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Elon Musk says Starship should reach orbit within six months – and could even fly with a crew next year – TechCrunch

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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk delivered an update about Starship, the company’s nest generation spacecraft, which is being designed for full, “rapid reusability.” Musk discussed the technology behind the design of Starship, which has evolved somewhat through testing and development after its original introduction in 2017.

Among the updates detailed, Musk articulated how Starship will be used to make humans interplanetary, including its use of in-space refilling of propellant, by docking with tanker Starships already in orbit to transfer fuel. This is necessary for the spacecraft to get enough propellant on board post-launch to make the trip to the Moon or Mars from Earth – especially since it’ll be carrying as much as 100 tons of cargo on board to deliver to these other space-based bodies.

These will include supplies for building bases on planetary surfaces, as well as up to 100 passengers on long-haul planet-to-planet flights.

Those are still very long-term goals, however, and Musk also went into detail about development of the current generation of Starship prototypes, as well as the planned future Starships that will go to orbit, and carry their first passengers.

The Starship Mk1, Mk2 and the forthcoming Mk3 and Mk4 orbital testers will all feature a fin design that will orient the vehicles so they can re-enter Earth’s atmosphere flat on their ‘bellies,’ coming in horizontal to increase drag and reduce velocity before performing a sort of flip maneuver to swing past vertical and then pendulum back to vertical for touch-down. In simulation, as shown at the event, it looks like it’ll be incredible to watch, since it looks more unwieldy than the current landing process for Falcon boosters, even if it’s still just as controlled.

SpaceX Starship Mk1 29

The front fins on the Starship prototype will help orient it for re-entry, a key component of reuse.

Musk also shared a look at the design planned for Super Heavy, the booster that will be used to propel Starship to orbit. This liquid-oxygen powered rocket, which is about 1.5 times the height of the Starship itself, will have 37 Raptor engines on board (the Starship will have only six) and will also feature six landing legs and deployable grid fins for its own return trip back to Earth.

In terms of testing and development timelines, Musk said that the Starship Mk1 he presented the plan in front of at Boca Chica should have its first test flight in just one to two months. That will be a flight to a sub-orbital altitude of just under 70,000 feet. The prototype spacecraft is already equipped with the three Raptor engines it will use for that flight.

Next, Starship Mk2, which is currently being built in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at another SpaceX facility, will attempt a similar high altitude test. Musk explained that both these families will continue to compete with each other internally and build Starship prototypes and rockets simultaneously. Mk3 will begin construction at Boca Chica beginning next month, and Mk4 will follow in Florida soon after. Musk said that the next Starship test flight after the sub-orbital trip for Mk1 might be an orbital launch with the full Super Heavy booster and Mk3.

Elon Musk 1

Musk said that SpaceX will be “building both ships and boosters here [at Boca Chica] and a the Cape as fast as we can,” and that they’ve already been improving both the design and the manufacture of the sections for the spacecraft “exponentially” as a result of the competition.

The Mk1 features welded panels to make up the rings you can see in the detail photograph of the prototype below, for instance, but Mk3 and Mk4 will use full sheets of stainless steel that cover the whole diameter of the spacecraft, welded with a single weld. There was one such ring on site at the event, which indicates SpaceX is already well on its way to making this work.

This rapid prototyping will enable SpaceX to build and fly Mk2 in two months, Mk3 in three months, Mk4 in four months and so on. Musk added that either Mk3 or Mk5 will be that orbital test, and that they want to be able to get that done in less than six months. He added that eventually, crewed missions aboard Starship will take place from both Boca Chica and the Cape, and that the facilities will be focused only on producing Starships until Mk4 is complete, at which point they’ll begin developing the Super Heavy booster.

Starship Mk1 night

In total, Musk said that SpaceX will need 100 of its Raptor rocket engines between now and its first orbital flight. At its current pace, he said, SpaceX is producing one every eight days – but they should increase that output to one every two days within a few months, and are targeting production of one per day for early in Q1 2019.

Because of their aggressive construction and testing cycle, and because, Musk said, the intent is to achieve rapid reusability to the point where you could “fly the booster 20 times a day” and “fly the [starship] three or four times a day,” the company should theoretically be able to prove viability very quickly. Musk said he’s optimistic that they could be flying people on test flights of Starship as early as next year as a result.

Part of its rapid reusability comes from the heat shield design that SpaceX has devised for Starship, which includes a stainless steel finish on one half of the spacecraft, with ceramic tiles used on the bottom where the heat is most intense during re-entry. Musk said that both of these are highly resistant to the stresses of reentry and conducive to frequent reuse, without incurring tremendous cost – unlike their initial concept, which used carbon fibre in place of stainless steel.

Musk is known for suggesting timelines that don’t quite match up with reality, but Starship’s early tests haven’t been so far behind his predictions thus far.



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Apple Back to School 2021 promo adds free AirPods to select iPad and Mac

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Apple has launched its new Back to School deals, and if you’ve been considering a new iPad or Mac for the classroom – either remote or in-person – you could get a treat for your ears, too. The Cupertino company is adding to its usual education discount with an AirPods promo, and a discount for Apple Care+.

There are actually seven new deals, all of which include a free set of AirPods. If you’re looking for a Mac, you can take your pick from Apple’s latest M1-powered models both portable and desktop.

The MacBook Air is priced from $899 under Apple’s education pricing, for example, or $73.91 per month for 12 months. The MacBook Pro 13-inch, meanwhile, starts at $1,199 for students, or $99.91 per month for 12 months.

