Daily Authority: SpaceX Starship explodes, Bezos, and more

Andreas Milano

⏳ Good morning! First, hello as always. Second, yesterday’s newsletter was longer than normal and while there’s always room to offer more insight, the MO here is short, sharp, and informative! I’ll toe that line as best I can… now, to the news!

SN9 = RUD

Following FAA approval (and FAA explanations as to why earlier attempts were held up) SpaceX’s ninth Starship test vehicle, Starship SN9, and its three Raptor engines, did everything* right in a test yesterday: 

  • We saw a successful liftoff from Boca Chica in Texas, the rocket reached its schedule 10km apogee
  • It then flipped and returned to earth, using fins and flap control, and got close to landing again. 
  • But yes, it did explode.

During the official SpaceX broadcast , regular narrator and SpaceX engineer John Insprucker, said “We’re preparing to restart two engines, flip the vehicle vertical and then transition to one engine for the landing burn.” 

  • The cause of the hard landing seems to be that of two Raptor engines expected to reignite, only one reignited, causing a hard landing where it blew up spectacularly. 
  • But such things can be considered a success, in the fast test-fail-learn approach from SpaceX. 
  • Besides, in SpaceX talk, it was a perfectly acceptable RUD (Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly), as Elon Musk once said.
  • “…we’ve just gotta work on that landing a little bit,” quipped Insprucker.

Here’s a few glimpses of what happened — first a stacked progression photo via johnkphotos at r/space:

spacex 1

And here’s a more close-up gif from r/wellthatsucks:

spacex 2

That’s SN10 you can see in the foreground. The SN9 explosion “did not impact SN10 or any of the Ground Support Equipment at the Tank Farm,” wrote NASASpacefilight.com.

Usually, we’d get some specifics from Elon Musk via Twitter, but he’s off Twitter for a bit. SpaceX tends not to release copious detail, leaving a lot of good speculation to occur:

  • How does SpaceX get from this SN9 flight, fully into orbit? CEO Gwynne Shotwell suggested last week at the Ramon Spacetech Conference (YouTube) that SpaceX would take the Starship (with a rocket booster attached) to space this year: “I believe we’ll be getting to orbit this year”.
  • Here’s a very long post on Reddit explaining theories for how that will happen during Q3 2021, once talked about as the original plan by Shotwell, and a really, really good post from a Space shuttle tile engineer explaining possible heat shield tile problems for Starship. SN10 has a greater number of heatshield tiles as testing continues.

SN10 next?

  • SN10 was expected to launch in February, although the FAA will, as normal, seek a standard investigation into the SN9 failure and risks to public and property.
  • Will it be third-time lucky for SN10? It’s already built and sitting on the launch/crash pad, so will SpaceX modify the design or the Raptor engines before the next test? Will the current Raptor engines, still in active development, get there in the end?
  • Starship SN11, SN15, 16 and 17 are all being built, too, as detailed here.

Roundup

🔨 Here’s the first-ever look at the HTC-made Pixel 2 XL that thankfully never was, with a truly bad design on offer. Google (rightfully) chose LG, and later bought out HTC R&D engineers (Android Authority).

🤯 Go read this insane deep dive into Huawei’s Harmony OS, which is as close to an Android 10 copy as could possibly exist. Scathing report but disagreeing with any of it is impossible (Ars Technica).

🆙 Oppo is thinking about a smartphone with truly odd camera design using prisms for selfies with the sensors facing upwards inside the phone. Haven’t figured out why: the reasoning of “easier 360 degree photo capture” seems too limited (Android Authority).

📁 Huawei’s next foldable phone is officially coming on Feb 22, with a key design change: an inwards fold (Android Authority).

😬 Review: Moto’s 2021 G Series just do the bare minimum, leading to obvious competition problems. Not bad, but better phones exist (Wired).

🍎 Korean media is reporting Apple will invest $3.6 billion in Kia Motors for Apple car production: Georgia, 2024 (MacRumors).

🔋 Also: Kuo says Apple car to use Hyundai’s E-GMP platform, General Motors and European manufacturer PSA partnerships possible (Apple Insider).

🍏 Apple is now selling refurbished iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max models, savings between $100-$170 (MacRumors).

📦 Jeff Bezos is stepping down as Amazon CEO later this year, but will remain chairman and isn’t retiring. This sets him up to worry less about minutiae and antitrust, and focus on his real passion: space. AWS CEO Andy Jassy will become Amazon CEO (aboutamazon.com).

📈 Amazon did very well in its earnings report, too, thanks for asking. How well? Its first $100B quarter (CNBC).

💩 Also: Amazon’s next headquarters “is a glass poop emoji covered in trees”. I …think it’s cool? (The Verge)

📈 Alphabet reported a 23% year-on-year jump in earnings too, lodging $56.90B, as more or less everyone paid for digital ads close to the holidays (Business Insider).

📉 Something interesting: Alphabet disclosed Google Cloud earnings directly for the first time, with huge operating losses of $1.2B in the quarter, and $5.6B lost in 2020. Why? Investing in data centers and its products, apparently. The scale of the losses vs Amazon AWS profits seems vast (Bloomberg).

📈 Even in scarce supply, Sony sold 4.5 million PlayStation 5s. Sony’s smartphone sales? Welp. (Android Authority).

🍄 One day, your home could be made with mushrooms (The Verge).

😬 A Netflix employee that leaked Nintendo’s live-action Zelda series killed the whole thing. Nintendo hates IP leaks (Engadget).

🕳 “If you dug a hole straight down to the other side of the earth, what would happen if you dropped something through it? (r/askscience).

Wednesday Weirdness

 

lego playlist

Weird album alert: Lego is offering the sound of bricks falling into each other (via ajournalofmusicalthings.com), and here’s the Spotify playlist (available on other platforms too) for the album called Lego White Noise:

  • Lego says this is designed to “help listeners find a moment of zen in their day, making it the perfect audio accompaniment for falling asleep, unwinding, or relaxing through Lego building.”
  • “Each Lego element makes a unique noise, which is why designers experimented with over 10,000 in their quest for the perfect soothing sounds. The result is a soundscape that includes tracks such as ‘It All Clicks’, which perfectly captures the joyous sound of two Lego elements joining together, and ‘The Waterfall’, created by pouring thousands of Lego bricks on top of each other.”
  • Seven tracks, each are about 30 minutes long, and most are sort of the gentle opposite of white noise, but more like Lego ASMR?

Peacefully yours,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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