This week SpaceX posted two new jobs for “offshore operations engineers” in Brownsville, Texas.
- Elon Musk, who founded the aerospace company in 2002, all but confirmed in a tweet on Tuesday that the jobs are to help build “floating, superheavy-class spaceports” for its next-generation Starship vehicle.
- Ocean-platform launches as a concept is not new, as Musk first detailed SpaceX’s in October 2017. A company called Sea Launch also demonstrated the idea in March 1999 with an orbital rocket launch.
- Safety is likely driving the work, since SpaceX’s new launch system may carry about 9 million pounds of liquid fuel and would create sonic booms when its Super Heavy boosters or Starship spaceships land.
It’s no secret that SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk in 2002, wants to launch and land its next-generation Starship rocket system over water.
One of the first detailed mentions of the plan emerged during an October 2017 talk Musk gave , in which he updated the world on SpaceX’s plans to build cities on Mars and populate them with a million people or more.
During the presentation, Musk shared a video of Starship (then called the Big F—ing Rocket) rocketing passengers from an ocean platform near New York City, then landing them 39 minutes later on a similar floating spaceport near Shanghai. Musk called the high-speed transportation concept ” Earth to Earth .”
However, plans to actually build ocean launch platforms seemingly lacked teeth for years. That is, until this week: when the aerospace company posted two jobs for engineers who will help “design and build an operational offshore rocket launch facility.”
Neither posting mentions “Starship,” but both are located in Brownsville, Texas. The city sits about 30 minutes west of the state’s southeastern tip, which is where SpaceX is building and testing Starship rocket prototypes (sometimes to explosive effect ) amid a community of retiree-age homeowners called Boca Chica Village .
Business Insider first saw the job listings in a tweet by user “Cowboy” Dan Paasch, who lives in Forth Worth and follows SpaceX’s activities. Musk later quoted a tweet by another user about the job postings.
“SpaceX is building floating, superheavy-class spaceports for Mars, moon & hypersonic travel around Earth,” Musk tweeted on Tuesday.
Musk: Starship ‘not subtle’ when it launches or lands, necessitating a floating spaceport
spacex starhopper starship nasa saturn v apollo mk1 height comparison graphic illustration chartSamantha Lee/Business Insider
The concept of ocean-platform launches is not new. A company called Sea Launch, for example, first launched an orbital-class Zenit rocket from a platform in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in March 1999 . (The company used to be managed by Boeing but is now owned by a Russian airline .)
Though SpaceX lacks operational experience launching rockets from ocean platforms, it has landed more than four dozen first-stage rocket boosters the most expensive part of a launch system, given the numerous complex engines attached to their base and landing them on drone ships. The boosters are then refurbished and reused, saving SpaceX millions of dollars per use and allowing the company to be price-competitive.
When a Twitter user brought up Sea Launch and its Zenit rocket, Musk responded : “Zenit is an order of magnitude smaller than Starship system & doesn’t come back & land.”
Now it seems SpaceX is ready to make the leap, with safety as a driving factor.
Homeowners who attended a private meeting with Musk in September 2019 told Business Insider that the entrepreneur described long-term plans to move away from land-based launchpads and instead use offshore platforms near Boca Chica Beach to fly Starship with less risk to the ground.
Starship is divided into two sections: the first-stage Super Heavy booster, which may stand about 22 stories tall, and the upper-stage rocket ship called Starship, which Musk said could ferry up to 100 people to Mars at a time (though presumably more in an Earth transportation design).
spacex starship mars rocket rendering illustration launch flying earth orbit boca chica texas youtube september 2019 00003SpaceX/YouTube
A fully stacked Starship-Super Heavy vehicle could weigh more than 9 million pounds, mostly in fuel, and each section returning to Earth would create deafening sonic booms, perhaps three times per day per rocket, or 1,000 launches per year .
“We need to be far enough away so as not to bother heavily populated areas. The launch & landing are not subtle. But you could get within a few miles of the spaceport in a boat,” Musk tweeted on Tuesday, adding that a jet-powered Incat ship may be suitable for land-to-platform transportation.
A crash program to develop Starship in South Texas
spacex illustration starship spaceship moon lunar surface landing artemis program nasaSpaceX
SpaceX is currently in the midst of a crash program to develop Starship into a safe and fully reusable launch system.
If it works as Musk envisions, the system could launch several times a day unheard of in this history of spaceflight and reduce the cost-per-pound to launch something to space by 1,000-fold or more.
