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Richard Branson’s LauncherOne takes to the skies

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A mobile air-launched rocket system to be used in Britain’s first domestic satellite launch could sow the seeds for a globally dispersed rapid-response capability.

Virgin Orbit, part-owned by billionaire Richard Branson, plans to launch nine satellites from a LauncherOne rocket attached under the wing of a modified Boeing 747, to be flown from a new spaceport in Cornwall on Monday.

Barring delays, it will be the first time a satellite has departed from western European soil.

For now the focus is on commercial payloads from companies such as Space Forge, which is developing in-orbit manufacturing.

But the launch is also seen by many as a blueprint for quicker launches of limited satellite capacity for tactical military purposes, in what planners call “Responsive Launch”.

“Ukraine woke up the world in a lot of ways,” Virgin Orbit Chief Executive Dan Hart told a news conference in southwest England on Sunday.

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OpenAI to offer premium ChatGPT service

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OpenAI has announced a monthly plan that will give you priority access to the ChatGPT bot

ChatGPT Plus is set to cost $20/month, and allow a user the ability to use the chatbot even during peak times, where free users would have to wait.

The company also says the plan will give you “faster response times” and “priority access to new features and improvements.”

OpenAI will be sending out invitations for the service to people in the U.S. over the next few weeks, before expanding to other regions around the world.

This comes amid the company revealing that a mobile phone version of the chatbot is being developed.

Currently, it is only available as a computer program.

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Business

Meta stocks soar in ‘Year of Efficiency’

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Meta Platforms has announced a better-than-expected sales quarter, as well as a USD$40 billion stock buyback.

The parent of Instagram and Facebook cut its cost outlook for 2023 by $5 billion, and projected first-quarter sales that could beat Wall Street estimates.

Meta stock surged nearly 19% in after-hours trade.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg described the focus on efficiency as part of the natural evolution of the company, calling it a “phase change” for an organisation that once lived by the motto “move fast and break things.”

“We just grew so quickly for like the first 18 years,” Zuckerberg said in a conference call. “It’s very hard to really crank on efficiency while you’re growing that quickly. I just think we’re in a different environment now.”

The cost cuts reflect Meta’s updated plans for lower data centre construction expenses this year.

In November, the company cut more than 11,000 jobs in response, a precursor to the tens of thousands of layoffs in the tech industry that followed.

“Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘Year of Efficiency’ and we are focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organisation,” Zuckerberg said in a statement.

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Meet the world’s first flying motorcycle

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One way to avoid peak hour traffic is by flying over it, and it may be more affordable than you think.

 
Jetpack Aviation is testing the first legal bike to cruise the skies at its California facilities.

Dubbed ‘the Speeder’, it has eight small, powerful jet engines allowing the aircraft to carry up to 600 pounds and fly at a maximum 60 miles per hour speed for about 30 minutes.

Multiple sensors throughout the aircraft are able to detect and automatically avoid any obstacles, including buildings and trees.

The tick of approval for the Speeder is still years away, but pre-orders have already begun, with prices starting at $381,000.

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