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Falcon Heavy’s Maiden Launch 101

In less than a month Space X will launch its Falcon Heavy Space craft on its maiden voyage.  The 70 meter (229 ft) tall rocket is composed of two refurbished Falcon 9 boosters and a newly designed central core stage. The rocket’s first stage is made up of a total of 27 engines that will be able to carry up to 63,800 kg (140,600 lbs) of cargo into low Earth orbit. The Falcon Heavy is set to be the single most powerful rocket ever built, producing the most thrust of any launch vehicle since the space shuttle.

The maiden launch will feature a dummy payload, since Musk has previously stated that he believes there is a “good chance” of the launch going awry. Even so, the payload very well may contain something that will be entirely new to spaceflight: a Tesla Roadster. Musk has posted photos that seem to show the vehicle prepped for launch, though the jury is still out as to whether he is serious.

The Falcon Heavy launch has been delayed multiple times since summer 2017, so it’s encouraging to see it finally rising on the launch pad. An official test of the Falcon Heavy rocket will kick off SpaceX’s long-term plan of landing on, and eventually colonizing, Mars. Musk said in September that he hopes to send  cargo ships to supply and explore the Red Planet by 2022, and human colonists by 2024.

Since Falcon Heavy is slated to carry some of those supplies, and eventually a Dragon spacecraft containing humans en route to the moon, it’s fitting that it will be launching from one of the most historic launch pads out there.

Launch pad 39A has a storied history as part of the Kennedy Space Center. The launch pad and its accompanying complex is the former home to the Apollo program and was also modified to accommodate the Space Shuttle program. Launch pad 39A has once again been modified to serve as the launch spot for the beginnings and future of Falcon Heavy, the next evolution is SpaceX’s rocket design.

The Falcon Heavy rocket will be an important part of the overreaching goal of SpaceX to put a human on the Red Planet. There is a lot riding on this rocket’s success; while it will be wonderful if the first Heavy launch goes off without a hitch, the company does have a history of learning from its mistakes.

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The Verge 2017 tech report card: Cameras

Digital photography as we know it is about to change. It’s already changing, really, judging by some of the cameras released in 2017. Where last year was a solid, occasionally exciting one for the camera industry, the past 12 months held even more signs that the basics of photography are evolving. And a lot that has to do with advancements in software and computational photography.

That sounds boring! But hear me out.

Let’s start with consumer 360-degree cameras, which until this year have often felt like a solution in search of a problem. While professionals have spent years crafting high-end VR productions using 360-degree cameras with outrageous resolution, the consumer versions of these cameras have left a lot to be desired….

Continue reading…

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It Doesn’t Matter How Cold it is Today. Global Warming is Killing People.

Season’s Tweetings

Weather is not climate. But despite scientists’ best outreach efforts, that concept remains elusive to many, including the President of the United States. The freezing winds and snow sweeping the East Coast  were the perfect opportunity for Donald Trump to remind his fellow citizens to stay warm, and that global warming is a hoax.

In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2017

While the science of climate change has an overwhelming consensus, politics still gets in the way. Climate change deniers who maintain that the wealth of research on the subject is either based on lies, or reads too much into what is just natural variability, often use snowy winters to prove their point.

What those deniers are missing is the crucial difference between a localized phenomenon and one that unfolds at a planetary level. In this case, while the Northeastern U.S. may be white and freezing, the rest of the globe remains exceptionally warm, a trend that is set to continue in the future.

In case you think that this huge area of Arctic cold across the U.S. and Canada refute the “theory” that the earth is warming, this map tells all. We are nearly the ONLY part of the world that isn’t warmer than normal.

— Glenn Schwartz (@HurricaneNBC10) December 28, 2017

And a warming planet translates into all sorts of wicked and unpredictable local events.

Global Warming Kills

Some parts of the planet may experience drought that withers crops, kills cattle, and forces people to move. In other places the air will become so humid that, combined with excessively warm temperature, it may make people sick or even kill them.

Events unfolding slowly or happening far away are unlikely to pique our interest — that’s one of the curses of climate change communication. But by now, it’s not just the most vulnerable and remote areas that feel the impacts. The fact that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet will matter to everyone living south of the North Pole, including Americans. As Futurism reported, an increasing number of people are now severely affected by climate change and the inconvenient truth is that we are unprepared to deal with it.

In the United States, for example, the fires that destroyed California were fueled by an abnormal lack of rain that scientists now attribute to a melting Arctic. 2017 has also saw an unprecedented streak of hurricanes bashing the Caribbean coasts, destroying the lives of millions and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless or displaced. The most powerful of those cyclones, Hurricane Irma, left some islands “barely habitable,” and scientists are now wondering if a whole new category may be needed to describe tomorrow’s super hurricanes.

Although we still don’t have enough data to precisely model the contribution of climate change to extreme events such like hurricanes, scientists warn that by the end of the century human made global warming will cause tropical cyclones to be more intense on average. This change, says NOAA, “would imply an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm.”

At this stage of the game, enough carbon is already locked in our atmosphere that some degree of global warming is inevitable. But the question is whether we’re financially prepared to withstand the changes that go with it.

