Costco may have beaten Dell to the punch with its Black Friday ad this year as a major retailer selling PCs, but the computer manufacturer reliably releases its ad around Nov. 1 — and this year is no exception. As usual, it features the full breadth of Dell’s product line, with the best deals usually coming as “doorbusters” that are only available for a limited time.
Best Dell Black Friday 2018 deals:
The biggest doorbuster will no doubt be the Inspiron 11 3000 laptop, which will sell for just $119.99. Of course, its specs are basic — AMD E2-9000e processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage — and the timing of the sale is a bit awkward, coming on Thanksgiving at 6 p.m. right when many people will be sitting down for turkey dinner. But a deal’s a deal, so expect the advertised limited quantities to be snapped up quickly.
Also: Best Black Friday 2018 deals: Business Bargain Hunter’s top picks
If you prefer a dirt-cheap desktop instead, the next hour’s doorbuster is an Inspiron Small Desktop for $249.99, which does include an Intel Core i3 CPU along with 4 gigs of memory and a terabyte hard drive. For another budget laptop deal, you can wake up early on Black Friday instead for an 8 a.m. doorbuster of a $149.99 2-in-1 version of the Inspiron 11 3000, coming with the same amount of RAM and storage as the $120 model, but with a slightly different AMD processor (A6-9220e).
CNET: Best Black Friday deals 2018 | Best Holiday gifts 2018 | Best TVs to give for the holidays
Dell is also advertising two other sub-$200 laptop doorbusters (each $199.99): one at 10 a.m. on Black Friday for an Inspiron 15 3000 with Intel Celeron chip, 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive, and 15.6-inch display; the other the day before at the same hour for an Inspiron Chromebook 11 2-in-1 with Celeron processor, 4GB of memory, and 32GB of storage. For a little more you can upgrade to an Inspiron 15 3000 edition with a Pentium processor instead of a Celeron — $229.99 as a doorbuster at 2 p.m. on Black Friday — or pay $329.99 at the same to get one with a Core i3 CPU and double the RAM and storage.
Other desktop doorbusters include an Inspiron 22 3000 Touch all-in-one that comes with an AMD E2-9000e processor, 4GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, and a 21.5-inch 1080p HD touchscreen for $299.99 starting at noon on Black Friday. For more power, you can step up to an Inspiron tower with Core i5, 8 gigs of RAM, and terabyte hard drive for either $399.99 at 6 p.m. on Black Friday or for $499.99 with a bundled 24-inch monitor at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
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Dell is touting its $499.99 doorbuster for its Inspiron Gaming Desktop (10 p.m. on Thanksgiving) as the lowest price ever on the system, though expect compromises for that low price. In particular, you only get a Core i3 processor in addition to 8 gigs of RAM, 1TB hard drive, and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics. If you’re willing to pay for a faster processor, a non-doorbuster deal for the Inspiron Gaming Desktop features a Core i5 as well as a more powerful GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card for $749.99. Gamers on the go might be interested in the G5 15 gaming laptop (Core i7, 16GB of RAM, terabyte hard drive plus 256GB SSD, GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card, 15.6-inch display) that’s available for $999.99 on Thanksgiving at 8 p.m.
For more great deals on devices, gadgetry, and technology for your enterprise, business, or home office, see ZDNet’s Business Bargain Hunter blog. Affiliate disclosure: ZDNet earns commission from the products and services featured on this page.
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As early as Saturday morning, SpaceX will launch the first dedicated mission of a rideshare program it announced in late 2019. As part of this plan, the company sought to bundle dozens of small satellites together for regular launches on its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.
There seems to have been a fair amount of interest in the program, which offered a very low price of $15,000 per kilogram delivered to a Sun-synchronous orbit. For its first “Transporter-1 mission,” SpaceX said it will launch 133 commercial and government spacecraft, as well as 10 of its own Starlink satellites. SpaceX had to obtain permission to deploy these Starlink satellites into a polar orbit.
With this launch of 143 total satellites, SpaceX will surpass the previous record holder for most satellites launched in a single mission, set by an Indian launch vehicle in 2017. In February of that year, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle successfully delivered 104 satellites into a handful of different Sun-synchronous orbits.
SpaceX has not disclosed many details about the popularity of its rideshare program, nor has the company announced the number of payloads booked on future launches. However, several customers have said they were surprised by the cost and speed of the service SpaceX offered. Last year, after booking as a rideshare on a Starlink launch that flew in the summer of 2020, the satellite operator Planet publicly discussed how quickly the deal came together.
