Updated Apr. 18, 2017 at 2:32 p.m.

Tech wrap: NASA 360 video fails at launch; Fantasy sports die-off; Netflix nears 100M; first hybrid power system

Published: 2017-04-18 06:23:00
Updated: 2017-04-18 14:32:20

Bulldog

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

  • Oops - 360 view of NASA launch fails

  • Fantasy sports companies fold as legislative battle resumes

  • Netflix standing on the threshold of 100 million subscribers
  • California utility launches first hybrid power systems

The details:

  • Oops - 360 view of NASA launch fails

John Glenn's trailblazing legacy took flight Tuesday as a cargo ship bearing his name rocketed toward the International Space Station.

An Atlas rocket provided the late morning lift to orbit, just as it did for Glenn 55 years ago.

NASA's 360-degree video streaming of the launch — the first such attempt for a live broadcast — didn't go as well. Something went wrong moments before liftoff, and the video skipped over the actual rising of the rocket from the pad. NASA said it would try again, perhaps on an upcoming SpaceX delivery mission.

  • CONVENTIONAL VIDEO of the launch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7I78wLrWBmA

The commercial cargo ship, dubbed the S.S. John Glenn, holds nearly 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) of food, equipment and research for the space station. It's due there Saturday, two days after the arrival of two fresh astronauts.

NASA's shipper, Orbital ATK, asked Glenn's widow, Annie, for permission to use his name for the spacecraft, following his December death.

Glenn, an original Mercury 7 astronaut, became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. He launched again in 1998 aboard shuttle Discovery at age 77, the oldest person ever in space. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery two weeks ago.

"It's a great tribute to John to be able to take his name to orbit once again," said Frank Culbertson, a former astronaut who now heads Orbital ATK's space systems group.

Besides supplies, the capsule contains a banner showing Glenn in his orange space shuttle launch suit — it's the first thing the station astronauts will see when they open the craft — as well as memorabilia for his family. Because the launch was delayed a month by hydraulic problems at the pad and on the rocket, no Glenn family members were able to make it to Cape Canaveral, according to Culbertson.

Orbital ATK — one of NASA's prime delivery services for the space station, along with SpaceX — normally uses its own Virginia-based Antares rockets to launch its Cygnus cargo ships, named after the swan constellation. But it opted for the United Launch Alliance's bigger Atlas V rocket in order to carry up a heftier load. A new, larger greenhouse is flying up, along with equipment needed for a spacewalk next month.

"Looks like we nailed the orbit once again," said Vern Thorp, a manager for the rocket maker.

Online:

  • NASA: https://www.nasa.gov/
  • United Launch Alliance: http://www.ulalaunch.com/360.aspx
  • Orbital ATK: http://www.orbitalatk.com/

  • Fantasy sports companies fold as legislative battle resumes

The daily fantasy sports industry sharply contracted since the online games offered by companies like FanDuel and DraftKings sparked court and legislative battles across the United States last year.

More than two-thirds of companies that existed this time last year have shuttered, changed focus or joined with competitors, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, the industry's lobbying arm.

Among the most prominent examples is the proposed merger between the industry's two largest companies — Boston's DraftKings and New York's FanDuel. That deal, which was announced late last year, is currently being reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission.

At least three notable companies — Fantasy Aces, FantasyHub and FantasyUp — shuttered while still owing players money, prompting other operators to assume their assets and pledge to make customers whole.

Many smaller operators have also quietly folded. At peak last year, 118 member companies offered some form of paid daily fantasy sports, the trade association said. Of those, 81 are no longer offering contests or their status is unknown.

The legal chaos and uncertainty that befell the industry starting with the 2015 NFL season has driven away investors, making it impossible for many startups to continue to raise the financial capital to survive, said Peter Schoenke, the trade association chairman.

  • Netflix standing on the threshold of 100 million subscribers

Netflix is on the verge of surpassing 100 million global subscribers, a testament to how much the video streaming service has changed the entertainment landscape since its debut a decade ago.

The company will reach that milestone this weekend if its projections are correct. Netflix made the prediction Monday with the release of its first-quarter earnings.

The service added nearly 5 million subscribers during the first three months of the year, and will end March with 98.7 million customers in roughly 190 countries.

Over the past decade, "what really did it for Netflix was the explosion of phones and tablets that allowed people to watch video everywhere," said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. "But Netflix clearly had a vision before those devices became so ubiquitous."

About 51 million of Netflix's subscribers are in the U.S. By the end of this year, Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson expects the majority of the company's subscribers to be overseas. Netflix ended March with nearly 48 million subscribers outside the U.S.

  • California utility launches first hybrid power systems

A California utility has launched unique systems combining a hybrid battery and gas turbine to produce and store electricity for use during hot summer months and other times when power demand soars.

The new Hybrid Electric Gas Turbines are the first of their kind in the world, officials with Southern California Edison and manufacturer General Electric said during an event Monday near Los Angeles.

The new systems will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution by 60 percent and save millions of gallons of cooling water annually, Edison said.

There were no numbers on how much consumers might save. But officials said increased reliability and the reduced environmental impact will lead to significant cost reductions for the utility, which will be passed on to customers in the form of lower bills.

Edison President Ron Nichols said the twin systems that went online March 30 operate somewhat like a hybrid car — drawing first on the battery, then switching over to the gas turbine if power demands spike.

Energy output is combined between turbines and new 10-megawatt lithium-ion battery storage units. As a result, the systems do not burn fuel when they're on stand-by, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

WRAL TechWire any time: Twitter, Facebook

Copyright 2017 WRAL TechWire. All rights reserved.
Editor's Blog

Editor's Blog

The latest blog posts from our WRAL TechWire and WRAL editors. Read more articles…

Please Log In to add a comment.

Latest for Insiders