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Elon Musk’s SpaceX warned: Your internet-beaming satellites disrupt astronomy

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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

Satellites cast into low Earth orbit by Elon Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX, are disrupting astronomy research due to the vehicles’ brightness in night skies – and the problem could get much worse unless design changes are made.

SpaceX last month launched another 60 Starlink satellites on the back of a Falcon 9 rocket. They are intended to become part of a mesh network designed to deliver broadband to underserved areas across the world. 

There are about 120 orbiting Earth today, but there could be as many as 12,000 in the next few years. 

While Starlink promises to solve broadband speed and latency issues in rural areas in North America, the satellites are already causing interference for astrology scientists across the globe because of their brightness. 

NewScientist reported that astronomers complained after the initial batch of 60 satellites were launched in May that they were extremely bright. 

While the fleet is small now, the astronomers are concerned that Musk’s plans for several thousand broadband-beaming Starlink satellites could become a real problem for space imaging in the near future. 

A key observation point affected by Musk’s satellites is the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), home to the Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) and Gemini telescopes, which are located in the foothills of the Andes, 7,241 feet (2,200 meters) above sea level.

“I am in shock,” wrote CTIO astronomer Clara Martinez-Vazquez on Twitter in November, referring to the Starlink satellites. “Our DECam exposure was heavily affected by 19 of them,” she tweeted. “The train of Starlink satellites lasted for over five minutes.”

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) in November issued a statement about the interference it expects Starlink satellites to cause for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which is under construction in Chile and expected to begin imaging the sky in 2022. The LSST will be used to detect near-Earth asteroids.  

The LSST team estimates that “nearly every exposure within two hours of sunset or sunrise would have a satellite streak”. In summer, it could have a massive affect on the telescope’s ability to observe the sky during twilight.    

“Detection of near-Earth asteroids, normally surveyed for during twilight, would be particularly impacted. Dark energy surveys are also sensitive to the satellites because of streaks caused in the images. Avoiding saturation of streaks is vital,” the group warned. 

AURA has also posted two time-lapse videos that demonstrate the impact Starlink satellites are having on observability of space from Earth.  

SpaceX says it is taking the astronomers concerns seriously. Per Spacenews.com, SpaceX chief operating officer Gwynn Shotwell said the next batch of Starlink satellites will have a “coating on the bottom”, but added that it’s not known whether the fix will solve the brightness problem. 

Shotwell said SpaceX will launch 60 satellites every two to three weeks for the next year to deliver global coverage by around mid-2020. 

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.

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Satellite streaks could have a massive affect on a telescope’s ability to observe the sky.  


Image: Nationalastro.org

More on Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Starlink, and internet-beaming satellites

  • Elon Musk’s internet from space: 60 new SpaceX satellites bring US service closer  
  • Elon Musk: Here are SpaceX’s first 60 Starlink internet-beaming satellites  
  • Amazon’s big internet plan: 3,236 satellites to beam faster, cheaper web to millions
  • Elon Musk: 70 percent chance I’ll move to Mars
  • SpaceX launch certification faces Pentagon review
  • SpaceX authorised to reduce number of satellites
  • SpaceX approved to send over 7,000 satellites into orbit
  • Jeff Bezos reveals design of Blue Origin’s future rocket, New Glenn
  • Why wireless ISPs are still necessary in the age of 5G TechRepublic
  • Elon Musk mocks Jeff Bezos’ Blue Moon lander in cheeky tweet CNET


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    Lordstown Motors woes worsen with binding order update

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    Lordstown Motors has dropped itself in a new set of electric truck troubles, admitting that despite what previous announcements may have indicated, the startup still lacks any binding orders for its Endurance EV. The fledgling automaker has spent the week in damage control after both its CEO and CFO quit on Monday amid allegations of misleading investors.

    Chief executive officer Steve Burns, along with chief financial officer Julio Rodriguez, both resigned from the company. Burns also stepped down from his position on Lordstown’s Board of Directors.

    The automaker attempted to spin their exits as a positive, as the company “begins to transition from the R&D and early production phase to the commercial production phase of its business.” All the same, it was little reassurance to shareholders, who had already seen Lordstown Motors concede earlier in June that there was “substantial doubt” about whether it could even continue as an operating business.