In his tweet, President Trump highlighted the “TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS” he thinks the U.S. saved by not being part of the Paris climate accord. But while he brags about those big savings — which would have contributed to an international effort to lower greenhouse gas emissions — he overlooks the fact that the U.S. will likely have to pay more than that in the long run as climate change-fueled disasters continue to strike American soil. In Puerto Rico alone, the damages from recent hurricanes were estimated at $95 billion, and that doesn’t take into account the cost of reconstruction.

Letter sent to @POTUS last saturday asking for more access to federal funding for relief and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.

— Ricardo Rossello (@ricardorossello) October 9, 2017

This is just one event, in one small part of the United States. Futurism followed entrepreneurs Elon Musk and Richard Branson as they stepped in to restore electric power in Puerto Rico and support long term reconstruction in the Caribbean, but there is only so much that individuals, albeit powerful ones, can do.

It’s time for Americans to “bundle up” and enjoy a colder-than-usual New Year’s Eve. But it’s never a good time to mix up weather and climate, because the latter is a killer.

The post It Doesn’t Matter How Cold it is Today. Global Warming is Killing People. appeared first on Futurism.

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Electrek Podcast: Tesla pickup truck, Model 3 by the hundreds, what to expect in 2018, and more

This week on the Electrek Podcast, we are discussing the most popular news in the world of sustainable transport and energy, including Elon Musk confirming Tesla pickup truck plans, Model 3 vehicles flowing out of Fremont factory by the hundreds and what we expect in the EV and renewable energy world in 2018.


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Hyundai IONIQ Plug-in will take you 29 electric miles for $20K after incentives

It has been almost a year since we reviewed the very capable Hyundai IONIQ Electric. As a refresher, this is the most efficient EV on the US market at 136 MPGe and the only model more efficient than the Tesla Model 3.

The problem, or recurring theme in a broader sense, is that it is almost impossible to get your hands on the all-electric version if you live outside of California even though the hybrid version is all over the country. This is because it is a compliance vehicle.

What could have been good news this week is that Hyundai finally announced the Plug-in Hybrid version price (along with EV only range moving from 27 to 29 miles). But not all Plug-ins are created equal…


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CES 2018: dates, news, rumors and predictions for tech’s biggest show

CES 2018 is almost here, with the first CES-affiliated events taking place shortly after January 1. That means you’ll want to ring in 2018 (Happy New Year, by the way!), then quickly turn your attention to host city Las Vegas and our coverage of the biggest tech show on Earth.

The official CES 2018 dates are January 9 though January 12, though, as was the case this year, these are preceded by two days of press-only events. January 7 and January 8 are jam-packed with press conferences and previews, meaning there will be a veritable ton of new-tech news washing over you well before the CES show floor even opens.

[Update: Smart speakers are already an early theme of CES 2018 as LG has announced the ThinQ Speaker ahead of the conference. It’s basically a Google Home made by LG, but it may be even better than Google’s own offering. With premium sound touted as a key feature, we’ll get a listen of the ThinQ in when we hit the CES 2018 show floor. Look for pricing and availability details to be revealed then as well.]

CES 2018 will see tech companies from around the world, large and small, flock to the cavernous halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center, as well as other locations around Sin City. On stages and in booths so bright they hurt your eyes, the likes of Google, Samsung, LG and Sony will show off their latest innovations and tease new tech to come. That’s not to mention the likes of Lenovo, Toyota and Dell, which also have plans for the show. 

CES, which stands for the Consumer Electronics Show, has lost a bit of its luster in recent years as manufacturers have opted to hold individual press events staggered throughout the year (à la Apple) as opposed to elbowing for exposure at an international trade show. 

But the hustle and bustle is all part of the excitement, and CES 2018 will surely feature must-see gadgets, futuristic self-driving cars and sneak peeks at innovations that could change the tech world as we know it. If you can dream it, chances are there is someone at CES 2018 who has turned it into a reality.

Unfortunately CES isn’t open to the public, but don’t worry. The TechRadar team will be on the ground in Las Vegas to bring you all the latest news and first-look hands on reviews, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out (we promise!)

Read on for the latest CES 2018 news and rumors, as well as our top predictions for what some of the biggest companies will bring to Las Vegas in the New Year.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The biggest consumer technology show on the planet
  • When is it? Jan 9 – Jan 12, with press-only events happening Jan 7 and Jan 8
  • What’s on show? Everything from 8K televisions and connected fridges to laptops and self-driving cars

Google at CES 2018

Will a new Google product join the family in Las Vegas?

Google is apparently planning quite the presence at CES 2018 with a large booth and eight hospitality suites to showcase … well, that’s the question, isn’t it?

As spotted by Chrome Unboxed, Google Inc. will have a big, standalone booth prominently placed in the outdoor Central Plaza of the Las Vegas Convention Center. This is in addition to the eight suites Google Hardware has reserved at the Aria hotel. 

While Google is typically present at CES tangentially via its third-party hardware partners, the company is stepping out from behind the curtain during next year’s show in a big way.

This could mean a couple of things. One, it seems highly likely that Google wants to give conference-goers an up-close look at its products, including the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones, Google Home Mini smart speaker and the new Daydream View VR headset. The whole Made by Google family is gearing up for a Vegas vacay, if you ask us.

