It was a scene straight from a science fiction movie. A white, pencil-shaped rocket angling down through a hazy-blue sky, then gracefully touching down, amid billowing smoke. All on an automated drone-ship in choppy Atlantic seas. In that moment, Elon Musk reached a new milestone in his bid to dominate commercial space and, one day, send humans to Mars.
What a week for Musk. Days after the triumphant unveiling of Tesla’s latest electric car, SpaceX won over the Internet as countless thousands tuned in to watch the Falcon 9 rocket launch and, roughly eight minutes later, its spectacular first-ever landing at sea. At the company’s mission control center in Hawthorne, California, a throng of employees exploded in cheers. President Barack Obama and Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who walked on the Moon nearly half-a-century ago, were among the first to send shout-outs from around the world.
With his characteristic bravado, Musk soon chimed in: “Tickets to orbital hotels, the moon and Mars will be a lot less than people think,” he wrote on Twitter.
“This is the dramatic visual of the new space age,” said Marco Caceres, senior analyst at consultant Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia. “NASA has been trying to recreate the excitement of the Apollo era. Elon Musk just did it.”
Long considered a brash upstart nipping at the heels of staid aerospace giants, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is coming of age 14 years after it was founded by Musk with the lofty– and many have said unrealistic– goal of revolutionizing spacecraft and colonizing Mars. Trips to the Red Planet aside, SpaceX is now within striking distance of becoming dominant in the payload business. It’s planning to fly 18 missions this year, triple the number in 2015.
That’s a highly ambitious goal in an industry known for delays and mishaps. And Friday’s launch– a supply run to the International Space Station — was only the third so far this year. Yet if SpaceX hits its target, it will fling more rockets into space than any of its competitors from the U.S., France, Russia and China and achieve a launch cadence not seen since the end of the Cold War.
The rocket booster that landed on the drone ship Friday will be brought to port and tested on land; if everything checks out, it could fly again as early as June. By the second half of this year, Musk expects SpaceX to launch–and recover–rockets every two to three weeks.
“We’ll be successful, ironically, when it becomes boring,” said Musk at a news conference with NASA Friday. “When it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, another landing, OK, no news there.”’
That will be a bad day for competitors like Europe’s Arianespace, which flies the Ariane 5, and United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. They are scrambling to match SpaceX’s lower costs and fast-paced Silicon Valley vibe. Reusable rockets, once scoffed at by the established players as a pipe-dream, are now on the top of everyone’s agenda.
The cost of a Falcon 9 launch is $61.2 million, according to the company’s website. Established launch companies won’t be able to match SpaceX’s launch costs for years. The price tag for launching a ULA Atlas V rocket, which is not reusable, was $184 million two years ago. ULA has succeeded in getting that price down so far by a third, but it won’t fall below $100 million until 2019 at the earliest.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which ended its 30-year space shuttle program in 2011, now partners with private industry to fly both cargo and crew. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, loaded with 7,000 pounds of cargo, supplies and an inflatable extension module, reached the space station orbiting over Algeria on Sunday morning, New York time. Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean May 11.
Government agencies like NASA are just one of three markets for launch providers like SpaceX. Satellite companies depend on rockets to get their communications equipment into orbit. And the $70 billion national defense market, which includes highly sensitive missions for the military, is another. SpaceX has bid on a contract to launch GPS satellites for the U.S. Air Force.
SpaceX also has an advantage by playing outside the old aerospace procurement system which relies on multiple contractors and subcontractors. Legacy aerospace companies have long supply chains with embedded testing, documentation and procurement procedures that inflate costs. SpaceX builds not only the Falcon 9 rocket but the rocket’s Merlin engines in-house. The tight loop between design, manufacturing, and prototype testing is a Silicon Valley approach, said consulting firm Alix Partners in a recent report.
“The fact that SpaceX makes its engines itself is a really big deal,” said David Wireman, an aerospace analyst with Alix Partners. “The engines are a big chunk of the cost of any rocket. SpaceX has broken the supply chain.”
At industry conferences largely populated by middle-aged men in gray suits, you can spot the SpaceX employees, in part, by the logos on their jackets and by their youthful look. SpaceX has roughly 5,000 employees; their average engineer is 32.
SES of Luxembourg first flew with SpaceX in 2013 and has contracted for another four launches through 2017. Like other satellite customers, SES was drawn to SpaceX’s vision, lower cost and fast-paced culture.
