In today’s Bulldog wrapup of technology and science news:
- Elon Musk and SpaceX are searching for cause of the huge explosion that destroyed a rocket and a Facebook satellite
- Watch an extended video of the blast and fire
- Facebook launches “instant video” for Messenger
- Samsung reportedly to recall new phones
- Chinese regulators are reviewing Uber’s proposed merger with a rival firm.
- Explosion at SpaceX launch pad destroys rocket, satellite
A massive fireball and explosion erupted Thursday at SpaceX’s main launch pad, destroying a rocket as well as a satellite that Facebook was counting on to spread internet service in Africa.
There were no injuries. The pad had been cleared of workers before what was supposed to be a routine pre-launch rocket engine test.
- Video: Watch an extended video of the explosion fire at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BgJEXQkjNQ
SpaceX chief Elon Musk said the accident occurred while the rocket was being fueled and originated around the upper-stage oxygen tank.
“Cause still unknown,” Musk said via Twitter. “More soon.”
The explosion — heard and felt for miles around — dealt a severe blow to SpaceX, still scrambling to catch up with satellite deliveries following a launch accident last year. It’s also a setback for NASA, which has been relying on the private space company to keep the International Space Station stocked with supplies and, ultimately, astronauts.
SpaceX was preparing for the test firing of its unmanned Falcon rocket when the blast happened shortly after 9 a.m. at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The test was in advance of Saturday’s planned launch of an Israeli-made communications satellite to provide home internet for parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
A video of the explosion shows a fireball enveloping the top of the rocket. Moments later, the nose cone containing the satellite plunged to the ground, followed by more explosions.
Buildings four miles away shook from the blast, and a series of explosions continued for several minutes. Dark smoke filled the overcast sky. A half-hour later, a black cloud hung low across the eastern horizon.
- Facebook adds ‘instant video’ option to texts in Messenger
Facebook is adding an “instant video” feature to text messages within its Messenger app. This means users can send each other videos while they are textingin the app, in case words are not quite enough.
This is different from video calls, which have been available in Messenger since 2015. The latest feature is for those times when you don’t necessarily want to make a full-fledged video call, but find that a photo or text won’t do. Maybe you’re walking by a prolific street performer and want to share a video with a friend you’re texting, or share a baby giggle with your partner.
To send instant video, both you and the recipient have to have Messenger open. Tap on the video icon to start sharing real-time video.
- Report: Samsung to recall phones after explosion claims
Samsung will issue a global recall of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone as soon as this weekend after its investigation on explosion claims found batteries were at fault, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News.
Samsung Electronics refused comment on the report on Friday. It said it was conducting the inspection with its partners.
“We will share the findings as soon as possible. Samsung is fully committed to providing the highest quality products to our consumers,” the company said in a statement.
The company was due to hold a news conference later Friday about the findings of its investigation and plans for the Galaxy Note 7.
Samsung launched the Note 7 on Aug. 19 in some markets, including South Korea and the U.S. Shipments were delayed in South Korea this week for extra quality control testing after reports that batteries of some of the jumbo smartphones exploded while they were being charged.
- Chinese regulators reviewing Uber-Didi merger
Chinese anti-monopoly regulators are reviewing the proposed merger of ride-hailing service Uber Technology Ltd.’s Chinese operations with its biggest local competitor.
The Ministry of Commerce will look at whether the proposed tie-up with Didi Chuxing protects “fair competition” and consumer rights, a ministry spokesman, Shen Danyang, said Friday.
Uber, headquartered in San Francisco, and Didi announced Aug. 1 they would combine their China operations, ending a bruising battle in which both sides had spent heavily to attract riders.
Such anti-monopoly reviews are common for mergers or acquisitions in China involving foreign companies. Most are approved unchanged but business groups complain Beijing is using regulation to limit foreign access to promising industries.
Regulators have met twice with Didi Chuxing managers to review its operations, said Shen at a regular news briefing.
Didi Chuxing said it would acquire Uber China and operate it as a separate brand. In exchange, Uber said it will receive a 20 percent stake in Didi Chuxing that will make the American company its biggest shareholder. Uber founder Travis Kalanick will join the Chinese company’s board while Didi Chuxing founder Cheng Wei joins the Uber board.
No financial details were released, but the Chinese business magazine Caixin, citing unidentified sources, said the deal valued the combined company at $35 billion. That would make Uber’s share worth $7 billion.