But it’s also possible that Google will showoff something new considering it’s going all out for the show. As Chrome Unboxed speculates, we could be in for new Chromebooks to follow up the well-received Google PixelBook. We could even see Chromebooks that take on a whole new form factor, such as ones that transform into tablets with detachable screens. 

Whatever Google has planned, this is an exciting addition to the CES 2018 lineup. When the major players come to Las Vegas, there’s usually pay off in the form of exciting news.

Samsung at CES 2018

Samsung is always a big focus at CES, and for good reason. The tech giant typically unveils a number of devices (not counting its updated line of smart washing machines, refrigerators and dishwashers), and sometimes shows off hardware that’s a little bit out there. 

Two years ago, it was a bendable TV. At CES 2018, it could be a bendable phone. 

Whispers are circulating that the Galaxy X, Samsung’s rumored foldable smartphone, could debut at CES 2018. 

As Forbes notes, the timing would be a bit odd since, unlike MWC in February, CES isn’t a major phone show. However, it would also be a prime opportunity to show off a completely new device to an international audience. Samsung did unveil the Galaxy A3 phone at CES 2017, so there’s some precedent. 

What’s more, Samsung originally debuted its bendable display tech at CES 2013, so it’d be fitting to unveil the culmination of five years’ development in a consumer-ready bendable phone at CES 2018. 

Samsung’s mobile boss has said the company is targeting a bendable phone launch in the New Year. Unveiling the Galaxy X in early January could be the first step towards a full-blown release later in 2018. 

The waters were muddied a bit when a leaked model number seemingly belonging to the Galaxy X turned out to be for a different phone. This could mean the Galaxy X won’t launch as soon as we’d hoped.

Something it will be showing off at CES though is its recently announced Samsung Galaxy A8, which appears to be a more affordable Galaxy S8.

Galaxy S9 at CES 2018 – will we see it or not?

Samsung’s potential CES mobile plans don’t end there. We could be in for an early look at the Samsung Galaxy S9 during the show – or not. Let us explain.

Notable leaker Evan Blass reported that the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus could make a cameo at CES 2018. That would obviously be big news … even if the design of the new phones is iterative and not innovative.

However, on December 6, a report surfaced quoting a Samsung representative saying “it is unlikely” the company will bring the Galaxy S9 to CES. The wording is a bit vague, and perhaps intentionally so. This could mean we won’t see the Galaxy S9 until a potential launch in March, or perhaps Samsung will decide to bring the next-gen phone after all. Or bet? Samsung will hold off launching the Galaxy S9 until after CES 2018. 

Prepare for Samsung’s latest TV tech at CES 2018

In addition to the potential new Galaxy phone unveilings, Samsung could also show off a gigantic 150-inch TV. This would be no ordinary TV, as TweakTown reports, because it would feature MicroLED tech. 

This screen tech essentially has the LED elements engraved into the silicon substrate, according to the site. The substrate is so small that it acts as individual pixels. MicroLED is said to allow for greater pixel density, less power draw and the elimination of image burn-in. All good things for TV owners.

We also expect Samsung to announce new wearables, either on its own or in partnership with others, new Galaxy Tab tablets, new laptops, and, of course, new TVs. There’s a good chance Samsung will update its QLED TV tech to the next generation (and maybe go for a new name, like QLED+). 

As for other home entertainment tech, Samsung has already shown off one device in the form of the NW7000 Sound+ soundbar, a 53.5mm-deep speaker that comes close to matching the thinness of modern televisions. 

Sony at CES 2018

In recent years Sony has used CES to focus on its audio and office lines, unveiling devices like new headphones and cheaper 4K projectors along with its latest Bravia TVs. 

The Bravia range always dazzles to go along with Sony’s other top-notch goods. So far, there’s nothing to indicate Sony will deviate from this script very much. We expect the next line of Bravias to feature OLED screens, which the Japanese firm only this year started producing again. 

Plus, listen up, audiophiles: there’s a good chance we’ll see a new high-res turntable from Sony at CES 2018. Because Sony is all about turning old-school audio tech into something amazing. 

We’ll find out all during Sony’s CES press conference, which takes place at 5pm PT on Monday, January 8 at the Sony booth.

LG at CES 2018

LG unveiled what might possibly have been the thinnest OLED TV ever at CES 2017. If you don’t remember the OLED W7 Signature Series TV, take a minute to watch the video above.

At CES 2018, look for LG to go for broke once again with its TV tech, which we’ll almost certainly see unveiled during its January 8 press conference at 8am PT. Though these screens are flat out expensive, you can’t deny how visually stunning they are. To put some numbers on it, CES 2018 should play host to LG’s next-gen 8-series OLED screens (B8, C8, G8 and W8).

LG also came to CES 2017 with some low- to mid-range phones, including the LG K10 2017 and LG Stylus 3, so we could be in for a few LG mobile surprises.

What would be even more surprising (but even better for flagship phone fans), is if a recent rumor that the LG G7 could launch in January comes true. The most obvious place for this to take place is CES 2018, and it could set up an interesting dynamic in the (unlikely) event rival Samsung shows off the Galaxy S9 as well.

