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Elon Musk’s internet from space: 60 new SpaceX satellites bring US service closer

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SpaceX to launch space internet satellites
Falcon 9 is getting ready to take its first two Starlink internet satellites into orbit this Wednesday. Read more: http://zd.net/2BvqpA5

Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Monday launched 60 more Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit, bringing the company’s Starlink satellite broadband internet service closer to its planned mid-2020 go-live date for the US and Canada. 

The Monday launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, is one of six more launches required to deliver coverage to North America. It was the second Falcon 9 launch carrying a payload of 60 Starlink satellites.  

SpaceX launched the first 60 “production design” Starlink satellites in May, representing a small fraction of the 12,000 the Federal Communications Commission has approved Starlink to operate in space. Starlink may one day have as many as 30,000 Starlink satellites in operation. 

SEE: Exomedicine arrives: How labs in space could pave the way for healthcare breakthroughs on Earth (cover story PDF)

Elon Musk has said Space X needs about 400 satellites to provide “minor” coverage and 800 for “moderate” coverage of North America.

The rocket company will be able to launch a global Starlink satellite broadband service after 24 additional launches, at which point the North American service is scheduled to be available. With 30 launches, SpaceX would have 1,800 Starlink satellites.    

Each compact Starlink satellite weighs 573lb (260kg) and features a solar array for power, an ion thruster propulsion system, navigation sensors, and four powerful antennas for beaming internet to Earth. 

The 60 satellites onboard the Falcon 9 on Monday were released about an hour after liftoff into a 174-mile-high (280km) orbit and then, using the onboard propulsion system, were moved into their operational position. Their orbit is lower than the May batch, which lacked the equipment necessary to create a mesh network. 

SpaceX says it has upgraded the design of the satellites since May to increase spectrum capacity and maximize their use of the Ka and Ku bands. 

SpaceX promises to provide fast, reliable internet to areas with little or no connectivity, such as poorly served rural communities. 

Assuming SpaceX meets its mid-2020 target, it could be ahead of the FCC’s $1.98bn Connect America Fund (CAF) II rural broadband program, which ISPs are rolling out over the next 10 years. 

According to Microsoft, 162 million people across the US, mostly in rural areas, don’t have access to broadband speeds. The FCC estimates that number to be just 21 million.   

SEE: Fast, affordable internet from the sky is almost here

SpaceX hasn’t determined pricing yet, but one group of consumers it will target are those who currently pay $80 for a poor broadband service, SpaceX chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said last month.   

SpaceX and the US Air Force Research Laboratory have demonstrated a 610Mbps connection to the cockpit of an inflight US military C-12 twin-engine turboprop aircraft. But the plan is to deliver to 1Gbps per user with low latency, projected to be around 25ms.

SpaceX will also require users to install a “beautiful” user terminal, but it’s not known yet whether it will be a standalone device or serve as a cable modem/router.  

More on SpaceX and internet-beaming satellites



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A longer Land Rover Defender called the 130 is coming

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The Land Rover Defender returned to the US in recent months and has proven to be a popular SUV for many buyers. Currently, the vehicle can be had in two-door and a longer four-door version known as the Defender 110. Many buyers have been clamoring for something with more space in the third row, and Land Rover is set to deliver.

A new Defender 130 is on the way, according to a recent report. The 130 will have 14 extra inches of body, giving it a much more usable third-row seat. The optional third row in the 110 is only fit for smaller children. The longer Defender could mean a third row suitable for actual adults.

The 130 will be targeted at buyers in the US, China, and the Middle East. The chassis for the 130 will be the same with the same wheelbase as the Defender 110. However, the vehicle will have an overall length of 201 inches. While more space inside the Defender 130 is exciting, even more exciting was the recent announcement of a new V-8 engine option for the Defender in 2022.

Land Rover is offering a supercharged V-8 engine under the hood. The downside to putting the V-8 engine in the vehicle is that the price jumps up significantly. For 2022 the Defender 90 V-8 (pictured) starts at $97,200, with the Defender 110 V-8 starting at $100,400.

No matter which version you purchase, they get the same 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 that makes 518 horsepower and 461 pound-foot of torque. Land Rover says the Defender 90 V8 will reach 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and 149 mph given enough road. Both six-cylinder and four-cylinder engines remain options.

