Archive for August, 2020

Microsoft pursuing TikTok purchase by September 15th, may invite U.S. investors to deal

Microsoft has posted a statement today on its corporate blog that says it will continue discussions on a potential TikTok purchase in the U.S.. As a part of the statement, it says that it may invite other “American investors” to participate on a minority basis. The company says that this is a result of conversations between CEO Satya Nadella and President Trump. That is, basically, the ‘news’ here. Previous reports and our own digging pointed to the situation being totally in the hands of the White House, with Microsoft willing to make the buy but having roadblocks in the form of Presidential sentiment. If Satya has engaged Trump directly then there could be light at the end of this possibility tunnel after all. “Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J. Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States,” the statement reads. “Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.” Microsoft says that in any case their discussions about acquisition from ByteDance would complete no later than September 15th, 2020 and that it is keeping discussion ongoing with the President and the U.S. government. The purchase would cover TikTok operations in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand and would result in Microsoft owning and operating it in those markets. One region not mentioned here is India, which could provide an interesting future opportunity for both companies if this deal goes down. If Microsoft can position itself as a steward of TikTok it removes the data issue (if not the over-arching national tensions between China and India). Unsurprisingly, data and privacy protections ​make an appearance, with Microsoft assuring that “the operating model for the service would be built to ensure transparency to users as well as appropriate security oversight by governments in these countries.” “Among other measures, Microsoft would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States. To the extent that any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States, Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the country after it is transferred.” The historical here (if you can call it that because this whole thing has been the work of but a couple weeks tops) is that Microsoft is pursuing TikTok because ByteDance needs to divest it in order to keep it running in the U.S., one of its biggest markets. That need arose when the White House decided that it was important to make a stink about data sovereignty with relation to the China-owned network. Even though social services of many kinds including Facebook, Twitter, Google and others offer aggregate data in brokerages that can make deals globally, the opportunity to run up the anti-China flag and take aim at […]

SpaceX and NASA successfully return Crew Dragon spacecraft to Earth with astronauts on board

SpaceX and NASA have made history once again, successfully completing the crucial final phase of their Demo-2 mission for the Crew Dragon spacecraft, SpaceX’s first spacecraft made for human flight. This marks the end of this last demonstration mission, which flew NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station on May 30, where they remained for two months prior to making the return trip on Sunday. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon appears to have performed exactly as intended throughout the mission, handling the launch, ISS docking, undocking, de-orbit and splashdown in a fully automated process that kept the astronauts safe and secure throughout. This final phase included recovery of Behnken and Hurley at sea in the Gulf of Mexico using SpaceX’s GO Navigator recovery vessel, which went smoothly, with the capsule loaded onto Navigator around 3:18 PM EDT, and the hatch opened at roughly 4:00 PM EDT, and the crew exiting starting at around 4:06 PM EDT. There were a number of private vessels in the area (you can see them in the gif below), which is a violation of the security conditions, but SpaceX established a perimeter and continued, which is essentially the best they can do under these conditions. With the successful completion of this mission, everything should be in place to allow for the full certification of Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 as rated for human spaceflight according to NASA’s exactly standards – provided a final, thorough review of the entire mission from start to finish doesn’t reveal any remaining issues that need tidying up. Again, based on what we’ve seen, it looks like a more or less picture-perfect mission for Demo-2 from start to finish, so I wouldn’t expect any major barriers to certification. Note that this is also the first human splashdown in 45 years – when the final Skylab crew did that in 1974. SpaceX makes history with successful first human space launch That means that the next step for Crew Dragon is to begin regular service as America’s primary source of transportation to and from the Space Station . The first of its operational missions, designated Crew-1, is currently set to take place sometime in late September, and will carry three NASA astronauts and one JAXA astronaut to the station for a regular tour as crew members of the orbital science platform. This now also means that NASA will have control over its own transportation method for its astronauts (and astronauts from friendly nations) to and from the Space Station since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011. The Commercial Crew program was designed to provide just that, but rather than having NASA responsible for the launch and transportation spacecraft as with the Shuttle, it’s partnering with private companies to offer it commercial service for those flights – SpaceX is now the first to complete the testing and development program, and Boeing is in process of becoming a second commercial ride provider for NASA to rely on. NASA wants to […]