As is its wont, LG has already spilled some of its CES 2018 news early. It’s unveiled a new smart speaker called the ThinQ, which is basically a Google Home manufactured by LG. One feature that could trump Google’s offering, however, is sound, though we’ll be the judge once we get a listen. Look for pricing and availability details of the Google Assistant-supporting speaker to be revealed during the show proper. 

LG also announced additional audio products, including a new soundbar, Bluetooth speakers and “all-in-one party machines,” which sound perfect for Las Vegas.

Rounding out LG’s CES offerings are likely updates to its home appliances (no brainer), 4K Blu-ray player, gram laptops and even its smart helper robots. In fact, LG has already unveiled its latest gram laptop update in the form of three new laptops

Dell at CES 2018

Dell gave TechRadar an early preview of its next XPS 13 laptop ahead of CES 2018, showing off the 13-inch Ultrabook’s incredibly thin design and pleasing aesthetics.

The laptop now features three USB-C ports, a Micro SD card slot, an Infinity Edge display and two colors – Alpine White and Rose Gold. 

Since a new laptop is typically Dell’s big reveal at the the show, the news we should expect at CES 2018 involves the 2017 Dell XPS 13’s full spec sheet, release date and price.

Lenovo at CES 2018

“Reality has never been so exhilarating.”

That’s the tag line for Lenovo’s CES 2018 event, taking place on Tuesday, January 9 at 11am PT. The company has sent around save the date invites to the gathering, which it’s billing as a launch event. Interestingly, Lenovo says it plans to “announce our latest innovations with Google, Qualcomm and Microsoft.”

Our best guess is that Lenovo plans to launch its Google Daydream headset during CES 2018. Now that HTC has dropped out of making one, Lenovo is the only partner Google has lined up to release a standalone VR headset that runs the Daydream platform. 

Lenovo’s invite says we’ll “see and experience the world in new ways,” which also jibes with the launch of a VR headset that lets you move around unrestricted and doesn’t require a smartphone to run. 

All in all, we’re intrigued to see whatever Lenovo has planned, and we’ll be at the event live to bring you all the latest.

Cars at CES 2018

Observers are already keenly aware that CES has transformed more or less into a car show in recent years, and CES 2018 will only continue the trend. 

Fisker, for one, confirmed to The Street that it will reveal its newest electric car at next year’s show. Called EMotion, the car will cost $129,000 (about £98,000 / AU$165,000) and ships in 2019. Despite its high price, it’s expected to put Tesla on notice, especially since the EMotion has a reported range of over 400 miles.

Though its fortunes have turned for the worse, Faraday Future could look to recapture some of its early buzz with a big announcement at CES 2018. Toyota also impressed with its Concept-i self-driving car at the 2017 show, and the likes of Ford, Kia and Hyundai are sure to show up with news.

But it won’t necessarily be cars we see unveiled. Rather, deeper integration with smart speakers, like the Google Home and Amazon Echo, as well as the digital assistants in our mobile phones, could be what car makers have up their sleeves.

More can’t-miss tech at CES 2018

This is just a taste of the hundreds of companies that will travel from near and far to CES 2018. 

Other firms we expect to make a splash include Asus, Baidu, Dolby, HP, HTC, Huawei, Intel, Nikon, Nvidia, Panasonic, Razer, and many more. 

Who knows? We could see the next generation of HTC Vive, a gorgeous snapper from Nikon and new phones from Huawei all at CES 2018. 

Speaking of Huawei, the company’s Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu is scheduled to deliver a keynote address on Tuesday, January 9 at 2pm PT. Huawei is a company on the rise, and Yu will discuss Huawei’s strategies around connectivity, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and smart devices. Chances are, we’re in for a product reveal or two.

Prior to this, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich will deliver the opening keynote address on Monday, January 8 beginning at 6:30pm PT at Monte Carlo’s Park Theater. From the sounds of it, Krzanich’s keynote will focus on next-gen tech, including AI, 5G connectivity, self-driving cars and VR.

Nvidia has sent out invites for its CES 2018 press conference, scheduled for Sunday, January 7 from 8pm – 9:30pm PT at the MGM Grand. Nvidia always kicks off CES with an action-packed keynote, and we expect next year’s edition will be no exception as it dives into AI, self-driving cars and high-powered GPUs.

And a new addition to the upcoming show is the CES Sports Zone. Here, game-day tech will take center stage, from gadgets that boost athlete performance to the latest in fan-experience innovations, including AR and VR. If you’re into sports and tech, or just fitness in general, the Sports Zone will definitely be worth keeping an eye on.

The possibilities are endless, and we’ll keep this page updated as more news and rumors about CES 2018 roll in. 

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ProBeat: Eve-Tech is the most interesting startup of 2017


Countless tech startups break out in a given year. The majority fail. Of the ones that don’t, some are boring, some are copycats, and some are worth mentioning, but not necessarily highlighting. Just one startup stood out to me in 2017: Eve-Tech.

To be clear, Eve-Tech was founded back in December 2013 (see this timeline). But the Finnish startup only launched and started shipping its groundbreaking device, the Eve V, this year.

Eve V is described as the world’s first crowd-developed computer. I’m sure there’s another company that will argue and want to claim the title, but Eve-Tech has pulled off the feat successfully. The Eve V is a 2-in-1 detachable convertible (it can be used as a tablet and a laptop) meant to compete with Microsoft’s Surface Pro.

