Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is almost ready to launch into outer space

October 11, 2017 by  
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After over a decade in development, Virgin Galactic, a private space travel service founded by billionaire Richard Branson , is almost ready to enter orbit. “We are hopefully about three months before we are in space , maybe six months before I’m in space,” said Branson at the Nordic Business Forum in Helsinki, Finland. If accurate, this moment for Virgin Galactic represents a culmination of years of hard work and setbacks, which included a fatal crash, delays, and technical problems. Branson’s Virgin Galactic is one of several companies, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX, in a high-stakes race to establish a private space travel service in the near future. Although Branson is reaching for the stars, he’s declined to reach as far as Mars. That’s Tesla territory. “I’m not as passionate about Mars as Elon [Musk] is,” said Branson. “My love for space is about how much it can do for people back here on earth, and that’s what Virgin Galactic is pushing towards.” As part of his SpaceX program, Musk plans to land rockets on Mars by 2022, in preparation for manned missions to the red planet . “[Getting to Mars] is an incredible challenge, and I suspect Elon [Musk] will get there first,” said Branson. “He’s more interested in big rockets going big distances. We’ve been more interested in taking people to space, and satellites, slightly closer to Earth.” Related: Richard Branson’s new supersonic jet will fly 2X faster than the speed of sound Earlier in 2017, Branson promised that Virgin Galactic would be bringing passengers into outer space by the end of 2018. Tickets to boldly go where few have gone before will not be cheap; each ride is expected to cost $250,000 per traveler. In addition to providing access to the wonder of space travel, the Virgin Galactic service will provide city to city travel across the world. “To get to space we’re going to be flying a craft that’s going 3000 miles per hour,” said Branson. “We are going to be the only people in the world, in a few months, to be flying a craft that’s going 3000 [mph]. Taking that craft and looking at point to point travel is something we are going to be in the best position in the world to do.” Via Business Insider Images via  Roderick Eime (1) and Land Rover

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Elon Musk declares Tesla could rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid

October 6, 2017 by  
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Elon Musk, CEO and co-founder of Tesla , has made clear his company is willing and capable of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid from the ground up. “The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world,” said Musk, “but there is no scalability limit so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the Puerto Rico government, PUC (Public Utilities Commission), any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of Puerto Rico.” Most of the island’s power grid was destroyed and there is already discussion of rebuilding infrastructure to be more sustainable and resilient. This future-focused approach seems custom-fit for Tesla. In response to Musk’s offer , Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rossello tweeted, “Let’s talk. Do you want to show the world the power and scalability of your #TeslaTechnologies? PR could be that flagship project.” Tesla has already begun deploying its Powerpack energy-storage technology in Puerto Rico to bring critical infrastructure, such as emergency response centers, back online. The Powerpacks are paired with solar panels to provide sustainable, resilient on-site power generation and storage. The mission to reenergize Puerto Rico would involve similar technology but on a massive scale. Related: Tesla nears halfway mark on world’s largest battery installation in South Australia As Musk mentioned, Tesla already has experience building small-scale energy infrastructure using solar panels and Powerpacks on islands including Kauai and American Samoa. However, challenges remain. Although this modern infrastructure may be more resilient, it may still largely depend on power lines, which can be damaged by storms, and physical components like solar panels and wind turbines, both of which were damaged on Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria. Further, the people of Puerto Rico and their government may be more focused on surviving what has proven to be a very grueling recovery than reinventing their energy infrastructure. Nonetheless, proactive thinking now may very well lead to a more resilient Puerto Rico in a future filled with superstorms . Via Electrek Images via Tesla

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Elon Musk declares Tesla could rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid

Tesla nears halfway mark on world’s largest battery installation in South Australia

