SpinLaunch raises $40M for space catapult

SpinLaunch hangar

SpinLaunch’s hangar is home to a vehicle that’s designed to be launched from a catapult. (SpinLaunch Photo)

A stealthy Silicon Valley startup called SpinLaunch says it’s raised a total of $40 million from a high-profile array of investors to get a space catapult system ready for launch by 2022.

The company, founded in 2015 by CEO Jonathan Yaney, has been working on an electric-powered kinetic energy launch system that starts by whipping the vehicle around on a centrifuge, then catapults it spaceward at hypersonic speeds.

“Applying the initial performance boost from a terrestrial-based launch platform enables us to lower the cost by orders of magnitude and launch many times per day,” Yaney said today in a news release.

SpinLaunch’s funding includes a newly closed $35 million Series A funding round by an investment syndicate including Airbus Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures) and Kleiner Perkins.

The syndicate joins institutional investors including Lauder Partners, ATW Partners, Bolt and Starlight Ventures to bring total funding to $40 million. The funds will be used to scale up the team and technology, SpinLaunch said.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Elon Musk: Chicago tunnel can be done in 3 years

Mark this down for later: Tech billionaire Elon Musk says the Boring Company could begin work on the express tunnel linking downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport in three to four months, and have it finished in three years. Musk, who’s famous for overly optimistic timelines, laid out that plan today as he stood alongside Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to announce the deal at a news conference in the unfinished Block 37 transit superstation.

Get the news brief on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tech titan Nathan Myhrvold revisits asteroid flap

Image: Nathan Myhrvold

Nathan Myhrvold shows off a fragment of the Chelyabinsk meteorite in his office at Intellectual Ventures in Bellevue, Wash. (GeekWire photo by Alan Boyle)

Nathan Myhrvold is back, and this time he’s got peer review on his side.

Two years ago, the Seattle tech pioneer tangled with NASA and the scientists behind an infrared sky survey mission known as NEOWISE, over a data set that cataloged the characteristics of more than 157,000 asteroids.

In a lengthy assessment, Myhrvold said the NEOWISE team had made flawed and misleading correlations between the brightness and the size of asteroids.

In response, NASA pointed to mistakes in Myhrvold’s critique and noted that his claims hadn’t gone through scientific peer review. “It is important that any paper undergo peer review by an independent journal before it can be seriously considered,” NASA said at the time.

If that’s so, then it’s time for serious consideration. Myhrvold’s paper, “An Empirical Examination of WISE/NEOWISE Asteroid Analysis and Results,” has now been published (with corrections of what he acknowledged were mistakes) in the peer-reviewed journal Icarus.

And that’s not all.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Spacewalkers install HD video cameras

Spacewalker Ricky ARnold

NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold looks out from the International Space Station’s Quest airlock at the beginning of a spacewalk. (Oleg Artemyev / Roscosmos via Twitter)

NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold installed new high-definition video cameras on the exterior of the International Space Station today during a spacewalk that lasted nearly seven hours. The cameras will provide enhanced views for the approach and docking of commercial space taxis that are being developed to ferry astronauts to and from the station.

Get the news brief on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

GoFly Prize unveils 10 designs for flying machines

TeTra flying machine

The teTra 3 air vehicle is one of the Phase 1 winners in the GoFly Prize competition. (Team teTra via GoFly)

Some of the designs look like winged motorcycles. There’s a cute mini-airplane with stubby wings. And a couple of the contraptions look more like time machines than flying machines.

The diversity among the winners in the first phase of the $2 million GoFly Prize competition for personal air vehicles doesn’t faze Gwen Lighter, the program’s founder and CEO. The way she sees it, that’s what’s wonderful about the contest.

“Just like there there are many different types of cars available to drive, so too the diversity that we are seeing in the many different types of personal flying solutions that have been submitted will allow the public to be able to choose the best method for whatever they are doing at that particular moment,” she told GeekWire. “In that sense, it’s very exciting to see all the different permutations.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Boring Company wins nod for Chicago airport tunnel

Boring Company tunnel skate

An artist’s conception shows one of the Boring Company’s “skates” traveling through a transit tunnel. (Boring Company Illustration)

Tech billionaire Elon Musk’s Boring Company is getting the go-ahead to build a multibillion-dollar express transit system between downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport, city officials said.

Mayoral spokesman Grant Klinzman told GeekWire in a tweet tonight that the Boring Company won the bid. “Consider it confirmed,” he said.

In a follow-up statement, the Boring Company said its aim will be “to alleviate soul-destroying traffic by constructing safe, affordable, and environmentally friendly public transportation systems.”

Musk’s 18-month-old company beat out a bid from O’Hare Xpress LLC, a consortium that included the Mott MacDonald engineering firm and JLC Infrastructure, a venture backed by former basketball star Magic Johnson.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Study shows Antarctic ice loss is accelerating

Antarctic ice loss contribution to sea level

This chart shows the contribution to global sea levels due to changes in the mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet between 1992 and 2017. (IMBIE / Planetary Visions Graphic)

An analysis of satellite data collected since 1992 suggests that ocean-driven melting has led to a tripling in the rate of ice loss from West Antarctica, from 53 billion to 159 billion metric tons per year.

The study was conducted by a group of researchers as part of the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise, or IMBIE, and published today in the journal Nature.

Estimated annual ice loss from the Antarctic Peninsula rose from 7 billion to 33 billion metric tons over the same 25-year period, due to ice shelf collapse.

East Antarctica’s ice sheet, however, is gaining mass at an average rate of 5 billion metric tons per year. The main factor behind that gain appears to be fluctuations in snowfall, researchers said.

The analysis suggests that 3 trillion tons’ worth of Antarctic ice losses have increased global sea levels by 7.6 mm (0.3 inches) since 1992, and that the increase is accelerating.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Posted in GeekWire | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment