Posted Jun. 6, 2017 at 5:37 a.m.

Tech wrap: Alphabet tops $1K; Amazon Prime discount; SpaceX Dragon repeat visit (+ video); India's heavy rocket

Published: 2017-06-06 05:37:00
Updated: 2017-06-06 05:37:00

Bulldog

In today's Bulldog wrapup of science, technology and space news:

  • Alphabet (Google) joins Amazon in $1,000 stock class
  • Amazon offers Prime discount to those on government benefits
  • Space station welcomes 1st returning vehicle since shuttle
  • India hopes new rocket can carry humans into space

The details:

  • Alphabet (Google) joins Amazon in $1,000 stock class

Technology companies and banks bucked the downward trend. Google parent Alphabet closed above $1,000 a share for the first time.

Alphabet's stock surpassed the $1,000 mark less than a week after Amazon reached the same milestone.

The parent company of Google, along with the online retail juggernaut Amazon, are part of a small group of stocks belonging to companies that have shunned stock splits. Those splits make the stock more affordable and generate brokerage fees. But companies like Amazon and Alphabet have chosen to reward its long-term investors.

Shares of Alphabet Inc., based in Mountain View, California, gained $6.05 to $1,002.17 in early trading Monday.

  • Amazon offers Prime discount to those on government benefits

Online leader Amazon is offering a discount on its Prime membership for people who receive government assistance.

Amazon says customers who get benefits such as through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, can pay $5.99 per month for membership, which would include free shipping and unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Prime Video. The regular annual membership is $99 per year. But those who cannot afford to pay up front have to pay $10.99 a month for the same benefits.

Amazon's Prime program, with the perks it brings, has created strong habits among shoppers as competition is keen. Amazon says it wants to make the program more accessible. Walmart, which has the second-biggest share of online sales, has been trying to close the gap with Amazon.

  • Space station welcomes 1st returning vehicle since shuttle

The International Space Station welcomed its first returning vehicle in years Monday — a SpaceX Dragon capsule making its second delivery.

Space shuttle Atlantis was the last repeat visitor six years ago. It's now a museum relic at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer noted "the special significance" of SpaceX's recycling effort as soon as he caught the Dragon supply ship with the station's big robot arm.

"That's right, it's flying its second mission," Fischer said. "We have a new generation of vehicles now led by commercial partners like SpaceX."

[VIDEO: Watch the Dragon's return visit at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9eDjo34tJo ]

SpaceX is working to reuse as many parts of its rockets and spacecraft as possible to slash launch costs. The California-based company launched its first recycled booster with a satellite in March; another will fly in a few weeks.

The Dragon pulled up two days after launching from Florida. This same capsule dropped off a shipment in 2014. SpaceX refurbished it for an unprecedented second trip, keeping the hull, thrusters and most other parts but replacing the heat shield and parachutes.

Until their retirement in 2011, NASA's shuttles made multiple flights to the space station.

This new 6,000-pound shipment includes live lab animals: 40 mice, 400 adult fruit flies and 2,000 fruit fly eggs that should hatch any day. The mice are part of a bone loss study, while the flies are flying so researchers can study their hearts in weightlessness. Even more than mice and rats, the hearts of fruit flies are similar in many ways to the human heart, beating at about the same rate, for instance.

Some of these animals will return to Earth aboard the Dragon in about a month.

  • India hopes new rocket can carry humans into space

India successfully launched its heaviest-ever rocket on Monday which it hopes will eventually be able to carry astronauts into space, a feat that only Russia, the United States and China have achieved, its space agency said.

The Indian Space Research Organization said the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III rocket lifted off from India's space launch center in Sriharikota, an island off the coast of Andhra Pradesh state in the country's southeast, and placed a communication satellite into orbit.

The space agency's director, A.S. Kiran Kumar, said it is the heaviest rocket and satellite to be launched from India. The rocket is powered by an indigenous engine that uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as fuel, he said.

In the past, India has used French rockets to launch its heavier communication satellites.

Indian space scientists worked "relentlessly for decades and for this project since 2002 to successfully put the satellite into orbit," Kumar said. "This is a historic day for ISRO."

India hopes the launch of the satellite, which weighs 3,136 kilograms (6,914 pounds), will expand its commercial launch business.

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