October 2, 2017 by  
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Tesla just announced that the world’s largest battery installation is about halfway finished. The 100MW/129MWh utility-grade battery bank near the site of the 100MW Hornsdale Wind Farm in South Australia will be the largest system connected to an energy grid. This massive undertaking was inspired by a bet between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who could not believe that Tesla was able to install its grid-tied battery systems as quickly as it claimed. Musk, confident in his company’s work, promised to install the world’s largest battery bank in 100 days or the State of South Australia would receive it for free. The clock is now ticking. After accepting the challenge, Tesla participated in a competitive bidding process to unlock a $115 million renewable energy fund from the State of South Australia , which has suffered disruptive blackouts in recent summer seasons. After estimating that the world’s largest battery bank would cost $32.35 million, excluding labor costs and taxes, Tesla was awarded the contract in partnership with the French company Neoen, which owns the Hornsdale Wind Farm on which the battery bank is being built. Musk made clear that the negotiation phase did not count towards the 100 days deadline. The stakes are high; if Tesla fails to complete its task within 100 days, it could suffer a loss of $50 million or more. Related: Tesla is shipping hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico Last Friday, Tesla officially announced the start of its 100-day challenge, though it would seem that the company gave itself a bit of a head start. The battery bank, which is being built at the Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada , is nearly halfway complete as is the installation of batteries into the bank. “To have that [construction] done in two months … you can’t remodel your kitchen in that period of time,” said Musk at a kickoff event, seeming to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation. If any company is up to this kind of challenge, one based on a bet between billionaires, it’s Tesla. Via Ars Technica Images via Tesla

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Tesla nears halfway mark on world’s largest battery installation in South Australia

Elon Musk wants to build a rocket that can fly you from New York to Shanghai in 30 minutes

September 29, 2017 by  
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Imagine being able to travel from New York to Shanghai in just 30 minutes. If Elon Musk succeeds with his newest plan, a trip of this kind will soon be possible. During Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. , the entrepreneur revealed his ambition to build the “BFR” – a rocket that could transport anyone anywhere on the planet within 60 minutes. Musk, who has long dreamed of founding a human colony on Mars , is willing to use his own personal assets to fund the futuristic technology. (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.10”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); LIVE: Elon Musk reveals his latest plans for colonizing Mars. Posted by Bloomberg Technology on Thursday, September 28, 2017 “If we are going to places like Mars , why not Earth?” said Musk at the 68th International Astronautical Congress, which took place in Adelaide, Australia. Towards the end of Musk’s presentation, an animation played on the screen behind the tech entrepreneur, showing dozens of people getting on a high-speed ferry in New York, boarding the BRF on a platform in the water, then jetting to Shanghai in about 30 minutes. Musk wrote on Instagram: ”Fly to most places on Earth in under 30 mins and anywhere in under 60. Cost per seat should be about the same as full fare economy in an aircraft . Forgot to mention that.” Reportedly, the BFR will contain 40 cabins capable of “ferrying” approximately 100 people at a time. The 46-year-old has admitted in the past that “the major fundamental flaw” in his plans is the financing aspect. With a net worth of approximately $21 billion, the entrepreneur isn’t averse to using his own personal assets to develop the technology. However, money for the BFR will also be raised via contracts with commercial satellite operators, who can use the BFR to carry satellites to orbit, as well as crew and cargo to the International Space Station . Related: Elon Musk sets tentative date for Tesla Semi truck unveiling Musk is also ambitious to send an unmanned “Red Dragon” spacecraft to the red planet in 2018. Though the initial plan has changed, the new goal has the craft landing on Mars in 2022, followed by crewed missions in 2024. Via Bloomberg Images via TEDx , Pixabay

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Tesla is shipping hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico

September 29, 2017 by  
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Tesla is stepping in to aid Puerto Rico in its recovery from Hurricane Maria by sending hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to the American Commonwealth, whose 3.5 million citizens still do not have access to electricity. Because full power is not expected to be restored for months, the Powerwall energy storage systems, which can be paired with solar panels, could prove to be vital tools as Puerto Rico and its partners work to restore safety and stability to the island. First introduced in 2015, the Powerwall is Tesla’s home-based battery system, which is able to store energy captured during the day from solar panels and enables solar energy to be used even at night. Some of the Powerwall battery systems have already arrived in Puerto Rico , with more on the way. Tesla employees are on the island, working to install the systems and additional solar panels and repair existing solar panels. They are also collaborating with local groups to determine the best locations for these battery systems to be implemented. In addition, Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk has personally donated $250,000 to the relief efforts in Puerto Rico. Related: Puerto Rico electricity crisis sparks interest in renewable energy Prior to its efforts in Puerto Rico, Tesla had assisted in the evacuation efforts in Florida as Hurricane Irma approached the peninsula. After receiving a request from a Tesla owner who wished to evacuate from their home in Florida, but who was concerned about the car’s ability to go the distance, Tesla released a software update which extended battery range. Ultimately, Tesla decided to extend the battery range for all Model S and Model X cars from 60-70 kilowatt hour to 75 kwh. Via Fortune Images via Tesla , Steve Juverton , and Walmart

