Rocket Lab Anchors Space Bid With Orbital Rocket Launch

American aerospace company, Rocket Lab, solidified its bid in the space race with a successful orbital rocket launch in New Zealand. The rocket, which they have named “Electron”, was fired from the company’s launch facility at the Mahia Peninsula on May 25.

Rocket Lab, through a New Zealand subsidiary, aims to offer lightweight and cost-effective commercial rocket launch services. Its founders ran with the bold concept of using highly-advanced carbon composite materials to fortify Electron’s frame and structure. The carbon composite tanks are compatible with liquid oxygen. In addition, it has cryogenic valves and helium pressurization systems for reliability.

Electron is a two-stage launch vehicle which was designed to deliver payloads of 150 kg to a 500 km into a Sun-synchronous orbit. Being able to reach space as early as possible increases their credibility with the industry and offers their clients a highly specialized and challenging service.

Electron reached space after a successful lift-off and flight but was not able to get to orbit. Beck explained the rocket was successful in both the first and second stages so they’re investigating why it ultimately failed to reach orbit.

“We’re one of a few companies to ever develop a rocket from scratch and we did it in under four years.”

“We’ve worked tirelessly to get to this point,” said Rocket Lab founder and chief Peter Beck to Business Insider after the launch. He added, “It has been an incredible day and I’m immensely proud of our talented team.”

Rocket Lab’s engineers in New Zealand and the US will pore over thousands of data channels from Electron’s maiden flight and optimize the next mission.

Opening Outer Space for Business

The company has scheduled at least two more rocket launches in 2017. This time they are determined to put Electron in orbit. After that, the company is planning to set a record in the space race by launching more than 50 times a year.

Each rocket launch is expected to cost $5 million.

However, even without going into orbit Rocket Lab already has an impressive portfolio of clients. They include NASA, Spire, Planet, Moon Express and Spaceflight. The company is financially and technologically supported by Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Data Collective, Promus Ventures, Lockheed Martin and K1W1.

Firms like Fleet, who are aiming to send 100 nanosatellites into space for the purpose of starting an internet of things (IoT)-based industrial revolution, are counting on the success of Rocket Lab’s launches to propel their own business growth.

Aside from delivering satellites, Beck said opening space also means improved weather reporting, natural disaster prediction, updated maritime data, and even running the Internet in space. Research and rescue services can also greatly improve with hundreds of nanosatellites in orbit.

Rocket Lab has already secured permits for up to 120 rocket launches a year. This puts them in serious competition with tech billionaire Elon Musk’s Space X which aims to start a space tourism industry and to eventually colonize Mars. He is planning to send people and cargo to the Red Planet via reusable rockets.

The Space Race is On for 2018

Rocket is Lab is just one of many companies which are serious about conquering space. Interest Engineering had published article listing companies competing in space travel technologies.

Rocket Lab has only been ranked as 11th, by “Interest Engineering.” The top 10 contenders are: Space X, SpaceIL, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, Axiom Space, Space Nation, Deep Space Industries, Bigelow Airspace, Vulcan Aerospace and Odyne Space.

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Harnessing Tidal And Wave Power

Europe has been studying tidal and wave power since the 1960s. Since then, there have been several implementations of tidal and wave power. With other forms of low-carbon power sources being developed and already in use, there are still a lot of hurdles to overcome before wave and tidal power become mainstream sources of energy. So far, there are studies and bold plans for tidal power plants and wave power plants in the United Kingdom, Alaska and Australia.

‘The oldest tidal power plant is in the Rance River in France which generates 240MW’

Around the world there have been tidal and wave power plants since the 1960s. The oldest tidal power plant is in the Rance River in France which generates 240MW. Apart from being the oldest power plant of its kind, it is also the second biggest in terms of power generation. The biggest tidal power plant is located in the Sihwa Lake in South Korea. It generates 254MW and uses a seawall which was built in 1994 for flood control and agricultural purposes.

Compared to wind and solar, tidal and wave power lags behind. Primary reason for this is the technological hurdles. Another reason is the larger investment. In addition, there are fewer locations where a tidal or wave power plant can be located.