And it does. If you’re not looking for the most powerful device in its class (the specs in all of Microsoft’s Surface devices can be upgraded to the max, for a price) but rather are interested in “bang for buck,” then the Eve V nails it.

But Eve-Tech is not interesting because it managed to create a competitive device. That’s been done before and will be done again. Chinese startups in particular have become very good at building devices that outclass the competition at a lower price.

No, Eve-Tech is interesting because of the crowdsourcing aspect. Crowdfunding a new gadget is one thing, but crowdsourcing every specification? That’s something else. The Eve V was designed by 1,000 community members whose names are listed on the inside flap of every Eve V box.

Also, the Eve V doesn’t ship with any bloatware, just like Surface devices but unlike every other Windows 10 computer. This is a device you may actually want, as opposed to one you settle for.

The Eve V includes a few nice hardware touches. There’s a built-in fingerprint scanner, which is slowly becoming more common on laptops. The keyboard has seven backlight colors, which you can easily switch between using Fn+V. Oh, and the keyboard isn’t just detachable — you can use it wirelessly over Bluetooth. Tired of laptops with a single USB port? The Eve V thankfully has two.

That said, the Eve V certainly isn’t perfect. In fact, it has a few obvious drawbacks: the bezels are noticeably thick and the backspace button is stupidly labeled “oops!”.

Another example: Eve V is terrible for gaming. The community chose battery life over including a proper GPU. That said, the team encourages gamers to connect an eGPU via the Thunderbolt 3 port for those times when you do need the extra juice.

You can’t please everyone.

I, for example, don’t want a Surface Pro replacement. I want a 15-inch desktop replacement. Someone else wants the lightest laptop on the market while yet another wants the most powerful. And so on and so on.

But this is exactly why Eve-Tech is worth watching. Eve V isn’t a device that tries to please everyone — it’s a device that lets its community pick the compromises.

The big question is whether Eve-Tech will be a one-hit wonder. How many more devices does it make sense to build? How frequently will the original Eve V get updates, and how regularly can new customers expect a spec bump? When does it make sense to refresh what exists and when do you start from scratch?

Eve-Tech’s community has a lot more to decide.

ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.

The PC Gaming channel is presented by Intel®‘s Game Dev program.

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Odd sighting from SpaceX rocket launch leads to highway crash

SpaceX’s last Falcon 9 launch of 2017, which carried yet another batch of Iridium satellites into space, was particularly stunning. The launch was so visually spectacular, in fact, that it ultimately caused a three-car pileup on Interstate 10 in Beaumont, located roughly 80 miles east of Los Angeles.

The incident was caught on tape and shared on YouTube by Mark Sales, who was traveling on the highway with his family. In a dashcam video recording of the incident, Sales and his family could be heard excitedly talking about the aerial display, with people in the vehicle audibly wondering what it could be.

As could be seen in the video, several drivers on the highway seemed to have gotten transfixed by the event. Not long after, a mid-sized SUV braked suddenly, causing a compact sedan to slam on its brakes as well. Unfortunately, a crossover SUV was not able to slow down on time, causing it to violently slam into the sedan, which in turn crashed into the mid-sized SUV.

The impact from the accident was so violent that the compact sedan was totaled and thrown across the road and into another lane. The mid-sized SUV was also pushed to the curb due to the impact. Details about the crash remain unknown, however, as Sales opted to move along after the incident, seemingly as a way to prevent a possible traffic jam.

Rocket launches are always quite the spectacle, and SpaceX, which conducts missions fairly frequently, has managed to freak people out on more than one occasion. The aerial displays that ensue after that the launch of the private space firm’s rockets, for one, have managed to consistently grab the attention of people from all walks of life, from random bystanders to dedicated UFO enthusiasts.

Last Friday’s mission, however, was a little bit special. Due to the launch occurring around 30 minutes after the sunset, the exhaust plume of the spacecraft was illuminated at high altitude by the sun, resulting in an aerial display that could only be described as atmospheric art. The trails left by the Falcon 9 rocket were so prominent in the sky; even Hollywood stars took to Twitter to excitedly discuss the event, as noted in a Vanity Fair report.

Unsurprisingly, the spectacle also attracted several alien enthusiasts, many of which speculated on possible UFO sightings. True to form, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk decided to add a little joke to the ongoing discussions, stating that the lights in the sky were definitely caused by aliens. 

It was definitely aliens

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 23, 2017

Considering that SpaceX is preparing to launch the “world’s most powerful rocket” that will be carrying Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster into space, there is a pretty good chance that the trails it would leave in the sky would be even more prominent than the ones left by its smaller Falcon 9 siblings. In order to prevent a similar accident from happening, SpaceX would need to thoroughly warn everyone in the area about the massive rocket’s launch. Otherwise, more fun discussions about aliens, and other non-fun road incidents, might happen once more. 

The post Odd sighting from SpaceX rocket launch leads to highway crash appeared first on

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This Tesla DIY project shows that Aero Wheels can still look pretty cool

Aero Wheels are pretty much the auto equivalent of wearing sandals on top of socks. They’re very efficient and they make the ride pretty comfortable, but their aesthetics are somewhat questionable. Just recently, however, a Tesla Model S owner has come up with his own set of DIY Aero Wheel covers, and, apart from improving the electric car’s efficiency, they actually look pretty good.