“This is the result of SpaceX dramatically cutting the cost of access to launch,” Mike Safyan, vice president of launch at Planet, said in June. “It’s significant. They cut the price so much we could not believe what we were looking at.”
The mission will be closely followed by small satellite rocket companies, including Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit, which now have proven boosters, as well as companies still developing their rockets. While smaller rockets can offer dedicated service for small satellites by putting them up one or two at a time, it will be difficult to compete with SpaceX on price. Competitors will be watching to see how orderly the dispersal of the satellites will be—according to SpaceX’s timeline for the mission, deployment will occur in 12 waves.
Weather is a moderate concern for Saturday’s launch attempt, which is scheduled for 9:40am ET (14:40 UTC) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. According to forecasters, there is a 40 percent chance of weather violations due to thick clouds and cumulus clouds. Weather in the recovery area for the booster looks good.
The first stage of this rocket will be making its fifth flight. It made its debut back in May 2020 with the historic Demo-2 mission that carried Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station. Since then, it has flown about every two months. It last launched a cargo supply mission for NASA to the International Space Station on December 6.
A webcast should begin about 15 minutes before the launch window opens on Saturday morning.
Welcome to Edition 3.30 of the Rocket Report! This week we’re celebrating another private company—Virgin Orbit—has reaching orbit for the first time. Seeing the company’s rocket drop from an aircraft last weekend and ascend into orbit on just its second attempt was darn impressive.
As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don’t want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.
Virgin Orbit goes orbital. On Sunday afternoon, Virgin Orbit joined the rare club of companies that have privately developed a rocket and successfully launched it into orbit. Moreover, with its LauncherOne rocket dropped from a 747 aircraft, the California-based company has become the first to reach orbit with an air-launched, liquid-fueled rocket.
Just its second launch attempt … The flight, which included multiple firings of LauncherOne’s upper-stage engine and successful deployment of several small satellites for NASA, caps a development program that has spanned about eight years and myriad technical challenges. Ars reported on some of the novel problems that arise with a liquid-fueled rocket launched horizontally. (submitted by platykurtic and Ken the Bin)
Blue Origin may launch humans in April. Following the company’s New Shepard-14 flight on January 14, it plans one more uncrewed mission before flying passengers, CNBC reports. The next test flight, NS-15, could come as soon as late February, followed by a crewed flight six weeks later, sometime in April.
Schedule remains tentative … The company declined to comment on New Shepard’s schedule, with a Blue Origin spokesperson saying that the schedule reporting “was speculative and not confirmed.” However, this is consistent with what we have heard about the company’s plans, that another successful flight would set up human tests. This leaves open the exciting possibility of commercial astronaut flights before the end of 2021. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
The easiest way to keep up with Eric Berger’s space reporting is to sign up for his newsletter, we’ll collect his stories in your inbox.
Rocket Lab starts 2021 launch campaign. Rocket Lab successfully launched a communications satellite for German company OHB Group on Wednesday, in the first Electron mission of the year, SpaceNews reports. Rocket Lab had scrubbed the original launch attempt for the “Another One Leaves the Crust” mission four days earlier due to “strange data” from a sensor.
Is it actually a Chinese satellite? … As the publication notes, there was some uncertainty about the true nature of the payload. OHB described the GMS-T payload as a “50 kg class” satellite placed in an orbit 1,200 kilometers high and as a “prototype spacecraft for a planned new telecommunication satellite constellation.” It’s believed the primary customer for the satellite may actually be GMS Zhaopin, a Chinese company planning a satellite constellation. (submitted by platykurtic and Ken the Bin)
Phantom Space working on pathfinding vehicle. In a tweet on Sunday, the new company said it was nearing completion of a development model for its “Daytona” rocket. “This development model is a manufacturing and design pathfinder of the flight system and will be complete in Q1 this year,” the company said. The tweet (now deleted, but archived here) included an image of what appeared to be this pathfinder inside the factory, with several people standing around.
Everything is not as it seems … However, sharp-eyed readers noted that the image appeared to be a rendering or perhaps a composite image of a rendered rocket inside a real factory. (See archived image here). Eventually, Phantom Space founder Jim Cantrell chimed in, saying, “Guys, its RENDERING – ALL OF IT. Last time I looked, those aren’t illegal. Maybe I should review the federal code again.” This may not be entirely true. The rocket was rendered, but the photo was, in fact, real. It originally showed NASA’s abort motor for Orion, taken in 2019.
