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Rocket Lab lofts satellites for NRO, NASA, Australia

Rocket Lab’s low-cost Electron rocket lofted a bevy of small satellites into orbit tonight for the National Reconnaissance Office, NASA and a project backed by the Australian government and the University of New South Wales Canberra Space.

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Boeing rolls out first ‘Loyal Wingman’ AI drone

A Boeing-led team has presented the Royal Australian Air Force with its first “Loyal Wingman” aircraft, an AI-equipped drone that’s designed to fly in coordination with crewed military airplanes.

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Allen Coral Atlas adds Great Barrier Reef views

Great Barrier Reef
A wide-angle view shows the area of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef covered by the Allen Coral Atlas’ newly analyzed satellite imagery. (Allen Coral Atlas / Planet)

When you think of the crown jewels of the coral reefs, it’s hard not to think of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef — and now those jewels are on full display in the Allen Coral Atlas, one of the scientific legacies left behind by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The atlas was unveiled just a couple of weeks after Allen’s death last October, following through on one of the late billionaire’s passions: preserving the world’s oceans. This month’s addition of satellite-based imagery covering 3,000 square kilometers of the central Great Barrier Reef, from Cairns to Cooktown, represents the largest expansion of the atlas to date.

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Boeing unveils new breed of ‘wingman’ drones

Boeing Airpower Teaming System
An artist’s conception shows drones in the Boeing Airpower Teaming System flying alongside an F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet. (Boeing Illustration)

Boeing is unveiling a new type of uncrewed aircraft that’s designed to fly military missions alongside piloted airplanes, known as the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.

The air platform is being developed for global defense customers by Boeing Austraila, and as such, represents Boeing’s biggest investment in an unmanned aircraft program outside the United States. Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne took the wraps off a full-scale mockup of the plane today at the Australian International Airshow at Avalon Airport in Geelong.

Australia’s government is teaming up with Boeing to produce a concept demonstrator called the “Loyal Wingman,” which should blaze the trail for production of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.

“The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will provide a disruptive advantage for allied forces’ manned / unmanned missions,” Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Boeing Autonomous Systems, said in a news release. “With its ability to reconfigure quickly and perform different types of missions in tandem with other aircraft, our newest addition to Boeing’s portfolio will truly be a force multiplier as it protects and projects air power.”

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Australia powers up Tesla’s monster battery

Tesla batteries
Tesla’s battery bank is linked to wind turbines in South Australia. (Jay Weatherill via Twitter)

South Australia’s state government turned on the switch for the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery today, marking a signal achievement for rapid deployment of renewable energy resources.

Technically speaking, the 100-megawatt battery bank built by Tesla isn’t the highest-capacity power storage system: Molten-salt batteries, for example, can store more energy for distribution over a longer time. Alphabet’s X team, the “moonshot factory” associated with Google, is currently seeking commercial partners for a megawatt-scale, molten-salt battery project called Malta.

Even in the lithium-ion category, there are bigger power storage systems in the works: A battery bank that’s being built for Southern California Edison can be expanded to store 300 megawatts of power.

But that battery isn’t due for completion until 2021 or so. What’s most notable about the Tesla facility connected to Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm is that it was installed under the terms of a “100 Days or It’s Free” deal with Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Today’s switching-on ceremony took place just 63 days after the grid-connection agreement was signed in September, although Tesla got a head start on the project before the signing.

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Elon Musk hits deadline for big Australian battery

Battery bank
Tesla installed the batteries at Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm in South Australia. (Tesla Illustration)

It’s a rare day when Tesla CEO Elon Musk actually finishes a job before the deadline, but that’s what happened with the massive 100-megawatt battery bank that his company built in South Australia.

The world’s largest lithium-ion battery bank has now been fully installed at Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm and is set to be energized for the first time in a matter of days, South Australia’s state government announced today.

In response to a plea from Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, Musk promised in July to get the array of Powerpacks installed within 100 days of signing a grid connection agreement, or else the job would be done for free.

Musk had some wiggle room: By the time the agreement was actually signed on Sept. 29, Tesla had already completed half the project. Nevertheless, he was taking a risk on a project that’s thought to cost tens of millions of dollars.

Tonight Musk tweeted his congratulations to the team.

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Elon Musk to update Mars plan in Australia

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk got a rock-star reception last September at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico when he unveiled his long-promised plan to send scads of settlers to Mars. Now he’s working on a reprise, and it just might be announced at this September’s IAC meeting in Australia. Musk dropped the hint overnight when a follower asked him on Twitter to say when he’d unveil Version 2.0 of the plan, which is supposed to explain in more detail how all those Mars missions be paid for. “Maybe the upcoming IAC in Adelaide,” he replied.

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