‘The biggest tidal power plant is in the Sihwa Lake in South Korea and generates 254MW’

In Alaska, for instance, Yakutat has waves which measure 20 feet high. The potential power generation output from the waves could easily power Yakutat, which is home to 600 people. The town currently depends on its own diesel engine generator for its power requirements. In terms of technology and logistics, wave power is the only option for the small town. Prior research and studies has shown that the town would need around 30 wave energy converters, each costing a million dollars, to power the whole town, Alaska Public reported.

Whether using tidal or wave power is expensive due to its being a new technology. Almost every implementation has used a different approach. There has not been enough installations and power plants to leverage the technology and spread the cost.

There is however, a discrepancy between estimates about how much it would really cost to harness tidal or wave energy. A 2015, the Department of Energy had a “baseline estimate for floating, deep-water energy” of $0.90 per kilowatt hour (kWh). By 2017, the figure has gone down to $0.66/kWh. They have a goal to make this $0.17/kWh by 2030.

Part of the expense is due to the need for protection against the weather and saltwater corrosion. One solution for this is to use equipment which are totally submerged. This approach has been used in Australia, where the movement of the waves is harnessed with the use of a tethered buoy which is connected to a pump. Water is pumped to the mainland, where it runs turbines.

Most of the new designs make use of buoys, instead of submerged propellers or turbines. This allows a lower cost of equipment, installation, as well as maintenance. This bold approach can also be scalable by just multiplying the number of buoys.

The potential for wave and tidal power is huge and could generate a big chunk of the world’s energy needs. It is another untapped resource that has yet to be fully understood and harnessed. But once it is, it is a bold and commercially-viable, not to mention, more eco-friendly source of power that would make a huge impact on the planet.

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Venture Capitalist Bashes Supercomputer AI Watson

Venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya appears to have drummed up popularity for himself and his supercomputer AI by taking a swipe at mammoth IT company, IBM. The former AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) officer earlier called IBM’s supercomputer AI Watson, “a joke” and disparaged it for being named after a Sherlock Holmes character. In truth, the supercomputer AI is named after the first CEO of IBM, Thomas J. Watson. Several days later, on’s Closing Bell, Palihapitiya said that he should not have called it a joke and that he should be more careful with his words.

Palihapitiya is the managing partner of the Social+Capital Partnership, which he founded in 2011. He believes that when it comes to AI, Syapse, a venture he has founded in healthcare AI is building something better than Watson. Syapse features an AI which helps health-care providers deploy medicine programs in a focused, and high-precision manner. Social+Capital is a major investor in Syapse.

Palihapitiya: Watson AI is Over-Rated

His complaint is that he thinks that IBM is out-marketing the companies that he has backed. He said, “I have companies that we’ve been building and incubating for years in things like cancer and diabetes where we’re bringing machine learning to the market where we’ve competed with competitors including IBM.”

Palihapitiya worked with AIM and Facebook before becoming a venture capitalist. His explained his point of view as “the business of buying things that can grow in meaningful multiples . . . over five to 10 year periods.” Regarding AI, he thinks that it is,

“a business that I think can generate an enormous amount of cash. I think they’ll acquire aggressively.”

IBM has replied to Palihapitiya’s comment, explaining that, “Watson is not a consumer gadget but the A.I. platform for real business. Watson is in clinical use in the U.S. and 5 other countries. It has been trained on 6 types of cancers with plans to add 8 more this year.” IBM also added that “beyond oncology, Watson is in use by nearly half of the top 25 life sciences companies, major manufacturers for IoT applications, retail and financial services firms, and partners like GM, H&R Block and Does any serious person consider saving lives, enhancing customer service, and driving business innovation a joke?”

There is a bold difference in viewpoint between the venture capitalist and IBM. Syapse and the other companies that Palihapitiya controls may have great AI implementations. However, Watson has been in the business far longer and has proven itself as a viable AI platform to its customers. Who do you think will pull ahead in the AI race to the top?

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