Falcon 9 sets reuse records, expands envelope. The Falcon 9 rocket took off on schedule Wednesday morning, lofting its payload of 60 Starlink Internet satellites toward orbit. Then came something of a challenge for this first stage—sticking the landing. According to SpaceX engineer Jessie Anderson, winds at the surface near the landing site were stronger than what Falcon 9 rockets have experienced on previous flights. With a safe landing, she said, it “expanded the envelope” of recovery-wind limits.
This mission reached milestones in other ways … This was the eighth flight of this Falcon 9 rocket first stage—setting a new record for the number of uses of any single rocket core, Ars reports. And its 38-day turnaround period from its last launch significantly beat the previous turnaround margin for a Falcon 9 first stage, which is 51 days.
China launches first rocket of 2021. On Tuesday, the country’s Long March 3B rocket lofted a Tiantong-1 mobile communications satellite into orbit. The launch took place form the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, NASASpaceflight.com reports.
Many more to come … The Long March-3B launch vehicle is decades old and has been used to launch both domestic and international satellites. The Chinese government and several commercial companies in the country are expected to launch 40 or more rockets during the coming year. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
French government seeks to expedite engine testing. The French space agency, CNES, and European rocket developer ArianeGroup have reached an agreement to begin testing the Prometheus rocket engine before the end of this year. The goal is to accelerate the Prometheus schedule by consolidating the test program at the Vernon site in Normandy, France.
Need to go faster … Under the agreement, ArianeGroup will receive additional funding for the site to enable the tests. Europe has a lot riding on the development of Prometheus, which it bills as a “low-cost, reusable” engine. It is expected to power a new generation of rockets after Ariane 6 and Vega C. “This agreement was signed against a backdrop of heightened global competition in the field of launch vehicles,” a news release stated.
Boeing completes Starliner software updates. Boeing recently completed its formal requalification of the CST-100 Starliner’s flight software in preparation for its next flight, the company said this week. “The work this team put into exhaustively wringing out our software is a defining moment for the program,” said John Vollmer, Starliner vice president and program manager. “We’re smarter as a team having been through this process.”
Setting up another launch … The rewriting and retesting of the spacecraft’s software came after a 2019 uncrewed test flight of the vehicle failed to complete its mission of docking with the International Space Station. This drove the decision to revamp the vehicle’s software and conduct another uncrewed flight test. The launch of this next mission, on an Atlas V rocket, is tentatively scheduled for March 29. (submitted by Ken the Bin, platykurtic, and Tfargo04)
Satellogic signs launch agreement with SpaceX. The Uruguay-based company that builds Earth-observation satellites said it has signed a “multiple launch agreement” to deliver its satellites on Falcon 9 ride-share missions. “What SpaceX has accomplished through their agile launch schedule is a perfect complement to our own business model at Satellogic,” said Alan Kharsansky, VP of Mission Engineering and Operations.
First launch coming soon … As part of its announcement, the company said SpaceX will become Satellogic’s “preferred vendor” for ride-share missions, allowing for a reduction in time between manufacturing and getting its satellites into orbit. The first launch will occur in June 2021. This seems like a notable shift as Satellogic initially launched on Chinese rockets. (submitted by Tfargo04, platykurtic, and Ken the Bin)
Putting launch into perspective. A new report from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, which is part of the Department of Commerce, estimated the US space economy “gross output” from 2012 through 2018. For the most recent year available, the space economy accounted for $177.5 billion (0.5 percent) of US gross output. Two sectors dominated the space economy: information and manufacturing.
One piece of the pie … The launch industry falls into this latter category, say the study authors. The sub-category of “other transportation equipment” was valued at $17.4 billion in 2018, and it includes space vehicles and space weapons systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles. Space reaches into a broad number of industries, the report notes, including agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, mining, and utilities, reflecting production related to research and development and remote sensing. (submitted by TH)
SLS rocket fails to complete its hot-fire test. The core stage of NASA’s rocket roared to life on Saturday afternoon in southern Mississippi, but then it stopped after just 67.2 seconds. Officials had hoped the test-firing would last for 485 seconds but believed they could get enough data with a 250-second firing, Ars reports. “It’s not everything we hoped it would be,” then-NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said afterwards.
