Crew Dragon makes first space station stopover

Crew Dragon

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is docked to the International Space Station. (NASA TV via YouTube)

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship docked with the International Space Station for the first time today, marking a successful uncrewed rehearsal of the procedure that astronauts will go through when they make their first arrival with the next flight.

The 27-foot-long spacecraft made contact with a docking adapter on the space station’s Harmony module at 2:51 a.m. PT, as the station flew 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean just north of New Zealand. That “soft docking” was the first step in an hours-long procedure to latch the Crew Dragon securely to the station, hook up power and data connections, and clear the way for hatch opening.

“Congratulations to all of the teams on a successful docking,” NASA astronaut Anne McClain radioed from the station. The news was greeted with cheers at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

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Crew Dragon makes its (uncrewed) maiden flight

SpaceX Crew Dragon launch

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, sending its first Crew Dragon spaceship skyward with a spacesuit-wearing mannequin seated inside. (SpaceX Photo)

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon was sent into space atop a Falcon 9 rocket tonight, beginning a crucial test of a spaceship that’s destined to carry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Liftoff took place right on time at 2:49 a.m. ET March 2 (11:49 p.m. PT March 1) from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the origin point for the last shuttle mission as well as for trips to the moon in the Apollo era.

Within minutes, the Falcon 9’s second stage put the uncrewed capsule into orbit, while the first-stage booster made a successful at-sea landing on a drone ship stationed hundreds of miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

The late-night event, watched by hundreds of onlookers near the Florida launch site and thousands of webcast witnesses, kicked off the first orbital flight of a privately built spaceship designed to carry humans.

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New CEO takes over at LeoStella satellite venture

Mike Hettich

Mike Hettich has taken over as LeoStella’s CEO. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

TUKWILA, Wash. — Mike Hettich has finally completed his transition from chief learning officer to chief executive officer at LeoStella, the satellite manufacturing joint venture headquartered here.

Hettich came to LeoStella from Kirkland, Wash.-based Astronics Advanced Electronic Systems, where he served as vice president for 19 years.

For the past few weeks, he’s been learning the ropes at the Tukwila development and manufacturing facility from Chris Chautard, who stepped down from the CEO post and is returning to his home base at Thales Alenia Space in France. In an interview, Hettich joked that “chief learning officer” came the closest to describing his role during the transition.

Today marked Hettich’s first day as LeoStella’s CEO.

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Black box recovered from Amazon Air crash site

Searching crash site

NTSB investigators, along with representatives from Boeing and Texas Game Warden, search Trinity Bay for recorders from the cargo jet crash in Texas, using pinger locator equipment. (NTSB Photo)

The National Transportation Safety Board says it has recovered the cockpit voice recorder from the muddy Texas bay where an Atlas Air Boeing 767 cargo jet crashed last weekend.

Three crew members were killed in the Feb. 23 crash into Trinity Bay, near Anahuac, Texas. The plane was part of the Amazon Air package delivery fleet, and was nearly at the end of a scheduled Miami-to-Houston flight when it nose-dived into the bay’s shallow waters.

Investigators have been searching for the cockpit voice recorder as well as the plane’s other “black box,” the flight data recorder. Two bodies have been found amid the widely scattered wreckage, along with partial human remains that may be associated with the third fatality.

The Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224, identified the three as Capt. Ricky Blakeley, First Officer Conrad Jules Aska and an aviator from Mesa Airlines, pilot Sean Archuleta.

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Tesla sells $35,000 cars and shifts to online sales

Tesla store

The Tesla store at Bellevue Square in Bellevue, Wash. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Tesla is finally following through on its pledge to sell its Model 3 electric cars at the standard price of $35,000, but says it’s shutting down on-the-spot showroom sales to remain “financially sustainable” at the lower price point. Going forward, worldwide sales will shift to online only, the company says.

Many of Tesla’s stores will be shut down over the next few months, the company said on its website. A small number of stores in high-traffic locations will remain open as galleries, showcases and information centers, but would-be buyers will have to go online to close the deal.

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One giant leap for Microsoft Quantum Network

Quantum computer

Microsoft is focusing on the development of quantum computers that take advantage of cryogenically cooled nanowires. (Microsoft Photo)

REDMOND, Wash. — Quantum computing may still be in its infancy — but the Microsoft Quantum Network is all grown up, fostered by in-house developers, research affiliates and future stars of the startup world.

The network made its official debut today here at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, during a Startup Summit that laid out the company’s vision for quantum computing and introduced network partners to Microsoft’s tools of the quantum trade.

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World View balloon venture gets new CEO

Stratollite

An artist’s conception shows World View’s Stratollite platform in action. (World View Illustration)

For three and a half years, Ryan Hartman served as president and CEO of Insitu — the Boeing subsidiary headquartered in Bingen, Wash., that pioneered the creation of unmanned aircraft systems for military and commercial applications.

Now Hartman will raise his sights as the new CEO of Tucson, Ariz.-based World View, which is developing stratospheric balloon-borne platforms known as Stratollites to perform satellite-style tasks in remote sensing and communications.

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