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Ford issues a recall on a small number of delivered Mustang Mach-E EVs

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Ford has announced that it is issuing a safety recall on some of its Mustang Mach-E EVs delivered to customers. Ford says the recall impacts fewer than 75 customers who have already taken delivery of their electric vehicles. Ford says that during checks it performs to deliver high levels of quality and customer satisfaction, it discovered some of the vehicles could have subframe bolts that a supplier did not tighten to specification.

Ford says that the issue means impacted vehicles don’t meet its standards, but it is unaware of any accidents or injuries related to the condition. Ford says that 94 percent of the 1258 total impacted vehicles in the US and 90 in Canada will be serviced before they are delivered to customers. Dealers are inspecting subframe bolts and will tighten them as necessary.

For the 75 owners who have taken delivery of their vehicles, notifications will begin going out to them the week of March 22. Ford has given the recall reference number 21S09. The Mustang Mach-E is a very important vehicle for Ford. As its first real entry into the fully electric vehicle market, it’s critical that the vehicle is successful and delivers high-quality for buyers.

This recall isn’t the first issue that Ford has had with the Mach-E. In January, the automaker confirmed that it was delaying the delivery of hundreds of vehicles while it performed additional quality checks. Exactly what those quality checks were looking at is unknown. The automaker delivered a small number of Mach-Es late in 2020, and speculation was that owners had discovered some issues that needed to be addressed.

Ford seems to have learned a valuable lesson in launching high-profile vehicles with significant issues from the get-go. The automaker launched the all-new Explorer and took a beating over substantial problems with many of the cars.

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This Bugatti Divo Lady Bug’s geometric paint job is truly one-of-a-kind

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The Bugatti Divo is a Chiron for the racetrack, but this Lady Bug version with its diamond-shaped fading patterns is best appreciated while the car is stationary. As if the Divo is not outrageous enough, one lucky customer in America wants to push the boundaries further. And as expected, Bugatti pulled it off, although it took quite a while to iron the challenges of creating an exclusive, one-off Lady Bug paint job.

“Every Bugatti Divo is one of a kind. With the custom-made ‘Lady Bug,’ Bugatti has demonstrated the full range of its customization expertise,” said Stephan Winkelmann, President of Bugatti. The car really demonstrates what the marque is capable of in terms of creativity and craftsmanship.”

Creating Lady Bug’s geometric-dynamic algorithmic fading pattern seems easy on paper. Given the Divo’s three-dimensional sculpted body, the 2D digital patterns became distorted upon application to the car’s body, which is not good enough if you’re paying upwards of $5-million for a track-ready version of the Bugatti Chiron.

“The Lady Bug was an exceptional challenge and, at the same time, an unforgettable experience. Due to the nature of the project, where a 2D graphic was applied to a 3D sculpture, we were close to giving up,” said Jörg Grumer, Head of Color & Trim at Bugatti Design. “However, it is our profound conviction that we should never give up and that our foremost motivation should always be to make the impossible possible for the customer.”

The entire project took two years to complete as Bugatti CAD modelers simulated and created a diamond pattern design with around 1,600 individual diamonds in six-meter long transfer films. Each diamond (yes, all 1,600 of them) is checked and realigned in the body to rule out any distortions.

The designers spent countless hours rehearsing the application procedure on two test vehicles before the moment of truth.

“Every maneuver had to be exactly right in this painstaking task; therefore, we decided to do another rehearsal before the final stage of work. Because there could only be one attempt on the customer’s car, and that had to be perfect,” said Dirk Hinze, an expert in customization and surfaces at Bugatti.

The final step is applying the paint finish before painstakingly peeling away each diamond. The base color, Customer Special Red, is contrasted with graphite and clear coat to invert the pattern. According to Bugatti, it took the paintwork artist two weeks to sand, smooth, check, retouch, and re-sand every millimeter of the body surface.

The result is a one-of-a-kind Bugatti Divo Lady Bug, the only one in existence. It has a standard 8.0-liter W16 engine pumping out 1,479 horsepower. Since the Divo weighs less and has more downforce than a regular Chiron, it goes around the Nardo handling circuit a full eight seconds faster than the former.

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