokerStarCraft or “Jeopardy.” Why isn’t there a game where the AI and the human are on the same side?

Now there is, and you can play, too.

Researchers at Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence are taking the wraps off Iconary, a Pictionary-type puzzle game in which an AI and human players take turns putting together pictures and guessing what phrases the pictures signify. Anyone can play the game with the AI agent, nicknamed AllenAI, by going to Iconary.AllenAI.org.

But it’s not just a game.

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Spaceflight wins a shout-out as a disruptor

SpaceX Falcon SSO-A launch

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket sends 64 satellites into space from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base in December 2018 to kick off Spaceflight’s SSO-A satellite rideshare mission. (SpaceX Photo)

Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries has taken the spotlight in a research note from Morgan Stanley for disrupting the process of putting satellites in space — in a good way.

The note, sent to the investment firm’s clients last Friday by analyst Adam Jonas and his colleagues, pays tribute to Spaceflight Industries’ two business lines. One subsidiary, Spaceflight, arranges for payloads to share rides on other people’s rockets. The other subsidiary, BlackSky, offers satellite imagery from a range of spacecraft, soon to include its own Global constellation.

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EarthNow fleshes out planetary video plan

EarthNow satellite

An artist’s conception shows one of EarthNow’s satellites in orbit, equipped with four telescopic cameras. (EarthNow Illustration)

BELLEVUE, Wash. — A satellite startup called EarthNow is laying out the details of its plan to blanket our planet with high-resolution, real-time, live-video coverage from a 500-satellite constellation in orbit, with support from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Europe’s Airbus, Japan’s SoftBank Group and other high-profile backers.

The revelations come a year after Bellevue-based EarthNow raised $6.6 million in a seed investment round from those financial backers.

“The purpose of the seed phase was to make absolutely sure that we could do this,” founder and CEO Russell Hannigan told GeekWire.

If a follow-up Series A round comes together the way Hannigan and his team hope in the next couple of months, the venture could launch its first experimental “pathfinder” satellites by the end of 2020, setting the stage for a wave of operational satellites in 2022.

Hannigan discussed EarthNow’s roadmap last week during an interview at Intellectual Ventures’ Bellevue headquarters, which currently serves as the spin-out’s base of operations. He’ll be discussing the details with other satellite industry executives this week at the SmallSat Symposium in San Jose, Calif.

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