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‘NASA rules,’ Elon Musk says as SpaceX wins $2.9 billion moon lander contract

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By Raphael Satter Hyunjoo Jin, and Munsif Vengattil

NASA awarded billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to build a spacecraft to bring astronauts to the moon as early as 2024, the agency said on Friday, picking it over Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics Inc.

Bezos and Musk – the world’s first and third richest people respectively, according to Forbes – were competing to lead humankind’s return to the moon for the first time sine 1972.

Musk’s SpaceX bid alone while Amazon.com (AMZN.O) founder Bezos’s Blue Origin partnered with Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) and Draper. Dynetics is a unit of Leidos Holdings Inc.(LDOS.N)

“NASA Rules!!” Musk wrote on Twitter after the announcement.

he U.S. space agency awarded the contract for the first commercial human lander, part of its Artemis program. NASA said the lander will carry two American astronauts to the lunar surface.

“We should accomplish the next landing as soon as possible,” Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s acting administrator, said during the video conference announcement.

“If they hit their milestones, we have a shot at 2024,” Jurczyk added.

NASA said SpaceX’s Starship includes a spacious cabin and two airlocks for astronaut moon walks and that its architecture is intended to evolve to a fully reusable launch and landing system designed for travel to the Moon, Mars and other destinations in space.

SpaceX also responded on Twitter, writing, “We are humbled to help @NASAArtemis usher in a new era of human space exploration.”

Unlike the Apollo landings from 1969 to 1972 – the only human visits to the moon’s surface – NASA is gearing up for a longer-term lunar presence that it envisions as a steppingstone to an even more ambitious plan to send astronauts to Mars. NASA is leaning heavily on private companies built around shared visions for space exploration.

SpaceX will be required to make a test flight of the lander to the moon before humans make the journey, NASA official Lisa Watson-Morgan told reporters.

NASA had been expected to winnow the lunar lander contest to two companies by the end of April, but instead it picked only SpaceX, a move that deepens their cooperation. On Thursday, NASA said it would send its crew to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX rocket on April 22.

The agency aims to create regular service to the moon and said it will have a separate competition for that contract.

“We have to be able to provide for recurring lunar services,” said Mark Kirasich, deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems division.

The announcement added to an extraordinary run for Musk, who has turned electric car maker Tesla Inc. (TSLA.O) into the world’s most-valuable automaker, with a market capitalization of $702 billion.

Musk has become a one-person technology conglomerate, launching or controlling companies pursuing space flight, electric cars, neural implants and subterranean tunnel boring.

A factor in the choice of SpaceX was “what’s the best value to the government,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

NASA said in a news release that SpaceX’s HLS Starship, designed to land on the moon, “leans on the company’s tested Raptor engines and flight heritage of the Falcon and Dragon vehicles.”

NASA’s decision was a setback for Bezos, a lifelong space enthusiast who is now more focused on his space venture after having announced in February he would step down as Amazon CEO.

The contract was seen by Bezos and other executives as vital to Blue Origin establishing itself as a desired partner for NASA, and also putting the venture on the road to turning a profit.

Musk has outlined an ambitious agenda for SpaceX and its reusable rockets, including landing humans on Mars. But in the near term, SpaceX’s main business has been launching satellites for Musk’s Starlink internet venture, and other satellites and space cargo. SpaceX announced on Wednesday it had raised about $1.16 billion in equity financing. read more

An uncrewed SpaceX Starship prototype rocket failed to land safely on March 30 after a test launch from Boca Chica, Texas. The Starship was one in a series of prototypes for the heavy-lift rocket being developed by SpaceX to carry humans and 100 tons of cargo on future missions to the moon and Mars. A first orbital Starship flight is planned for year’s end.

Source: Reuters

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Kumar Mangalam Birla tells government he is willing to give up promoter stake in Vodafone Idea

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NEW DELHI: Kumar Mangalam Birla has told the government of India he his willing to offer his stake in Vodafone Idea Limited (VIL) to any state-owned or “domestic financial entity” to keep the stressed telecom company afloat.

Birla, VIL’s promoter and chairman of the Aditya Birla Group, made the suggestion in a letter to union cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba on June 7. VIL has a debt of around Rs 1.8 trillion, which includes deferred spectrum obligations and adjusted gross revenue liabilities. Its board had last September announced a plan to raise Rs 25,000 crore but investors have not been forthcoming in the absence of government support.