Posted in the Tesla Motors Club, the Model S owner, who goes by the handle Evogreen, demonstrated how he was able to come up with a set of clear Aero covers for his EV. Evogreen’s project involved clear sheets of polycarbonate, four machined custom aluminum brackets and a set of retention plates.

Among these materials, the aluminum brackets, which hold the polycarbonate covers in place, were the most expensive, costing the Model S owner $1,000. The polycarbonate, retention plates and other hardware cost roughly $225, bringing the entire cost of the project to $1,250.

Overall, Evogreen’s project was quite costly, but it did render good results. The custom DIY Aero Wheels are practically invisible, and they work just as well as Tesla’s still-polarizing covers. The Tesla owner tested the benefits of the Aero covers, and much to his pleasant surprise, they really do work. Evogreen claims that the aerodynamic benefits of the wheel covers gave his Model S an improvement in range between 4.21 percent to 9.14 percent.

While Evogreen’s DIY project appears be a success, however, several members of the r/TeslaMotors subreddit have remarked that the Model S owner’s Aero design might end up with problems in the future. For one, Evogreen’s Aero Wheels cover the Tesla’s entire wheel, which, according to some members of the online community, might result in burnt brake rotors. Apart from this, the fully clear nature of the DIY covers might also end up attracting a lot of road gunk.

Homemade Tesla Aero wheel covers [Credit: Evogreen via TMC]

It is difficult not to admire the efforts of the Tesla owner, however. After all, range is incredibly pertinent in the electric car industry. This is one of the reasons why Tesla, during the first generations of its Model S sedan, introduced the Aero Wheels option for buyers. According to the carmaker then, the covers improve airflow to the EV’s wheels; hence, increasing range. Unfortunately, the wheels’ somewhat strange looks invited a lot of criticism from the Tesla community, and it was only a matter of time before they were discontinued.

With the release of the Model 3, however, Tesla’s Aero Wheels made a comeback. Unlike the Model S wheel covers of years past, the ones on Model 3 are arguably more aesthetically pleasing than their predecessors. And they can easily be removed

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SpaceX Falcon Heavy goes vertical with Musk’s Tesla as launch nears

After approximately half a decade of concerted and less-than-patient waiting, long-time followers of SpaceX have, for the first time ever, seen SpaceX’s first completed Falcon Heavy rocket roll out to the launch pad and go vertical at the same complex that hosted every single Apollo moon landing, LC-39A.

This is a historic moment in SpaceX’s history, even if it culminates in nothing more than a quiet rollout and roll-back to the historic pad’s integration facilities. For at least several years, it has been a running (lighthearted) joke within the fan community that Falcon Heavy is permanently six months away from launch. Outside of the rocket company’s supporters, however, that fan humor gained a heavier tinge, and Falcon Heavy essentially became the strawman with which SpaceX detractors could ream the company’s greater (and even relatively minor) ambitions as over-promised, unrealistic dreams to one day also become permanently delayed. While seasoned spaceflight journalists rarely partook in the Falcon Heavy bashing, pop journalism and the titans of the global launch industry certainly took advantage of the apparent weakness as the preeminent example of SpaceX’s tendency towards delays. Even SpaceX’s conservative supporters understandably saw the significance when two customers ultimately chose to move their payloads elsewhere due to Falcon Heavy’s relentless delays.

Falcon Heavy went vertical at LC-39A for the first time today! Here’s a few shots (taken through much haze) from Playalinda Beach.

— John Kraus (@johnkrausphotos) December 28, 2017

However, the reality was rather clear to those that followed the agile launch company and paid attention to the statements of its executive management, including CEO Elon Musk. Ultimately, Falcon Heavy was not a priority and was only ever going to capitalize upon a minority of the satellite launch industry, given the rarity of satellites heavy enough to need the massive vehicle. While Falcon Heavy would undoubtedly be invaluable for SpaceX’s grander ambitions of interplanetary exploration and transport, those ambitions simply did not compare in importance to solving Falcon 9 design and supply chain issues that caused the failures of CRS-7 and Amos-6. Nor were they more crucial than the launch company’s need for a stable cadre of trusting customers, simply upgrading the already-operational Falcon 9, or the perfection of first stage reusability – all of which would explicitly impact the utility of Falcon Heavy.

A panorama of LC-39A from late-November. Falcon Heavy will likely launch from this pad in January 2018. (Tom Cross/Teslarati)

SpaceX’s official July 2017 confirmation that Red Dragon had been cancelled further guaranteed that Falcon Heavy would only ever be a niche product, maybe even little more than a symbolic stopgap to fill a tiny industry niche and soothe delay-stricken nerves. SpaceX does have at least a handful of Falcon Heavy customers still hopefully awaiting its operational status, but it is quite clear that the company sees its value most as a method of both reassuring the world that its infamous delays are only temporary, as well as relatively economically fueling the development of a reusable super-heavy launch vehicle, expertise that would inevitably benefit the Mars-focused BFR as it too begins development. At a minimum, it will provide SpaceX’s launch, design, and manufacturing experts a sort of base of knowledge about building and operating rockets with ~30 or more first stage engines – the 2017 iteration of BFR is likely to sport 31. It’s also possible that Falcon Heavy could provide the margins necessary to allow SpaceX to attempt recoveries of Falcon’s second stage, a purely experimental effort that would feed directly into the development of the fully-reusable BFR upper stage the company hopes to build, BFS.

