LOS ANGELES: SpaceX plans to lay off 10 percent of its more than 6,000 employees, a source familiar with the decision said on Friday.
“To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company,” the California-based company, headed by Elon Musk, said in a statement.
“Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations,” it added.
“This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team.”
It added that the trim down was “only due to the extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead.”
Citing an email sent to employees on Friday, the Los Angeles Times said the company was offering those affected a minimum of eight weeks’ pay and other benefits, including career coaching and resume assistance.
The announcement came as SpaceX on Friday launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California carrying 10 communications satellites.
Founded by Musk, SpaceX makes most of its money from multibillion dollar contracts with NASA and satellite launches.
SpaceX in November won authorization from US officials to put nearly 12,000 satellites into orbit in order to boost cheap, wireless internet access by the 2020s.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the company was raising $500 million from investors to help launch its satellite internet service.
Microsoft’s Bing search engine inaccessible in China
BEIJING: Microsoft’s Bing search engine was inaccessible in China on Thursday, with social media users fearing it could be the latest foreign website to be blocked by censors.
Attempts to open cn.bing.com has resulted in an error message for users since Wednesday.
“We’ve confirmed that Bing is currently inaccessible in China and are engaged to determine next steps,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a brief statement, hours after saying the company was investigating the matter.
China’s Communist authorities operate an online censorship apparatus known as the “Great Firewall”, which blocks a slew of websites including Facebook, Twitter and several foreign media outlets.
But it was not clear whether or not Bing joined the long list of prohibited websites, or if its China service was experiencing technical difficulties.
China’s cyberspace administration did not immediately return a request for comment.
China’s Great Firewall can be circumvented by using a virtual private network (VPN), which can hide a user’s IP address.
While its rival Google shut down its search engine in China in 2010 after rows over censorship and hacking, Bing has continued to operate in the country along with Microsoft-owned Skype.
On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media site, people complained about the lack of access, with some speculating that Bing too had been “walled off”.
Others aired their dissatisfaction about having to use Baidu, China’s largest domestic search service.
“I can’t open Bing, but I don’t want to use Baidu — what to do?” wrote one user.
“Bing is actually dead — is this to force me to use Baidu??” said another, cursing.
China has tightened policing of the internet in recent years, shuttering 26,000 “illegal” websites in 2018 alone and deleting six million online posts containing vulgar content, the official Xinhua news agency said earlier this month.
Bing’s disruption comes as the United States and China are locked in a bruising trade war, with US accusations that China steals technological know-how among the core disagreements.
The two sides are scheduled for new trade negotiations next week.
Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket makes 10th flight test
WASHINGTON: With an eye to launching the first tourists to space by year’s end, Blue Origin, the rocket company owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, blasted off the 10th test flight of its New Shepard rocket on Wednesday.
The rocket, carrying no people on board but eight science experiments for NASA, soared skyward from a launchpad in west Texas at 1508 GMT against a clear blue sky. A few minutes into the flight, the capsule separated as planned from the booster and reached its peak height of 66 miles (106 kilometers).
“That is exactly what we were targeting,” said Ariane Cornell, an astronaut for Blue Origin and commentator on the company’s live webcast of the launch.
The frontier of space is internationally agreed to be 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth, known as the Karman Line. Eight minutes after blast-off, the rocket booster fired its engines and made a controlled, upright landing back on Earth, marking the fourth flight for this particular rocket, and the 10th flight test for New Shepard overall. “That, everybody, is a reusable rocket,” said Cornell.
Moments later, the capsule floated to Earth, aided by a trio of parachutes, and touched down in a cloud of dust. The entire mission lasted 10 minutes, 15 seconds. “Looks to have been a wholly successful flight today,” wrote Blue Origin on Twitter. More test flights lie ahead, but the first flights with passengers on board could start by late 2019. “We are aiming for the end of this year,” Cornell said.
“We are not in a rush. We want to take our time and do this right.” The passenger capsule is “roomy,” Cornell said, with six seats and six “big gorgeous windows.” The price per ticket has not yet been announced. The New Shepard rocket first reached space last year, achieving a height of 66 miles in April 2018. Virgin Galactic, headed by British billionaire Richard Branson, is also working on a vessel of its own to carry tourists to space.
On 13th December 2018, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, flew higher than it ever had before, surpassing what the US Air Force considers the boundary of space (50 miles), and marking the first manned flight to space from US soil since 2011. The spaceship made it to a peak height of 51.4 miles (82.7 kilometers). The brief flight – with two pilots on board – was a key milestone for the Virgin Galactic, which is striving to send tourists to space at a cost of $250,000 per seat.
LG Electronics, GS Caltex sign MOU on hybrid fueling station
SEOUL: Owners of electric vehicles (EVs) will be able to charge their cars and get repair services at select gas stations operated by GS Caltex Corp., under an agreement with LG Electronics Inc., the companies said Tuesday.
GS Caltex, South Korea’s No. 2 gas station operator, signed a memorandum of understanding with electronics maker LG Electronics to launch hybrid fueling stations combining traditional fuel pumps and EV charging infrastructure, the companies said in a release.
LG Electronics will provide 350-kilowatt fast chargers for EVs and install artificial intelligence-based digital signage to check EV’s conditions while charging and recommend customized repairing services.
LG said it will explore ways to deploy a robot-controlled charging system and wireless charging stations in the future.
GS Caltex plans to open the first hybrid station in downtown Seoul in the latter half of the year and expand the service in other major cities afterward.
“The energy-mobility convergence station will be a hub for charging, repairing and convenience services for electric vehicles,” Park Il-pyeong, LG’s chief technology officer, said during the signing ceremony held at the company’s Seocho R&D campus in Seoul.