“The fundamental difference that SpaceX has is that they are on a mission, and the mission is to go to Mars,” said Martin Halliwell, SES’s chief technical officer, in an interview. “That is absolutely unique within the industry. It’s a true passion felt by Elon and every single person in the company.”
Interswitch is the Most Valuable African Startup
Interswitch, the leading payment processing company headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, is Africa’s most valuable start-up at a US$ 1 billion valuation.
Founded in 2002, Interswitch uses switching infrastructure to connect different banks in Nigeria and powered banks’ ATM cards. Presently, the company has over 11,000 ATMs on its network.
In 2010, Helios Investment Partners bought two-thirds of the company and in the following year, Interswitch bought a 60 percent stake in Bankom in Uganda.
Interswitch owns Verve, Nigeria’s most used payment card, and accounted for 18 million of 25 million cards in circulation in Nigeria. The company also owns Quickteller and recently purchased VANSO, a mobile-focused technology provider to banks.
Like Interswitch, Stripe, the company that acquired Nigeria’s Paystack for over US$200 million, is the most valuable startup in the USA at over US$70 billion valuation.
Klarna, Nubank, Paytm and Grab leads in Europe, Latin America, India and Southeast Asia with valuations of US$10.65 billion, US$10 billion, US$16 billion and US$14 billion, respectively.
E-commerce Black Friday Sales Estimated to Surge by 40% to 10.2 Billion
The 2020 holiday shopping season will be unique, as the pandemic shifted consumer behavior from retail stores to online shopping. In response, many retailers moved their services online to not miss out on this year’s profits. Atlas VPN team decided to look into how e-commerce sales are set to perform in the upcoming long weekend.
Researchers predict that the US e-commerce revenue will exceed last year’s earnings by 49.5% on Thanksgiving day, totaling $6.18 billion in revenue. Black Friday is calculated to reach $10.2 billion in sales, exceeding last years numbers by 39.4%
Rachel Welch, COO of Atlas VPN, shares her tips on how to stay safe when shopping online during the holiday season:
“Watch out for too-good-to-be-true deals from unknown sellers, as cybercriminals will also expect to turn a profit during the holiday season, even though they are not selling anything, except maybe a bag full of disappointment.”
Finally, analysis shows that on the last day of the long and full of special offers Thanksgiving weekend, consumers will go all out to bring record sales for e-commerce businesses, adding up to $12.89 billion.
To look at these five days from a wider perspective, e-commerce companies can expect to earn around 39.72% more than they did last year.
Alibaba Merchants Sell $40B in First Half Hour of Singles Day 2020, More than 2019 Event Full Sales
Singles Day 2020 was a roaring success, cementing its position as the world’s biggest shopping holiday. Sales across Alibaba’s platforms during the event totaled $74.1 billion, up from $38 billion in 2019.
According to the research data analyzed and published by Stock Apps, within the first 30 minutes of the event, the gross merchandise volume (GMV) surpassed 2019’s full-event sales, reaching $40.87 billion.
Moreover, instead of live events, Alibaba had 400 company executives and 30 celebrities hosting livestreams. Based on a study by Coresight, the Chinese livestream market is set to rack in sales worth $125 billion in 2020, compared to $63 billion in 2019. The US livestream market is a small fraction of that, valued at $5 billion.
China’s Tech Heavyweights Lose $280 Billion in Market Cap
Alibaba Singles Day 2020 dwarfed other major shopping holidays as has been the trend in previous years.
According to Practical eCommerce, Amazon Prime Day 2020 sales totaled $10.4 billion up from $7.16 billion in 2019. Cyber Monday sales in the US amounted to $7.9 billion in 2020 according to Statista. Black Friday and Thanksgiving added $9.7 billion to the figure to make $17.6 billion for the weekend.
Similarly, in 2018, Singles Day sold $30.8 billion while Prime Day sold $4.19 billion and Thanksgiving weekend got $14.2 billion.
However, the 2020 Singles Day event came in the wake of Ant Group’s suspension of a $37 billion listing. The suspension resulted in a $76 billion drop in Alibaba’s market cap, as the tech giant owns a two-thirds stake in Ant Group. Moreover, China’s regulators released anti-trust draft rules prior to the event, aimed at controlling monopolistic behavior.
Following the release, Alibaba shares plunged by 9.8%, as JD.com shed off 9.2%. Tencent similarly saw a 7.39% drop and Xiaomi fell by 8.18%. For the five companies, there was a combined loss of $280 billion in market capitalization.
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