Thus, while Falcon Heavy’s inaugural launch may not be explicitly important to SpaceX’s near-term business strategy, it will in almost every way mark one of its first tailor-made steps towards Mars, perhaps both literally and figuratively. Rather humorously, SpaceX (or Elon Musk … probably just Elon Musk) has chosen to replace the boilerplate mass simulator often flown as a payload for inaugural launches of most launch vehicles (Falcon 9 included) with a rather unique mass simulator: Musk’s own first-generation Tesla Roadster. While it has yet to be specified what the specific destination of the second stage and Roadster are, nor what – if any – functional payload is to be included, Musk did suggest that the destination would be a “billion-year Mars orbit.” The nitpick here is hugely significant, as ‘simply’ launching the Roadster into a solar orbit at a similar distance to Mars (still an impressive accomplishment) would be decidedly less impressive than actually injecting the Roadster into orbit around Mars. Pictures released by SpaceX show no additional boost stages attached to the Roadster, so a Martian orbit would require Falcon Heavy’s second stage to coast in deep space for several months while generating enough power to prevent its propellant from freezing and maintain contact with ground control, especially in the rather likely event that SpaceX (and Musk) hope to acquire some rather absurd and iconic images from the inaugural launch and its space travels.


History and symbolism aside, it can now be said with utter certainty that Falcon Heavy is very real and is likely to launch very soon. The vehicle’s first-ever integrated rollout to Pad 39A is almost certainly intended only for “fit-checks,” a verification that the pad and brand new vehicle are meshing well together, but it is still the first time in the company’s history that FH visibly exists, and there can be little doubt that the photo opportunity was not taken advantage of. After fit checks are performed, likely over the course of a day or two, Falcon Heavy will be most likely be brought horizontal and rolled back into 39A’s integration facilities, where it will be prepared for its first full-up wet dress rehearsal (WDR) and static fire, possibly including the cautionary removal of the second stage and Roadster payload. Because the vehicle is inherently new, as are many of the upgraded ground systems needed to support it, bugs are highly probable along the road to launch. However, if the first WDR and static fire go precisely as planned, the first launch attempt can be expected to occur about a week later – maybe sooner, maybe later.

All things considered, SpaceX is clearly moving full speed ahead with Falcon Heavy’s launch preparations, and it seems highly probable that the company’s schedule will allow for January launch, even if minor issues mean that multiple WDRs or static fires are required. Elon Musk certainly hedged his bets earlier this summer by aggressively inflating the probability that Falcon Heavy fails on its launch pad, famously stating that a success in his eyes would be the vehicle clearing the pad without destroying LC-39A. In reality, SpaceX would not in a million years haphazardly risk the destruction of Pad 39A, and the company is almost certainly quite confident that the pad is at most marginally at risk of severe damage. One thing that Musk cannot be criticized for is the argument that one way or another, Falcon Heavy’s inaugural launch will be a sight to behold. While the payload may indeed be heading to or towards Mars, SpaceX still plans to attempt recovery of all three of Falcon Heavy’s first stages: both side cores are expected to land almost simultaneously at LZ-1’s two landing pads, while the center booster will follow a parabola out into the Atlantic for a landing aboard the droneship Of Course I Still Love You, truly a spectacle to behold regardless of success or failure.

My capture of @SpaceX #FalconHeavy making her #39A debut today. Taken with my Nikon D3300 with 300mm lens from the Canaveral National Seashore Vista 8. I must admit I have enjoyed watching the reactions to seeing it on the pad. My reaction… WHOA @NASASpaceflight @lorengrush

— Julia (@julia_bergeron) December 28, 2017

Follow along live on Twitter and Instagram as our launch photographer Tom Cross documents Falcon Heavy’s last steps along its journey to first flight, as well as Falcon 9’s imminent launch of the mysterious Zuma payload, currently NET January 4.

Cover photo courtesy of spaceflight fan and photographer Richard Angle. Follow him on Instagram at @rdanglephoto!

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Verne Troyer just got a Tesla Model S for Kids and says it’s a beast

Among the Tesla-related merchandise that has been released over the years, very few could compete with Radio Flyer’s Tesla Model S for Kids. The electric miniature vehicle has been a hit among Tesla enthusiasts, mainly due to its features and its similarity to the actual Model S. Just recently, Verne Troyer, one of Hollywood and YouTube’s beloved stars, shared a video of himself unboxing and test driving the ridiculously cool miniature car. Needless to say, it was pretty epic.

Verne Troyer has made a name for himself by starring in several successful film franchises such as “Austin Powers,” where he played the part of Mini-Me in “The Spy Who Shagged Me.” He also played Griphook the Goblin in the blockbuster film “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Troyer has since appeared in many movies and TV shows, though currently, the Hollywood star has been busy maintaining his YouTube channel for his almost 400,000 subscribers, where his trademark wit and humor became his brand.