    Prompting the uncertainty was a report published by short-seller Hindenburg Research. Issued earlier in 2021, it documented a litany of allegations regarding how quickly Lordstown Motors could actually begin full production, the market-readiness of the hub motor technology it has licensed for the Endurance pickup, and how advanced in general the EV would be. Lordstown pushed back, with an independent committee contesting those points, and causing a brief stock rally when it insisted that a September 2021 start-date for production “remains achievable” followed by deliveries in Q1 2022.

    Now, though, the stock price has taken another dive, on Lordstown Motors’ admitting that investors may have too rosy an interpretation of its order books. That stemmed from statements made by the company’s execs at an event earlier this week, in which Lead Independent Director Angela Strand – who is now acting CEO – appeared.

    “To clarify recent remarks by company executives at the Automotive Press Association online media event on June 15, although these vehicle purchase agreements provide us with a significant indicator of demand for the Endurance, these agreements do not represent binding purchase orders or other firm purchase commitments,” Lordstown wrote in a Form 8-K filing to the SEC released today. “As previously disclosed in our Form 10-K/A for the year ended December 31, 2020, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 8, 2021, to date, we have engaged in limited marketing activities and we have no binding purchase orders or commitments from customers.”

    It sent the Lordstown Motors stock ($RIDE) tumbling once more, with shares down over 4-percent today. While that hasn’t quite wiped out the gains made since the June 14 announcement of its exec shakeup, it’s a long way from the company’s mid-February high.

    Currently, Lordstown says, it has “vehicle purchase agreements” with specialty upfitting and fleet management companies. These, however, are not binding contracts, with both parties able to walk away with 30 days notice. Lordstown argues that it’s an important example of interest in Endurance nonetheless, and vital as it gauges demand once production does start.

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    2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L First Drive Review: A three-row SUV worth the wait

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    When you arrive late, you can either slink in through the back door, or make a dramatic entrance: Jeep chose the latter. The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L may be the first three-row of its lineage, but arrives to a crowded market of strong rivals. That it manages to stand out among that group is a testament to just how big an improvement this SUV is over its predecessors.

    The three-row SUV space is big. Huge, in fact. Almost 75-percent of the full-size SUV segment is made up of six- or seven-seaters, and the fact that Jeep wasn’t competing there had become a liability.

    It’s notable, then, that the all-new Grand Cherokee starts out with this three-row model. There’ll be a two-row version eventually, and indeed an electrified Grand Cherokee (also with two-rows), but Jeep is pulling out all the stops to court the audience that’s actually opening its wallet.

    Pricing kicks off at $36,995 for the Laredo 4×2, with 4×4 a $2k upgrade on each trim. The Limited 4×2 is $43,995, the Overland 4×2 is $52,995, and the Summit 4×2 is $56,995. Jeep’s flagship 2021 Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4×2 starts at $61,995; expect to pay $1,695 destination on each.

    There’s no mistaking it for anything other than a Jeep. From the seven-bar grille, to the high shoulder-line, to the short overhangs and rear-drive proportions, the Grand Cherokee L’s heritage is clear.

    Familiarity, though, is no drawback here. I think the new Grand Cherokee L is very much color dependent: with some hues, the truncated grille segments look a little odd, but with its LED lighting front and rear and the optional blacked-out roof it’s distinctive and crisp among the big SUV competition. Lest you forget what it is, or where it’s made, Jeep makes sure to slap a big name-badge across the doors, and an American flag.

    Pride in a good product, though, can’t be argued with. On that level, it’s tough to speak ill of this new Jeep. There are two engines, starting with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 on the Laredo, Limited, Overland, and Summit. It’s good for 293 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, rated for 6,200 pounds of towing, and is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission as standard. 2WD models are rated for 19 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway, and 21 combined; the 4WD version drops a point on the city and highway numbers, but keeps the same combined rating.

    Optional on the Limited, Overland, and Summit 4×4 trims is a 5.7-liter V8. That bumps power to 357 hp and torque to 390 lb-ft, and nudges towing capacity to 7,200 pounds. It’s rated for 14 mpg city, 22 mpg highway, and 17 mpg combined.

