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‘Moving the goalposts’: Tensions between the world’s richest men racing to the moon

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Tensions between the world’s richest men racing to space is fuelling up.

NASA is accused of “moving the goalposts” in its favour towards Elon Musk’s SpaceX, after a protest from Blue Origin owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’

Bezos and Musk 

SpaceX was selected by NASA for its program to send people to the moon and handed $2.9 billion to develop its starship.

Originally in 2020, NASA selected three companies to compete for the contract – SpaceX, Alabama defense contractor Dynetics, and Blue Origin.

Blue Origin says NASA should have chosen more than one contract and is endangering America’s return to the moon.

“NASA has executed a flawed acquisition for the Human Landing System program and moved the goalposts at the last minute,”

  Blue origin said in a statement

“Their decision eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base, and not only delays, but also endangers America’s return to the Moon.”

NASA has said that future contracts to the Moon beyond this initial mission could be competed by other companies.

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McDonald’s hit by cyber attack – Here’s what’s been breached:

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McDonald’s has been McHacked

McDonald’s is the latest leading company to be hit by a data breach, exposing customers’ details.

The world’s largest fast-food chain restaurant confirmed cyber hackers have tapped into customer files.

The recent breach last Friday affects customers in South Korea and Taiwan, including e-mail, delivery addresses, and phone numbers.

The chain confirmed that it recently hired external consultants to investigate unauthorised activity on an internal security system, prompted by a specific incident in which the unauthorised access was cut off a week after it was identified, McDonald’s said.

Payment details have not been breached.

McDonald’s said it wasn’t asked for ransom, nor did it make any payment to the hackers.

Ransomware attacks have disrupted operations at leading companies around the world in recent months including the Colonial Pipeline Co. and meat supplier JBS.

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Christmas delays? ‘Challenging conditions’ causing shortages to your goods

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Experts are warning that consumers may begin to feel the pinch from rising shipping costs, as the price of transporting goods by sea skyrockets.

New figures show the transportation of a 40-foot steel container ship between Shanghai and Rotterdam now costs over $10,000, that’s a huge 547 percent increase on the average price.

Around 80 percent of the world’s goods are transported by ships, meaning the costs will be largely unavoidable for both consumers and businesses.

Toy importer, Gary Grant says “during 40 years in toy retailing he has never known such challenging conditions from the point of view of pricing.”

It’s believed the rise in costs is associated with a number of factors, from soaring demand to a shortage of containers, busy ports and a limited workforce.

The disruption to the shipping industry could lead to shortages in the lead up to Christmas.

An outbreak of Covid-19 in a province in southern China is causing congestion at the region’s ports.

Shipments have now been delayed… adding to the tensions within global supply chains, the knock-on effects could take many months to resolve.

This is the latest in a series of severe setbacks for the industry and experts says that problems in just one region can have ripple effects around the world for several months.

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Supersonic flights – Are you ready? | Ticker Original

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It’s the news about Boom supersonics that av-geeks have been waiting for since… well 2003. Why 2003? I’ll explain in a moment.

The leap of faith by US airline United is exactly what aviation startup Boom Technology needed to show the market it was onto a winner with its next-generation supersonic jet.

October 2003 was the last time the world saw a supersonic commercial airliner take to the skies, as the final Corcorde jet landed for the last time and British Airways and Air France retired their remaining aircraft.

The final Concorde flight from British Airways in 2003
The final Concorde flight from British Airways in 2003

It was the end of an era. The romantic super wealthy supersonic jetliner had been fictionalised as the jet of the future. But high fuel costs, low passenger numbers, and a deadly crash in Paris (even though it wasn’t the fault of the aircraft) sealed its fate.

So the decision by one of the world’s biggest airlines to purchase Boom’s new Overture aircraft is huge. Not just because of the delivery, but because of who is buying it. Traditionally, US carriers stick to what they know. Most of the time its Boeing, and sometimes Airbus, but mostly just to keep Boeing on its competitive toes.

“Boom’s vision for the future of commercial aviation, combined with the industry’s most robust route network in the world, will give business and leisure travellers access to a stellar flight experience.”

United CEO Scott Kirby

So for one of the old guard to place an order for 15 Overture jets is a really big deal. But is it a really good idea?

The Boom sales pitch

Before we tear the dream apart, let’s look at the promise from Boom and United.