To that end, Musk has told his staff to make Starship ” the top SpaceX priority ” and has enlisted about 1,000 staff to work on a production facility for the vehicle in Boca Chica what the CEO sees as the key to making a viable, low-cost system. The company expects the vehicles to fail during tests at its private spaceport, and they often do, but Musk thinks SpaceX may be ready to fly to orbit by the 20th version or so .
SpaceX also recently won a NASA contract to develop Starship into a lunar-landing vehicle. The company also aims to fly Japanese fashion billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon in 2023 , then fly the first people to Mars in 2024, Musk reconfirmed in a June 4 tweet .
Amid that work, SpaceX is hoping to get its high-speed Earth transportation system up and running. The ultimate goal with the scheme may be to replace grueling long-haul airplane flights perhaps to the tune of 1 million to 15 million per day Caryn Schenewerk, the senior legal counsel for SpaceX, said in January at the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 23rd annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference .
“There will be many test flights before commercial passengers are carried,” Musk tweeted on Tuesday. “First Earth to Earth test flights might be in 2 or 3 years.”
Xbox App May Come to Smart TVs in the Next 12 Months: Phil Spencer
Xbox app may come to smart TVs in 2021, head of Xbox Phil Spencer shared during an interview with The Verge. Microsoft is working on bringing its game streaming service — xCloud — to mobile phones and it seems like the company already has plans on implementing something similar with smart TVs. While Spencer did not share exact details about the app, Xbox chief last month hinted that the company could be working on TV streaming sticks for its xCloud gaming services.
Phil Spencer spoke with The Verge about the new Xbox consoles and the future of gaming, and shared that an Xbox app or something on those lines will make its way to smart TVs in the next 12 months. “I think you’re going to see that in the next 12 months. I don’t think anything is going to stop us from doing that,” the report quoted Spencer as saying.
Looking back at CRT TVs that project an image on the back of a piece of glass, Spencer mentioned that TVs nowadays are like game consoles stuffed behind a screen with “an app platform and a Bluetooth stack and a streaming capability”.
According to Spencer, watching Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and other streaming services is one of the primary things that users do on their consoles. Talking about changes in technology, the head of Xbox said, “I think you’re absolutely right, there will be winners and losers and things that evolve and get combined together. What I’m saying is the amount of compute capability in my home has increased with the number of streaming signals that have come in, not decreased. I think gaming will be one of those things as well”.
Back in October, Microsoft hinted at TV streaming sticks for its xCloud gaming services. At the time, Spencer stated that there may be low-price hardware in the Xbox ecosystem, referring to devices that can just plug into a TV and run games via xCloud.
Microsoft is working on bringing a stable version of its xCloud game streaming service to mobile devices. As of now, it is available in beta on Android with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and brings over 100 games to a mobile device.
Facebook and Instagram are getting Vanish Mode in chats
Ten days ago WhatsApp got Disappearing Messages and now the other two apps with messaging abilities in the Facebook family are adopting it. Both Messenger and Instagram will get Vanish Mode which will delete messages upon closing the conversation window.
Vanish Mode is activated with a swipe from the bottom of the chat. Once a message is sent, it will stay on the screen until it is turned off or the app is switched. Of course, you can always screenshot the message before it disappears.
The new feature will work both in group chats and personal conversations. While they are instantly disappearing, Facebook revealed conversations can be reported, meaning they will remain in the system for up to 14 days, so they are not instantly deleted.
Such features aren’t entirely new in the Facebook universe – there still is “Secret Conversation” for Messenger but it is rather tedious to set up and use and nobody has the time for that. Instagram also has something of a disappearing feature – currently, photos can be sent and set up to disappear once seen but nothing on messages unless you Unsend them.
Kuo: New iPhone SE unlikely to be announced in the first half of 2021
Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is out with a new investor note today in which he says that Apple is unlikely to release a new version of the iPhone SE until the second half of 2021 at the earliest. This comes as the iPhone SE introduced in April continues to sell well and as Apple focuses on the iPhone 12 lineup.
Today’s investor note from Kuo focuses primarily on the prospects of Apple supplier Genius Electronic Optical. The company is said to be relying on a new iPhone SE during the first half of 2021 to boost its growth, but Kuo says we shouldn’t expect such an announcement.
This would seemingly mean that, if an updated version of the iPhone SE is coming at all in 2021, we shouldn’t expect to see it until the second half of the year. Kuo has previously reported that a 5.5-inch version of the new iPhone SE would come in the second half of 2021 at the earliest as well.
Kuo also says in today’s research that the iPhone 13 is on track to be released during the second half of next year. This comes after a previous report from Kuo suggested that Apple has several improvements in store for the iPhone 13 camera.
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