To test again, or not? … A preliminary analysis identified that the test ended after an onboard sensor read pump-return pressures slightly lower than test limits. This reading came shortly after the rocket began to gimbal, or steer its engines. Publicly, NASA officials are saying they need to review data from the tests before decided whether to redo the Green Run test. But internally, Ars reports that officials are already leaning strongly toward a repeat to collect all the data needed. (submitted by Ken the Bin)
Starship gets two mobile spaceports. SpaceX has acquired two former oil drilling rigs to serve as floating spaceports for its Starship launch system, NASASpaceflight.com reports. Named Phobos and Deimos, after the two moons of Mars, they are currently undergoing modifications to support Starship launch operations. Recently, SpaceX has begun hiring crane operators, electricians, and offshore operations engineers to modify the platforms.
No noise concerns here … Although SpaceX has enjoyed some autonomy at its Boca Chica launch site, as opposed to the more heavily regulated Cape Canaveral facility, the company could get even more freedom offshore. The superheavy-lift launch vehicle will have a large blast danger area and pose noise concerns if launched frequently near populated areas. (submitted by danneely, platykurtic, martialartstechie, and Ken the Bin)
The series of executive orders signed by Joe Biden on his first evening in office included a heavy focus on environmental regulations. Some of the high-profile actions had been signaled in advance—we’re back in the Paris Agreement! The Keystone pipeline’s been put on indefinite hold!
But the suite of executive orders includes a long list that targets plenty of the changes Trump made in energy and environmental policies, many of which will have more subtle but significant effects of how the United States does business. Many of those make major changes, in some cases by eliminating policies adopted during the Trump years, a number of which we covered at the time. So, we’ve attempted to take a comprehensive look at Biden’s actions and their potential impacts.
Laws, rules, and policies
Environmental and energy regulations are set through three main mechanisms. The first is by specific laws, which would require the cooperation of both houses of Congress to change. Next are also more general laws, like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. These enable regulations to be put in place via a formal rule-making process run by the agencies of the executive branch. This process involves soliciting public feedback, incorporating economic considerations, and so on, a process that typically takes anywhere from eight months to over a year. Finally, the executive branch can set policies to cover details not spelled out by the law or the rule, such as how to handle things like deadlines and enforcement details.
It’s these latter two categories where President Biden can act immediately, since they’re left entirely to the executive branch, although subject to legal review. And that’s precisely what he’s done, by ordering reviews of existing rules established during the Trump administration and changing myriad policies put in place by prior executive orders.
The Congressional Review Act also allows federal rules that have been enacted within the past 60 days to be overturned by a joint resolution of the two houses of Congress. The clock is still running on a number of Trump rules and, with Democrats controlling both houses, there’s a chance we’ll see action here. But on his first day in office, Biden was taking no chances, and he targeted these rules along with a list of many that are outside the 60-day window.
Trump-era policies often attempted to eliminate existing policies and cripple any future adoption of new ones. Perhaps the most striking of these was in Executive Order 13771, which flatly declared that any new regulation could only be adopted if two existing regulations were eliminated. The order gave no consideration to details like the total number of regulations that were available to eliminate or whether existing regulations were effective and/or efficient. Furthermore, the net economic impact on those regulated by the new and canceled rules had to be zero.
Another executive order established “regulatory reform officers” in every agency. They were supposed to help in the identification of regulations that were out-of-date or costly, then target those for elimination. Another order demanded that guidance documents, which agencies issue in order to help companies comply with regulations, could never contain phrasing that might be interpreted as creating regulations. Order 13892 required that any enforcement of regulations had to wait to allow those subject to the enforcement time to respond to the proposed action.
All of these executive orders are now gone. Citing the need for policies that tackle climate change and the pandemic, Biden’s new executive order describes them as “harmful policies and directives that threaten to frustrate the Federal Government’s ability to confront these problems” in justifying their elimination.
More difficult to deal with are actions that have gone through the full federal rule-making process. These include a number of efforts intended to make future rules more difficult to adopt. Notable among them:
The EPA decided that incidental benefits of pollution limits wouldn’t count toward the consideration of costs and benefits of regulations. In other words, if a regulation cost $100 in cleanup costs but avoided $100,000,000 in health care costs, only the first figure would matter during the rule-making process.