    There are three all-wheel drive configurations, too: Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II, and Quadra-Drive II. Quadra-Trac I has a single-speed active transfer case, and can push up to 100-percent of power to the front or rear axles. Quadra-Trac II adds a two-step active transfer case, has improved low-range performance, and is standard on the Overland. Finally, Quadra-Drive II has a two-speed active transfer case and rear electronic limited-slip differential: it’s optional on the Overland 4×4 with the Off-Road Group package, and standard on the Summit.

    At the same time, there’s also Jeep Quadra-Lift air suspension, also standard on the Overland. That can adjust the ride height across 4.2 inches, including dipping the Grand Cherokee L down to make loading and unloading easier.

    Jeep is, understandably, keen to prove its new model is no pretender when it comes to the rough stuff. The result was an off-road course tougher than any luxury SUV will ever face in typical use: jagged and haphazard rock piles, unruly log piles, and chassis-testing twist fields. As I crept adeptly through with the aid of spotters I concluded it was a textbook example of overkill – Jeep happily agrees that basically nobody will use those capabilities in practice – and evidence of just how useful the front-facing camera is, even if owners only ever use it to avoid parking lot curbs.

    Happily the adventure abilities don’t impair how refined the big Jeep is on normal roads. I spent my time in the Overland mid-range trim, with the V8 engine option, and came away impressed with how refined the Grand Cherokee L feels.

    It’s compliant but not squishy, partly down to Jeep’s efforts to keep curb weight about the same as the smaller outgoing model. That same stiffness that leaves the SUV so capable on the off-road course also leaves it stiff and reassuring on asphalt: there’s no body twist to unsettle or leave those in the third row feeling seasick.

    With the V8’s 357 horses it’s fast but not especially sporting. The engine sounds distant and muffled; there’s none of the hearty grunt that eight cylinders typically aim for. Straight-line speed is ample and the refined tuning means there’s minimal body roll come the corners, but even in sport mode the Grand Cherokee L feels focused on comfort.

    I suspect that’s the right decision on the part of Jeep’s designers. As, too, was their focus on the cabin: this interior feels a level above anything we’ve seen from the company in memory. Layout, trim choices, and technology all punch above their weight and, indeed, the Grand Cherokee L’s price tag.

    For maximum-lavish you’ll want the Summit Reserve, which has double-diamond stitched leather, massage seats, waxed walnut wood accents, a 19-speaker McIntosh audio system, and heating/ventilation for both the first and second rows. Even the more attainable trims, though, feel considered and refined. Jeep’s 8.4 or 10.1-inch Uconnect 5 touchscreens are large and responsive, there’s real metal trim – albeit a little more hard plastic below the interior belt line – and the switchgear strikes a great balance between sturdy and special.

    The new infotainment system is a nice improvement. Uconnect has been capable and fast for the last couple of generations, but a little overwhelming in its interface. For this fifth-gen version, Jeep revamped the graphics and made customization easier: you can drag shortcuts to the top bar for persistent access to things like the surround camera, rearrange the home screen with widgets to avoid so much menu-hopping, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto coexist more harmoniously with Uconnect 5 than is the case with most infotainment systems.

    Alexa is built-in, and the center console screen plays nicely with the standard 10.3-inch digital cluster and optional 10-inch head-up display. You may have to spend a little time setting it all up initially, but the Grand Cherokee L supports multiple driver profiles for easy recall. Sadly there’s no profile sync across Jeep’s cloud, and while the redesigned owners app is faster and looks much improved, you can’t remotely configure the infotainment with it yet.

    It’s not just glitter that Jeep gets right, though. The basics, like space and room for cargo, are pitch-perfect too. There are 6- and 7-seat configurations – the former with plush captain’s chairs in the second row – but even those relegated to the third row won’t be too disappointed. Jeep promised it was sized for adults and sure enough that’s the case: at 5’8 my knees weren’t around my chin and my head was still some way from the roof, and 6+ footers were similarly accommodated.

