In today’s Bulldog wrapup of science and technology news:
- Pokemon Go is a huge boost for Nintendo stock
- SpaceX launches space station docking port
- First virus-hunter in space heads to space station
- Netflix facing tougher times (plus a graphical view of its performance)
- ‘Pokemon Go’ doubles Nintendo’s stock price and market cap
The stock price of Japanese game maker Nintendo Co. has more than doubled since the launch of the wildly popular augmented reality game “Pokemon Go” on July 6.
Nintendo rose 14 percent in heavy trading Tuesday on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, closing at 31,700 yen ($300). The Kyoto-based company accounted for nearly one in four shares that changed hands on the TSE’s main board. The sharp rise has doubled its market capitalization to 4.5 trillion yen ($42.4 billion).
“Pokemon Go,” a smartphone app that uses Google Maps to overlay reality with Pokemon creatures, was developed by Niantic, a Google spinoff that Nintendo invested in last year. The game has yet to be released in Japan and the rest of Asia.
- SpaceX launches space station docking port for NASA
SpaceX successfully launched a critical space station docking port for astronauts early Monday, along with a DNA decoder for high-flying genetic research.
As an extra treat, the company brought its leftover first-stage booster back to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a vertical touchdown — only the second such land landing for an orbital mission and the ultimate in recycling. Twin sonic booms rocked the moonlit night, old shuttle landing-style.
“A really good day,” observed Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of flight reliability forSpaceX.
The cosmic double-header got underway as the unmanned Falcon rocket streaked upward through the middle-of-the-night darkness, carrying 5,000 pounds of food, experiments and equipment for the International Space Station. The orbiting outpost was soaring over the North Atlantic at liftoff.
It was SpaceX’s second shot at delivering a new-style docking port for NASA. The last one went up in smoke over the Atlantic last year, a rocket accident casualty.
NASA needs this new docking setup at the space station before Americans can fly there in crew capsules set to debut next year. SpaceX is building astronaut-worthy versions of its Dragon cargo ships, while Boeing — which makes these docking ports — is working on a crew capsule called Starliner. The pair would dock to this ring and another due to fly in a year.
The Dragon and its latest shipment are due Wednesday at the 250-mile-high outpost.
SpaceX brought its leftover first-stage booster back just a couple miles from where it lifted off eight minutes earlier. The company has now pulled off five vertical booster landings since December, three on an ocean platform and two on land. Employees at company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, cheered loudly and applauded when the 15-story booster touched down smoothly.
Koenigsmann said the booster looked to be in “excellent shape and probably pretty soon ready to fly again.”
SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk wants to refly his rockets to shave launch costs. The boosters normally are ditched at sea. The company hopes to launch its first recovered rocket this fall.
- First virus-hunter in space will test DNA-decoding device
The first virus-hunter in space is all set to conduct some cosmic, new DNA research.
Newly arrived space station astronaut Kate Rubins will attempt to complete the first full-blown DNA decoding, or “sequencing,” in orbit with a pocket-size device that should be delivered next week.
“We’re really interested in how this works in microgravity. It’s never been done before,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, four days after arriving at the International Space Station.
She said the benefits of DNA sequencing in space are huge. She noted it also could prove useful in remote locations on Earth.
The device will arrive at the orbiting lab on the next SpaceX delivery. Liftoff is scheduled for early Monday morning from Cape Canaveral.
Trained as a professional virus-hunter, Rubins traveled to Congo for her research before becoming an astronaut in 2009. She wore top-level biosafety suits for her work with Ebola, smallpox and other deadly viruses on Earth, but won’t need such extreme precautions when she fires up the device in space.
At the space station, Rubins will be working with harmless test samples: bacteria, a virus and a mouse genome.
“We’ve got a lot of safety folks on the ground making sure that nothing dangerous gets on board,” said the first-time space flier.
- Netflix facing tougher times as subscriber growth slows
Netflix is running into trouble as the internet video service wrestles with slowing U.S. subscriber growth and an ambitious international expansion amid stiffening competition.
The challenge came into sharper focus Monday with the release of Netflix’s second-quarter earnings.
Netflix only added 160,000 U.S. subscribers from April through June. That’s the lowest U.S. customer gain that the company has posted during that three-month period since splitting up its video-streaming and DVD-by-mail services five years ago.
Management blamed the disappointing performance on cancellations by subscribers facing price increases of as much as $2 per month with the expiration of a two-year rate freeze.