As usual, there are bundles of software with educational pricing as well. The Pro Apps Bundle for Education – which includes Final Cut Pro, among other things – is $199.99, for instance.

If it’s your dorm room desktop that needs an upgrade, meanwhile, Apple has two options there. The new 24-inch iMac – using Apple Silicon – gets new education pricing, starting at $1,249, or $104.08 per month for 12 months. Again, you get a set of free AirPods. The Mac mini is included too, for $649, or $54.08 per month for 12 months.

Those who have a bigger budget – or bigger requirements – can also get education pricing on the Mac Pro. That starts at $5,599, or $466.58 per month for 12 months.

Over on the tablet side, there are two education deals arriving just in time to get going on iPadOS 15. If you want an iPad Air, that starts at $549 for students, or $45.75 per month for 12 months. The Apple Pencil 2nd generation is $119, while the Smart Keyboard Folio for iPad Air is $159.

The new iPad Pro, meanwhile, will start at $749 for students, or $62.41 per month for 12 months. The iPad Pro’s Magic Keyboard is from $279.

As for Apple Care+, education pricing knocks 20-percent off the cost of Apple’s extended warranty.

To quality for education pricing, you’ll need to be either a current or newly accepted college student, or the parent of such a student. Faculty, staff, and homeschool teachers of all grade levels also qualify, and there are discounts for other models in Apple’s range, albeit without the free AirPods deal.

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Leica Leitz Phone 1 wraps a hefty 20MP 1-inch camera in familiar design

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Leica has revealed a new smartphone, with the Leitz Phone 1 promising a hefty sensor for photography along with 5G capabilities. Although the camera company has co-branded smartphone cameras before now, the Leica Leitz Phone 1 takes a fairly atypical approach.

Where it’s common to find three or four sensors on most recent smartphones, regardless of price point, Leica’s handset takes a more focused approach. It has a single rear sensor, in fact, packing 20-megapixels.

What makes the difference is the sensor’s physical size: a full 1 inch, which is far larger than the primary camera on just about every other device out there. It has an f/1.9 ultra-wide, 19mm-equivalent lens, too. If you’ve been keeping track of recent photo-focused smartphone launches, that might sound familiar.

Indeed, Sharp announced its Aquos R6 back in May, and the 1-inch Summicron camera and lens system tallies with this Leica-branded phone. The big sensor is primarily being positioned as a foolproof way to get more light, of course, just as you’d expect from a regular camera. However there’ll also be what Leica is calling “Leitz Looks,” which are basically things like monochrome modes to edit images.

Unsurprisingly then, there’s a 12.6-megapixel selfie camera on the front of the Leitz Phone 1 as well. There’s also a 6.6-inch IGZO OLED screen with a 240Hz variable refresh rate, to trim motion blur, running at 2,730 x 1,260 resolution. An ultrasonic fingerprint sensor is under the display.

Also inside is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 5G chipset running Android 11, paired with 12GB of memory and 256GB of storage. There’s a microSD slot compatible with up to 1TB cards as well. In addition to 5G there’s WiFi 802.11ax and Bluetooth 5.2; a 5,000 mAh battery rounds out the key specs, and the whole thing is finished in an IP68 glass and metal shell.

What distinguishes the two phones – Sharp-branded and Leica-branded – really is the aesthetic. That’s an important factor in the photography world, where Leica’s cameras are known for their distinctive red dot. For the Leitz Phone 1, there’ll even be a special branded soft-case, and a Leica lens-cap to protect the sensor.

Softbank will be offering the Leica Leitz Phone 1 as an exclusive in Japan, priced at 187,920 yen ($1,714), and right now there’s no apparent plan to launch it outside of the country.

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Amazon’s fake reviews policy catches a popular charger brand

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Most who shop on Amazon check the reviews for a particular product to ensure it’s worth their hard-earned money. However, many who frequently shop on Amazon may not realize how rampant fake reviews are on the website. There are many brands who pay people who purchase their products for reviews, sometimes handing out gift cards to entice buyers to leave five-star reviews.

Naturally, Amazon has a policy against fake reviews. Some very popular makers of electronics and electronics accessories have recently been booted from Amazon for allegedly violating that policy. The most recent brand to fall afoul of Amazon’s fake review policy is called RavPower, a popular maker of phone batteries and chargers.

Amazon has confirmed that all RavPower products have been removed from its virtual store shelves. There has been no official word from Amazon on why it removed RavPower products. Over the weekend, a journalist from the Wall Street Journal named Nicole Nguyen posted to Twitter that a RavPower charger she purchased had a card inside promising a $35 gift card in exchange for a review.

While Amazon hasn’t confirmed that tweet is the reason the RavPower products were removed from its marketplace, the proximity to the tweet and the products removal seems clear. RavPower isn’t the first popular brand on Amazon to be removed from the store. Previously Aukey and Mpow were also removed from the Amazon storefront. While no specific reasons for the removal have been offered, it appears the fake review policy resulted in those products being eliminated.

While, as of writing, you can still find some Aukey products listed on Amazon. However, it appears that everything RavPower branded has been eliminated. It’s worth noting that fake reviews aren’t limited to electronics on Amazon. I purchased a pump spray bottle for oil to use for seasoning cast iron pans earlier this year based entirely on many five-star reviews. When the product came in, inside was a card offering a $10 gift card if I showed them I left a five-star review for a product that cost me about the same amount. Ordering a product based on lots of good reviews only to find the reviewers are being paid to leave those reviews is quite disturbing.

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