Troyer’s recent Model S for Kids video featured all of the humorous antics his social media followers have come to expect from the Hollywood veteran. At the start of the video, Troyer, who stands at 2-feet-8-inches, remarked that the miniature EV’s box was far too huge and heavy for him to move. Not long after, Troyer began his “unboxing” of the Model S for Kids, where he gave a surprisingly complete rundown of the miniature vehicle’s features.

During the course of the video, Troyer showed off the miniature car’s frunk, Tesla-branded charger, and its battery pack. The Austin Powers star also took special notice of the Model S for Kids’ dual power mode, which allows users to select between a low-speed setting that goes 2.5 – 3.0 mph and a high-speed mode that manages 5.5 – 6.0 mph.

True to his witty nature, Troyer selected the miniature vehicle’s high-speed mode, telling the camera that he was a “Speed Demon.” He then began a quick demonstration of the car’s performance, showing off its acceleration and drifting capabilities. By the end of the video, Troyer could be seen driving away on his miniature Tesla, giving the cameraman the same salute he gave as Mini-Me way back in “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.”

Overall, Troyer’s recent YouTube video has been a huge hit, gaining thousands of likes and hundreds of positive comments soon after it was uploaded. In the r/TeslaMotors subreddit alone, hundreds of Tesla enthusiasts thanked the Hollywood star for his light-hearted, feel-good YouTube video. Some even encouraged Troyer to put several modifications to his miniature car, such as rubber wheels and an upgraded electric motor.

The Tesla Model S for Kids is arguably one of the most interesting pieces of merchandise that are affiliated with the iconic electric car maker. The miniature vehicle is fully featured with functioning lights, an audio aux system, a functioning frunk, and a charging system that is an impeccable replica of the one found in the full-sized Model S. Recently, Radio Flyer, the company which manufactures the vehicle, even released an updated version of the mini electric car, featuring the Model S’ facelifted design.

The Model S for Kids is currently available at Tesla’s online store for a pretty reasonable price of $499.00. 

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy payload fairing spotted ahead of its maiden launch

By now, we know Elon Musk wasn’t joking when he announced that the maiden flight of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket would feature his very own Tesla Roadster as its first payload. Just recently, images of the electric car being installed inside the payload fairing of the massive rocket emerged online. Now, a new picture has been shared on Twitter, seemingly depicting the FH’s completed fairing as it was being transported inside a hangar in NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The image tweeted by Emiliano C. Diaz de Leon, who snapped the photo during a bus tour of the facility. According to Diaz de Leon, he and his family were fortunate enough to get a good glimpse of the Falcon Heavy’s payload fairing when the space center’s bus tours stopped by the SpaceX hangar. It was then that he was able to snap a photo of the Falcon Heavy’s second stage.

[Credit: @ECDiazdeLeon via Twitter]

Falcon Heavy is SpaceX’s most ambitious rocket to date, designed to carry heavy payloads. Its maiden mission, sending the SpaceX founder’s Tesla Roadster to space, is expected to be conducted sometime around January 2018. Other details of the upcoming launch, however, such as its official time and the rocket’s designated pad, have not been released.

Elon Musk’s Midnight Cherry Roadster inside Falcon Heavy ready for its Mars-bound journey. [Full gallery]

In true Elon Musk fashion, several interesting items would be sent with the Tesla Roadster to space. According to the SpaceX CEO, the electric sports car would be accompanied on its final journey by a copy of Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” a towel, a sign that reads “Don’t Panic,” and a track that plays David Bowie’s iconic chart-topping track, “Space Oddity.” These items, together with the Roadster, would likely be sent to deep space, where it would hopefully enter Mars orbit. 

We got a sneak peek at @SpaceX #FalconHeavy rocket while taking the bus tour. #SpaceX

— Emiliano C. Diaz de Leon (@ECDiazdeLeon) December 26, 2017

With the most recent sighting of the Falcon Heavy’s payload fairing in mind, all signs seem to be pointing to the idea that SpaceX is already assembling both stages of its largest and most ambitious rocket. As revealed in a series of image updates by Elon Musk, the majority of the Falcon Heavy is already at Cape Canaveral, FL, and all three of its first stages have been mated together. Considering that the payload fairing has been spotted as well, the Falcon Heavy might be ready for some real testing soon.

The Falcon Heavy holds the potential to be a true game-changer in the commercial space industry, with its first stage being made up of 27 Merlin engines from three Falcon 9 cores. According to SpaceX, the configuration will allow the rocket to generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, the same thrust as fifteen 747 jumbo jets at full throttle. The Falcon Heavy is also capable of transporting more than 140,000 pounds of cargo, which is more than twice the payload capacity of the Delta IV Heavy rocket, the FH’s closest competitor.

SpaceX initially unveiled the Falcon Heavy back in 2011, with a tentative 2013 maiden launch date. Due to a series of issues with several Falcon 9 rockets, however, the debut of the Falcon Heavy was continually pushed back. Nevertheless, despite being several years late from its initial 2013 estimate, the Falcon Heavy’s imminent launch this January 2018 definitely seems to be well worth the wait.

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