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Tesla is shipping hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico

New Antarctic farm will grow produce despite temperatures of -100 degrees F

September 21, 2017 by  
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Imagine having to go months without an adequate supply of fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables . Scientists based in Antarctica know this struggle, which is why engineers at the German Aerospace Center (GAC) are building a high-tech, 135-square-foot indoor farm that can grow an abundance of produce — even when temperatures are -100 degrees Fahrenheit outside. The only way to transport food to McMurdo, the US station where the majority of researchers stay, is by plane or ship. Most of the food that is received is dry or frozen . During the summer, the scientists may receive one shipment of fresh food once a week, according to Atlas Obscura . Fortunately, that is about to change. The Eden-ISS is already under construction and will grow food for all who are stationed at the Neumayer III polar station  on the Ekstrom Ice Shelf. The greenhouse will be in a climate-controlled shipping and produce will be grown utilizing vertical gardening technology. When the farm is complete, between 30 and 50 different species of plants — including leafy greens, peppers, radishes, strawberries, tomatoes and zesty herbs — will be grown on trays or hanging modules. Because of Antarctica’s climate, the plants are fed by LED lights rather than sunlight . This is actually a good thing, as the researchers have tuned the lights to red and blue wavelengths that are optimal for growing produce. Related: Scientists discover nearly 100 unknown volcanoes – in Antarctica Business Insider reports that the Eden-ISS will be completed in October. The infrastructure is ready to go; the engineers are just waiting for the shipment of supplies which will arrive next month. Reportedly, the GAC team grew its first cucumber (which measured 96 grams and was 14 centimeters long) inside Eden-ISS in July. In Bremen, Germany , GAC has already been testing growing produce in a climate-controlled environment. Next month,  GAC scientist Paul Zabel will move to Antarctica and grow produce under 42 LED lamps. Because sub-Arctic regions have experienced an agricultural boon partly due to climate change, the researchers are pumping in excess carbon dioxide to help the plants thrive. The temperature is always set to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If the GAC team succeeds at building a greenhouse that can grow crops even when it is -100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, researchers will be able to use the same system to help astronauts grow food in space. Considering Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk — two of the most brilliant minds of our time — are intent on moving humans to the moon or Mars, this technology could come in handy. + DLR German Aerospace Center Via Business Insider Images via DLR German Aerospace Center

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New Antarctic farm will grow produce despite temperatures of -100 degrees F

New waterproof solar cell generates power even after it gets soaked

September 21, 2017 by  
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A new solar cell could go through the laundry and emerge still working. The photovoltaic cell, developed by Japanese research institution RIKEN and the University of Tokyo , is ultra thin and coated on both sides with waterproof film. The solar cell can be stretched or compressed or washed and continue to function. Researchers in Japan have created a waterproof solar cell able to withstand a wash and keep on generating power. They developed flexible, super thin, organic photovoltaic cells based on PNTz4T, a material they developed in the past. Both sides of the cell were covered with an acrylic-based elastomer that allowed light to reach the cells, but prevented air and water from leaking on to them. Related: This carbon nanotube yarn generates power when pulled The researchers then tested the waterproof solar cells to see if they’d retain efficiency. The initial device had an efficiency of 7.9 percent – per square centimeter it generated a current of 7.86 milliwatts. They soaked the cells in water for two hours and then found the efficiency had decreased by 5.4 percent. They also compressed the device by almost half for 20 cycles, while subjecting it to water, and found it had 80 percent of the initial efficiency. Photovoltaics integrated in textiles in the past have suffered from a lack of energy efficiency , or they weren’t robust and didn’t resist being deformed well, or they weren’t stable over the long-term in water or air – or some combination of those three. This new waterproof cell, that’s able to be compressed, could open up more options for wearables with solar cells. The photovoltaic cells could power sensors that record body temperature and heartbeats or provide early warnings of health issues, according to research group leader Takao Someya. The journal Nature Energy published the research online earlier this week. Via RIKEN Images via RIKEN