Birla’s letter highlighted the need for urgent measures from the government while offering to give up control of the company. “It is with a sense of duty towards 27 crore Indians connected by VIL, I am more than willing to hand over my stake in the company to any entity-public sector/government/domestic financial entity or any other that the government may consider worthy of keeping the company as a going concern,” Birla said in his letter.

Birla owns over 27 per cent stake in VIL, while Vodafone Plc holds over 44 per cent. The current market capitalisation of VIL is over Rs 24,000 crore. The two promoters have decided against infusing fresh funds in the company. Vodafone Plc has already written off all its investment in VIL following continuous

losses.

“To actively participate in the fund raising, the potential foreign investors want to see clear government intent to have a three player telecom market (consistent with its public stance) through positive actions on long-standing requests such as clarity on AGR liability, adequate moratorium on spectrum payments and most importantly, a floor pricing regime above the cost of service. In the absence of definitive steps in this regard, the potential investors have understandable hesitation to invest,” Birla wrote.

Birla further said that VIL’s financial situation will drive its operations to an irretrievable point of collapse without immediate active support from the government on these three issues.

Last month the Supreme Court dismissed petitions of VIL and Bharti Airtel seeking correction in alleged errors in calculating the AGR. VIL had calculated its remaining AGR dues at around Rs 21,500 crore after making a payment of Rs 7800 crore. However, the department of telecommunications concluded the company’s total AGR liability of around Rs 58,000 crore.

Source: Press Trust of India

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Kaspersky partners Bharti Airtel for selling cybersecurity software

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NEW DELHI: Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky has partnered with Bharti Airtel to reach out to its over 34 crore customers for selling its security softwares at lower prices.

The collaboration between the two companies will allow Airtel customers to purchase Kaspersky Total Security solutions directly from the Airtel Thanks app exclusive deals on them, a joint statement by Kaspersky and Airtel said.

“We are very much looking forward to supporting Bharti Airtel in its goal to protect their users, create a more secure internet, and build a safer digital world together with Kaspersky.

“I am convinced that this partnership will further contribute to establishing Airtel as an innovational pioneer and a leader in its industry,” Kaspersky CEO Eugene Kaspersky said in the statement.

According to Kaspersky, mobile threats in India have drastically increased since 2019 and are becoming more targeted and sophisticated in nature. India ranked seventh among the countries attacked with mobile threats in 2020, Kaspersky said.

“Airtel is working round the clock to deliver a secure network experience through world-class infrastructure and partnerships.

“We are delighted to partner with Kaspersky and make their solutions easily accessible for Airtel customers, who can purchase and install these in a matter of minutes and enjoy complete peace of mind,” Bharti Airtel Chief Information Officer Pradipt Kapoor said.

Source: Press Trust of INdia

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In boost for Indian IT, US to conduct rare 2nd lottery for H-1B applicants

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NEW DELHI: The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said that a decision was taken after determining that the computerised draw of lots for H-1B visas conducted early this year did not give them enough number of Congressional mandated H-1B visas.

The H-1B visa, most sought-after among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

We recently determined that we needed to select additional registrations to reach the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 numerical allocations. On July 28, we selected previously submitted electronic registrations using a random selection process, the USCIS said in a statement.

The petition filing period based on registrations selected on July 28 will begin on August 2 and close on November 3. Individuals with selected registrations will have their myUSCIS accounts updated to include a selection notice, which includes details of when and where to file, it said.

The move by the USCIS to conduct the second lottery will provide another chance to several applicants, including hundreds of Indian IT professionals, who could not make it in the first random selection.

The federal agency said that only those petitioners with selected registrations for FY 2022 are eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions. The initial filing period for those with selected registrations for FY 2022 was from April 1, 2021, through June 30, 2021.

The USCIS said an H-1B cap-subject petition must be properly filed at the correct service center and within the filing period indicated on the relevant registration selection notice.

Online filing is not available for H-1B petitions. Petitioners filing H-1B petitions must do so by paper and must include a printed copy of the applicable registration selection notice with the FY 2022 H-1B cap-subject petition.

Registration selection only indicates that petitioners are eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions; it does not indicate that the petition will be approved. Petitioners filing H-1B cap-subject petitions, including those petitions eligible for the advanced degree exemption, must still submit evidence and establish eligibility for petition approval based on existing statutory and regulatory requirements, the USCIS added.

Source: Press Trust of India

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