The EPA has changed its standards of evidence for studies on pollution harm so that epidemiological evidence on its own would not be sufficient to trigger regulation.
Not content with that, the agency has determined that epidemiological evidence that incorporates patient data can’t be used if privacy concerns keep the underlying data from being made public.
Biden cannot unilaterally eliminate these rules. But all agency heads have now been directed to review any rule adopted during the entire Trump administration to determine whether they run contrary to Biden’s policy goals. And the most recently adopted rules are subject to an executive order to agency heads that directs them to suspend said rules and reopen them for public comment as a route to enabling a replacement rule to be formulated. Any rules that are currently tied up in court will see the Justice Department ask for the case to be suspended while the relevant agencies revisit the rules.
Beyond these efforts, the early executive orders target a lot of efforts by Trump to block Obama-era policies. These include a new look at Trump’s effort to weaken Obama-era fuel-economy standards but go well beyond that. Other targets include Trump’s elimination of Obama-era rules on methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction and the Obama-era Waters of the USA rules. In their initial formulation, these treated things like small ponds and seasonal streams as part of a single, interlinked water system that was regulated under the Clean Water Act. Trump reversed the rule; Biden will consider reviving it. Fossil fuel extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was prohibited under Obama, opened for leasing by Trump, and will likely be blocked again by Biden.
Fossil fuel extraction plays a major role in the policies Biden is reconsidering or reversing. One Trump executive order attempted to limit the use of the Clean Water Act to block energy development, the ability of state laws to limit export of fossil fuels, and—most bizarrely for a party that was supposedly enthused about the free market—targeted retirement funds that were limiting their holdings in the energy sector. That order has been eliminated in its entirely.
Trump also pushed efforts to favor energy development at the expense of the application of laws such as the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Endangered Species Act. Biden has reversed the policies that resulted. Biden also targeted by orders that promote offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic and another that ordered a review of whether national monuments got in the way of energy development.
Trump actions to limit the size of several of these national monuments are also being reversed. These include Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in the Southwest, as well as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts offshore reserve off the coast of Maine.
Trump’s somewhat bizarre objections to efficiency rules for lightbulbs and appliances (notably toilets) led to the elimination of some of those. They’ll be back now.
Get some science back
Other actions taken so far suggest that Biden continues to be serious about his promise to bring science back into policy decisions. Trump had issued an executive order that targeted advisory committees, one of the ways that policymakers in the executive branch can solicit input from scientists (as well as those in industry and elsewhere). In recent years, there have typically been roughly a thousand advisory committees active at any point. Trump had issued an executive order that sought a rapid elimination of about a third of those and set a long-term target of having only 300 active. Those limits are gone.
Trump also blocked the use of a figure called the social cost of carbon, which attempts to use the future consequences of climate change to determine the cost of present-day emissions. Biden isn’t just reversing that decision—he’s expanding it so that it’s applied to two additional greenhouse gasses: methane and nitrous oxide. His executive order establishes an interagency working group that’s charged with producing an initial estimate within 30 days. This will allow the entire federal government to perform cost-benefit analyses for climate-related regulations, something that’s often a legal requirement.
To regulate or not?
Many of the other executive orders revoked by Biden were cases when Trump directed agencies to re-evaluate existing regulations to determine if they were efficient, cost-effective, overlapped with other regulations, or had simply been obviated by scientific or market developments. There was nothing obviously problematic with many aspects of these orders, which makes their elimination by Biden seem somewhat capricious—why would he object to the identification of ineffective regulations?
It’s important to recognize that, despite the apparently neutral language, the orders were meant to enable the Trump administration to eliminate regulations with no regard for their effectiveness. Through their elimination, Biden will free up staff to pursue new policy initiatives and restore government capacity that has been lost during the previous four years. How you feel about that will likely be determined by your attitudes toward regulations in general.
Overall, many of the decisions here are basic policy reversals—decisions about whether to limit Clean Water Act enforcement in order to foster energy development, for example. But underlying most of them is a clear policy vision that places addressing climate change as a very high priority and attempts to redirect existing laws to better reflect both that priority and the rapidly changing economic reality that makes doing so much less challenging than it was during the Obama administration.
With control of both houses of Congress, Biden should eventually be able to get new laws passed that allow these policy objectives to be pursued more effectively. But his opening actions indicate he’s not willing to wait for that or chance the prospect of gridlock dominating the capital for the next two years.