Supersonic flight is when an aircraft travels faster than the speed of sound. 

At an altitude of 60,000ft (18,300m), that means flying faster than 660mph (1,060km/h). 

A typical passenger jet may cruise at about 560mph (900km/h) but the supersonic Boom Overture is expected to reach speeds of 1,122mph (1,805km/h) – also known as Mach 1.7.

That cuts the flying time over the Atlantic or Pacific literally in half. Something that helped Concorde become the aircraft of choice for busy businessmen.

There’s that great episode of Absolutely Fabulous, where Eddie and Patsie travel to New York and back in a day to buy a door handle, all thanks to the Concorde.

Eddie and Patsy flying to New York on the Concorde
Eddie and Patsy flying to New York on the Concorde

But for the rest of us, and those of us too young to take a keen interest in flash-fashion doorknobs, the Concorde was nothing more than a dream.

Denver-based supersonic developer Boom Technology is promising to bring back the era of supercharged flying.

Is the industry ready?

The flying public, sick of the ever tightening capacity of 737s or A320s probably love the idea of flying to their destinations faster, if it allows them to unpack their legs out of the vacuum seal and cut their journey times in half.

But as Boeing often reminds us, it’s airlines who buy passenger planes, not passengers. And with the price of oil reaching 100 dollars a barrel, efficiency, not speed, has been on the minds of aviation executives for the past 25 years.

A key challenge will be the logistics of sustainable fuel

Infrastructure burden

It’s one thing to create the supersonic jet of the future, it’s another thing to make it work. Boom says the supersonic Overture will be able to fly on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and be the first commercial plane to immediately reach net-zero carbon emissions.

Sounds great, except when you think of the logistics to make this happen. Not every aviation expert believes they can.

“Is there infrastructure in the pipeline and existing to ramp up the supply? if this plane takes off in 2029, that’s eight years away. Can we see the ramp up of sustainable aviation fuel and capacity to power this aircraft?” asks aviation journalist Joran Chong.

“I think there’s been a lot of advancements for stable aviation fuel plants in Europe and the US. The technology and science is coming up with more ways to produce sustainable aviation fuel. That’s the ambition, that’s the hope,” Jordan says.

Singapore Airlines A380s parked in a desert
Singapore Airlines A380s parked in a desert

The lesson from the A380

While Boeing was deciding whether to go for speed or efficiency before eventually deciding on the 787 Dreamliner, the US aircraft manufacturer was also in a semi culture war with Airbus over a simple question. Was the future of aviation about flying hub to hub, or flying point to point?

Airbus believed major airports were reaching capacity for available slots, and invested heavily in the double decker A380. Boeing believed future orders would more likely come from airlines wanting to fly more boutique routes for passengers, and opted for smaller aircraft. Airlines like Qantas who fly both the A380 and the 787 found it would be cheaper to put two 787s on the same route as an A380.

The A380 would suffer an untimely death for passengers. Not just because of COVID, but also because airlines just didn’t buy them, or fulfil the orders they thought they might need. While passengers loved the comfort and space of an A380, airlines found them tough to fill.

But might Boom have the opposite problem?

Boom promises to be carbon neutral
Boom promises to be carbon neutral

Speed v Space

While the Concorde looked stunningly stylish from the outside, the interior of the supersonic jet left a lot to be desired.

“It was a lot more like premium economy,” says Jordan Chong.

In order to fit as many people into the small aircraft as possible, the seats were far narrower than business travellers are used to today.

The tiny Concorde cabin has been described as “premium economy”

Which raises a key question for business travellers who might have to make a choice in 2029. Would you rather fly business class more comfortably, but on a longer journey? Or would you rather fly faster with no flat bed?

“The argument could be made that if you’re flying for only three to four hours, do you really need a lie flat seat given they are short distances? You’re paying for speed rather than comfort or amenity,” Jordan says.

Is there demand for supersonic travel?

Boom Technology seems to think so, but they need more than United to agree. After years of losses, it was only in Concorde’s final years that it began to make a profit for British Airways.

Today, wealthy travellers have many choices. From competitively priced Business Class and First Class fares, to the choice of their own private jets – a lot has changed since the Concorde left our skies.

Boom will begin tests flights of its Overture jets in 2026.

But for now, it’s still only a paper plane.

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