    Getting in there, too, is straightforward with the tip-and-slide seats. The second and third rows will drop down, of course, including the second row center console in 6-seat versions, for a big, flat load floor. With all the seats up there’s 17.2 cu-ft to play with; that expands to 46.9 and 84.6 cu-ft as the two rows drop down.

    For towing, the V6 is rated for up to 6,200 pounds, and the V8 up to 7,200 pounds. With a sizable boat hooked up to the back – and coming close to that maximum limit – it’s impressive just how little impact it has on the Grand Cherokee L’s acceleration, handling, or braking. Were it my boat I probably would’ve taken Jeep’s slalom a little more sensibly, which goes to show both the capability of the SUV and why you should never loan me your boat.

    As for times when you don’t want to drive, there’s a slight stumble. Adaptive cruise is standard, along with lane management, front and rear parking alerts, blind spot warnings, rear cross path alerts, and forward collision warnings with auto-brake, and you can add on night vision and a 360-degree camera. Jeep’s Hands Free Active Drive Assist, though, won’t be ready until after the Grand Cherokee L is in dealerships, and while the SUV supports over-the-air software updates you won’t be able to retroactively add that feature to models without it. If you want the ability to drive on highways without your hands on the wheel, you may want to wait a little longer.

    2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Verdict

    Patience in that situation, though, may be tough to muster. Jeep’s first three-row SUV is mighty appealing, not least because it keeps the automaker’s personality while not forcing you to compromise on comfort and day-to-day usability simply so that you can also boast about your off-road capabilities. Where the third-row seating in some rivals can feel like an afterthought, the Grand Cherokee L embraces a family by avoiding the “but why do I have to sit back there?” squabbles.

    It’s a shame that Jeep has no plans to make a three-row electrified version, at least at this stage, and the delay in hands-free driver-assistance is frustrating. All the same, there’s much more to like about the 2021 Grand Cherokee L than there is to complain about. Distinctive styling, a flexible and nicely designed cabin, and unarguable off-road credibility help warrant the “Grand” in its name.

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    2022 Kia Telluride gets mild styling updates and more safety kit

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    The 2022 Kia Telluride is entering the fray with a couple of new updates and more safety features. Fresh from bagging the 2020 World Car Awards trophy in its first year of production, the Telluride’s award-winning ways is a brilliant combination of luxury, versatility, off-road capability, and on-road comfort. Plus, Telluride is Kia’s biggest SUV and offers comfy seating for up to eight passengers.

    2022 Kia Telluride: What’s New?

    The 2022 Kia Telluride has a redesigned front grille with Kia’s new corporate logo front and center, and that’s basically it exterior-wise. Inside, a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment display is standard across the lineup to replace last year’s 8-inch display unit.

    It also gets fully automatic climate control and additional safety kits like highway driving assist and navigation-based cruise control-curve across the board. Standard safety features include driver attention warning, blind-spot collision avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision avoidance assist, lane-keeping assist, and lane following assist.

    We reckon Kia will continue offering the Nightfall Edition package for its 2022 Telluride, but the automaker failed to mention this in its press release. Nevertheless, Nightfall models get dark exterior elements like 20-inch black wheels, gloss black skid plates, and bespoke paint finishes.

    The 2022 Kia Telluride remains motivated by a 3.8-liter V6 engine with direct injection. It pumps out 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel-drive (AWD) remains a $2,000 option across all trim models. No matter which you choose, Telluride has a standard eight-speed automatic transmission.

    2022 Kia Telluride Pricing

    The 2022 Kia Telluride is arriving in four trim levels. The base Telluride LX FWD starts at $32,790 and is around $600 more than last year’s model. Meanwhile, Telluride S has base prices at $35,290 (also $600 more than last year), while the EX and SX are at $37,790 and $42,690, respectively, representing a $200 increase. All trim models can have an all-wheel drivetrain for $2,000 more.

    Meanwhile, the range-topping Telluride SX-P (SX Prestige Package) has premium features like Nappa leather seats, a heads-up display, and a heated steering wheel (among many others) for a base price of $46,890. Prices do not include $1,225 destination fees.

    The 2022 Kia Telluride will arrive at U.S. dealerships later this year.

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