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FAA streamlines commercial launch rules to keep the rockets flying

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The FAA has published its updated rules for commercial space launches and reentries, streamlining and modernizing the large and complicated set of regulations. With rockets launching in greater numbers and variety, and from more providers, it makes sense to get a bit of the red tape out of the way.

The rules provide for licensing of rocket launch operators and approval of individual launches and reentry plans, among other things. As you can imagine, such rules must be complex in the first place, more so when they’ve been assembled piecemeal for years to accommodate a quickly moving industry.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao called the revisions a “historic, comprehensive update.” They consolidate four sets of regulations and unify licensing and safety rules under a single umbrella, while allowing flexibility for different types of operators or operations.

According to a press release from the FAA, the new rules allow:

  • A single operator’s license that can be used to support multiple launches or reentries from potentially multiple launch site locations.
  • Early review when applicants submit portions of their license application incrementally.
  • Applicants to negotiate mutually agreeable reduced time frames for submittals and application review periods.
  • Applicants to apply for a safety element approval with a license application, instead of needing to submit a separate application.
  • Additional flexibility on how to demonstrate high consequence event protection.
  • Neighboring operations personnel to stay during launch or reentry in certain circumstances.
  • Ground safety oversight to be scoped to better fit the safety risks and reduce duplicative requirements when operating at a federal site.

In speaking with leaders in the commercial space industry, a common theme is the burden of regulation. Any reform that simplifies and unifies will likely be welcomed by the community.

The actual regulations are hundreds of pages long, so it’s still hardly a simple task to get a license and start launching rockets. But at least it isn’t several sets of 500-page documents that you have to accommodate simultaneously.

The new rules have been submitted for entry in the Federal Register, and will take effect 90 days after that happens. In addition, the FAA will be putting out Advisory Circulars for public comment — additions and elaborations on the rules that the agency says there may be as many as two dozen of in the next year. You can keep up with those here.

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WhatsApp might soon let you make calls from its desktop app

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Video calls have increased due to the coronavirus pandemic, and companies such as Facebook and Zoom have taken full advantage of that. Earlier in the year, WhatsApp increased the group call limit from four to eight people. Now, it seems like the chat app will soon introduce the calling feature on its desktop app.

According to renowned WhatsApp sleuth WABetaInfo, the company has started creating the feature in one of its test builds. The under-development feature includes support for voice and video calls for both individual contacts and groups.

[Read: Google Assistant displays get a new UI, a dark theme, and more features]

Screenshots posted by WABetaInfo suggest that when you’ll call someone through the WhatsApp desktop app, a new window will open up with controls to manage the call.

Credit: WABetaInfo
WhatsApp for desktop call window

It’s important to note that you can already make video calls to people through WhatsApp for desktop if you use the shortcut to create Facebook Messenger Rooms. However, the upcoming functionality will bank on WhatsApp’s own infrastructure to make calls.

Since it’s an under-development feature, we don’t know when WhatsApp will roll out support for calls on its desktop app. We’ll keep an eye out for you when this feature becomes available to everyone.

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Intel agrees to sell its NAND business to SK Hynix for $9 billion

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SK Hynix, one of the world’s largest chip makers, announced today it will pay $9 billion for Intel’s flash memory business. Intel said it will use proceeds from the deal to focus on artificial intelligence, 5G and edge computing.

“For Intel, this transaction will allow us to to further prioritize our investments in differentiated technology where we can play a bigger role in the success of our customers and deliver attractive returns to our stockholders,” said Intel chief executive officer Bob Swan in the announcement.

The Wall Street Journal first reported earlier this week that the two companies were nearing an agreement, which will turn SK Hynix into one of the world’s largest NAND memory makers, second only to Samsung Electronics.

The deal with SK Hynix is the latest one Intel has made so it can double down on developing technology for 5G network infrastructure. Last year, Intel sold the majority of its modem business to Apple for about $1 billion, with Swan saying that the time that the deal would allow Intel to “[put] our full effort into 5G where it most closely aligns with the needs of our global customer base.”

Once the deal is approved and closes, Seoul-based SK Hynix will take over Intel’s NAND SSD and NAND component and wafer businesses, and its NAND foundry in Dalian, China. Intel will hold onto its Optane business, which makes SSD memory modules. The companies said regulatory approval is expected by late 2021, and a final closing of all assets, including Intel’s NAND-related intellectual property, will take place in March 2025.

Until the final closing takes places, Intel will continue to manufacture NAND wafers at the Dalian foundry and retain all IP related to the manufacturing and design of its NAND flash wafers.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, the Dalian facility is Intel’s only major foundry in China, which means selling it to SK Hynix will dramatically reduce its presence there as the United States government puts trade restrictions on Chinese technology.

In the announcement, Intel said it plans to use proceeds from the sale to “advance its long-term growth priorities, including artificial intelligence, 5G networking and the intelligent, autonomous edge.”

During the six-month period ending on June 27, 2020, NAND business represented about $2.8 billion of revenue for its Non-volatile Memory Solutions Group (NSG), and contributed about $600 million to the division’s operating income. According to the Wall Street Journal, this made up the majority of Intel’s total memory sales during that period, which was about $3 billion.

SK Hynix CEO Seok-Hee Lee said the deal will allow the South Korean company to “optimize our business structure, expanding our innovative portfolio in the NAND flash market segment, which will be comparable with what we achieved in DRAM.”

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LG’s rollable TV finally goes on sale for $87,000

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LG has announced that its world-first rollable TV is finally going on sale, albeit in limited fashion. The 65-inch LG Signature OLED R is now available at seven consumer electronics store throughout South Korea and will cost 100 million won, or more than $87,000.

The Signature OLED R is built around a flexible OLED panel that LG describes with characteristic restraint as “the most innovative development in television technology in decades.” Because of its flexible nature, it can retract partially or fully into its base, adapting to different aspect ratios or hiding the panel completely when not in use.


“LG’s exquisite creation liberates users from the limitations of the wall, enabling owners to curate their living environment without having to permanently set aside space for a large, black screen that is only useful when turned on,” the company says in a statement. Buyers will be able to choose between four colors for the wool speaker cover, and the aluminum base can be personalized with an engraving.

Unsurprisingly for such an ambitious product, the Signature OLED R has faced a difficult path to market. LG Display first showed off a rollable TV prototype at CES 2018, and Bloomberg later reported that the display would make its way into a shipping product the next year. LG did indeed bring a commercial rollable TV to the next CES with plans to release it in spring 2019, but it never actually went on sale.

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