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Grow your own mushroom lamp with this brilliant DIY kit

September 21, 2017 by  
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Ever wanted to grow your own lamp? Now you can, thanks to a brilliant collaboration between eco-designer Danielle Trofe and Ecovative . Recently launched on Kickstarter, the Grow-It-Yourself Lamp Kit lets you grow a beautiful lampshade by combining a mushroom substrate with a small amount of water and flour. The Grow-It-Yourself lamp kit includes one bag of mushroom mycelium substrate, a lampshade mold, a UL-certified pendant lamp set, and growing instructions. Using Ecovative’s patented Mushroom Material technology, the  mushroom mycelium – the root of the mushroom – is guaranteed to grow, making this a perfect project for those without any green thumb whatsoever. Related: Danielle Trofe’s Brilliant Mush-Lume Lamp is Grown From Fungi! Once the substrate is placed in the mold, you’ll just have to add tap water and a bit of flour. After a few more simple steps, including baking it in the oven for a bit, your new eco-positive lampshade is ready to go. The kit comes with basic hanging pendant set, but can be updated to include a table lamp stand made from sustainable wood . + Grow Kickstarter + Ecovative Design + Danielle Trofe Images via Kickstarter

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Elon Musk sets tentative date for Tesla Semi truck unveiling

September 14, 2017 by  
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We’re getting closer to the debut of the Tesla Semi truck. Elon Musk tweeted a date and place for a reveal of the much-anticipated vehicle, and also said, “Worth seeing this beast in person. It’s unreal.” The all-electric semi truck is set to debut on October 26 in Hawthorne, California – and it will reportedly will have a range of 200 to 300 miles . Tesla Semi truck unveil & test ride tentatively scheduled for Oct 26th in Hawthorne. Worth seeing this beast in person. It's unreal. — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 13, 2017 Musk is keeping us in suspense: he didn’t give out many other details, and there’s no invite on the Tesla website. Last year, in his Master Plan, Part Deux , Musk hinted Tesla was working on a heavy-duty truck, saying, “We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.” He also said the semi should be ready to unveil the following year. Related: Tesla’s electric truck will have a 200-300 mile range Musk hasn’t stayed quiet about the Tesla Semi since then. He initially said back in April of this year the company would unveil the truck in September. He gave a TED talk not too long after, with a teaser picture of the semi. In the talk he said the heavy-duty truck would basically be single speed, lacking any gears. He said of the semi, “This is something which people do not today think is possible. They think the truck doesn’t have enough power or it doesn’t have enough range, and then with the Tesla Semi we want to show that no, an electric truck actually can out-torque any diesel semi. And if you had a tug-of-war competition, the Tesla Semi will tug the diesel semi uphill.” Musk apparently has already taken the semi truck for a joyride in the parking lot, and said in the TED talk, “You can drive this around like a sports car .” Via Elon Musk on Twitter and New Atlas Images via screenshot

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Elon Musk urges UN to ban artificially intelligent killer robots

August 21, 2017 by  
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The same man who brought you PayPal , Tesla and SpaceX is now urging the UN to ban the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in weaponry. Elon Musk believes that artificially intelligent “killer robots” are “morally wrong” and a potential threat to humanity – and he’s petitioning the UN along with 115 other experts in robotics to prevent “a third revolution in warfare.” In a letter to the United Nations, the experts ask for killer robot technology to be added to the list of weapons banned under the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. ”Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” the letter says. “These can be weapons of terror , weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.” The urgent tone of the letter cannot be missed. The leaders warn, “we do not have long to act” and add, “Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.” The BBC reports that a killer robot is a fully autonomous weapon capable of selecting and engaging targets without human intervention. Developed for the purpose of war, the technology could be a potential threat to humanity. For this reason, the experts in robotics are requesting autonomous “kill functions” be banned. The UN group focusing on autonomous weaponry was scheduled to reconvene this Monday. However, the meeting has now been postponed to November. Related: Elon Musk has a simple plan to power the US entirely on renewable energy This isn’t the first time the faction of the UN has considered a ban on killer robot technology. In 2015, more than 1,000 tech experts, researchers, and scientists wrote a letter warning about the dangers of autonomous weaponry. Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Musk were among the signatories. Via BBC Images via Depositphotos , Pixabay , OnInnovation

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