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SpaceX launches Radarsat constellation

SpaceX launch
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket rises above the fog surrounding California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, sending three Canadian radar-sensing satellites spaceward. (SpaceX via YouTube)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rose out of California’s coastal fog today to send three radar-sensing satellites into orbit for the Canadian government.

Little could be seen from the ground when the rocket lifted off at 7:17 a.m. PT from Vandenberg Air Force Base, but that didn’t matter to the three satellites tucked inside the Falcon 9’s nose cone for the Radarsat Constellation Mission.

The satellites, built by Maxar Technologies’ MDA division, are designed to observe Earth from sun-synchronous orbit using C-band synthetic aperture radar. The Radarsat Constellation Mission follows up on two previous generations of Canadian Radarsat spacecraft.

Such radar instruments will produce high-resolution, daily scans of Canada and the Arctic — revealing the status of sea ice, crop moisture and terrain features even when the skies are obscured by clouds. Or fog, for that matter.

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Spacewalkers finish up orbital wiring job

Spacewalkers
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques works on the International Space Station’s exterior, while NASA’s Anne McClain works in the background at lower right. (NASA TV via YouTube)

A U.S.-Canadian spacewalking duo wrapped up a series of three outings over the span of three and a half weeks, aimed at upgrading the International Space Station’s power and communication systems.

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B.C. kicks in $300,000 for high-speed transit study

Horgan and Inslee
British Columbia Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talk about U.S.-Canada links. (GovInslee via Twitter)

British Columbia will contribute $300,000 toward a study that will look into the business case for an ultra-high-speed transit system connecting Vancouver, Seattle and Portland.

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Canada gets set to cancel Boeing fighter jet deal

CF-18 Hornet
A Canadian CF-18 Hornet fighter jet launches a laser-guided bomb during a flight test. Canadian officials had been considering buying Super Hornets from Boeing. (USAF Photo / Tim Pfeifer)

Reuters reports that Canadian officials have decided to cancel an order of 18 Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet jets, marking an escalation in the trade battle involving Canadian jet maker Bombardier’s sales to U.S. markets. Unnamed officials are quoted as saying that the decision will be announced next week, and that Canada’s armed forces will buy used Australian F/A-18 Hornets instead.

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Canada’s PM rocks Microsoft’s CEO Summit

Justin Trudeau at Microsoft Canada
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at the opening of the Microsoft Canada Excellence Centre in Vancouver in June 2016. Microsoft President Brad Smith is beside Trudeau. (Microsoft via YouTube)

So far, this year’s Microsoft CEO Summit has been all about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s talk today, but there’s been precious little information available about who else is attending – and Trudeau may be one of the big reasons why.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates created the annual summit back in 1997, to give global business leaders an opportunity to share their experiences and learn about new technologies that will have an impact on business in the future. The event’s attendee list is kept largely confidential, as is the substance of the discussions.

This year, Microsoft says the summit’s two themes are “trust in technology” (as in cybersecurity, international hacking, privacy and the flow of data) and “the race to space” (as in privately funded space efforts such as Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket venture).

Usually, Microsoft lists a few folks who are attending the summit on the company’s Redmond campus, just to give a sense of the event’s cachet. For example, last year’s headliners included Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson (who is now the Trump administration’s secretary of state)

This year, however, the spotlight has fallen almost exclusively on the hunky 45-year-old Trudeau, the first sitting head of government or state to address the summit. Microsoft isn’t saying anything about the other 140-plus VIPs attending the discussions. “Out of respect for the privacy of our guests, we are not providing any additional information,” a Microsoft spokesperson told GeekWire via email.

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Astronaut Chris Hadfield helps kids face fears

Image: Chris Hadfield
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is arguably best-known for his orbital rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Bowie gave his approval for Hadfield’s performance. (Credit: CSA)

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield says he wanted to be an astronaut ever since he was a kid – but he had to get over one big problem: Outer space is dark. “Like really, really dark,” he said.

“I was afraid of the dark, so it made me feel sort of daunted,” Hadfield recalled Sept. 13 during an evening talk at Town Hall Seattle.

Recognizing and overcoming that kind of fear is the focus of Hadfield’s totally biographical storybook for kids, titled “The Darkest Dark.” During the first official book-tour stop, Hadfield wowed the crowd with a reading, plus an airing of a song that ties in with the book. Then he took questions.

One of the high points came when a young boy clad in a spacesuit costume came up on stage to ask a question: How high can you jump in space? Hadfield and the boy took turns jumping, and figuring out how high the jump would have been in Mars’ one-third gravity, or the moon’s one-sixth gravity.

Then Hadfield explained that a jump off the side of a spaceship in zero gravity might never end. “You can jump forever,” he told the boy. Hadfield waited several beats to let that sink in, and then added: “So you want to be careful.”

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