Astronauts say look forward to space launch after Soyuz accident

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The launch of the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft is scheduled on December 3, 2018 from the Russian-leased Kazakh Baikonur cosmodrome.
BAIKONUR(KAZAKHSTAN): Astronauts set to board the first manned space mission since an unprecedented accident aboard Russia’s Soyuz, on Sunday brushed aside safety concerns, saying they were ready to take risks.

Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency will launch to the International Space Station (ISS) from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on Monday.

They will head to the ISS after a Soyuz rocket carrying Russia’s Aleksey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague failed on October 11 just minutes after blast-off.

The pair escaped unharmed, but the failed launch was the first such incident in Russia’s post-Soviet history and a new setback for the country’s once proud space industry.

The crew heading to the ISS dismissed any possible concerns about their safety.

“Risk is part of our profession,” crew commander Oleg Kononenko told a news conference at Baikonur, adding they “absolutely” trusted teams preparing them for the flight.

“We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, God forbid, may occur on board,” the 54-year-old said.

Anne McClain, a 39-year-old former military pilot, struck a similar note.

“We feel very ready for it,” she said.

Canada’s Saint-Jacques added that Soyuz spacecraft was “incredibly safe,” noting it was “actually reassuring” to witness the October aborted launch from Baikonur.

The accident highlighted the “smart design of the Soyuz and the incredible work that the search and rescue people here on the ground are ready to do every launch,” the 48-year-old said.

Russia said last month the launch of the Soyuz rocket failed because of a sensor that was damaged during assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome. But officials insisted the spacecraft remains reliable.

Saint-Jacques will be the first Canadian astronaut to visit the space station since Chris Hadfield, who recorded a version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity classic aboard the ISS in 2013.

Canada’s governor general and former astronaut Julie Payette is expected to be among dignitaries to watch Monday’s launch.

Of the trio set to reach the ISS six hours after blastoff, both Saint-Jacques and McClain will fly for the first time. Kononenko is beginning his fourth mission to add to an impressive 533 days in space.

NASA’s McClain was deployed to Iraq and represented the United States women’s national rugby union team in the past.

She has said that training to spacewalk was similar to rugby since it demands “grit, toughness, mental focus, and more”

[“source=forbes]

LG Display Struggles for Footing After LCD Forecasting Error Leads to Crisis

LG Display Struggles for Footing After LCD Forecasting Error Leads to Crisis

The chief executive of South Korea’s LG Display, Han Sang-beom, was determined to deliver a strong message when he appeared before 1,000 employees at the firm’s main manufacturing plant last spring.

So he donned a pair of goggles, picked up a hammer, and smashed a liquid-crystal display screen to bits.

The symbolism was impossible to miss: LCD panels, the company’s mainstay for years, were being relegated to the industrial dustbin. The company’s future would depend on a newer technology, organic light-emitting diode, or OLED.

“I’ve never seen him do such a thing,” said one company official who was present. “His performance showed a grim determination to weather this crisis.”

Yet LG Display’s predicament was in many ways one of its own making. Less than a year earlier, the company had showered employees with perks and bonuses as profits rolled in, driven by the company’s leadership in LCD screens for TVs, computer monitors and smartphones.

But LG Display had misread the market: Chinese competitors were coming on strong, and by early this year prices for LCD screens were plummeting. The fat profits of 2017 turned into big losses in 2018 – and the company abruptly announced in July that it would slash $2.7 billion in capital spending it had planned through 2020.

It did not reveal its total or previous targets but made about $6 billion in capital expenditures in 2017, according to Eikon data.

The company’s troubles stand as a stark example of the risks inherent in hotly competitive technology businesses that require massive capital investment.

“It seems that LG Display made a major miscalculation on its LCD business, not accurately judging the timing to pull away when they could see China’s rapid catch-up,” said Lee Won-sik, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities.

“We knew from last year LCD prices would go down but we did not expect this big and fast fall,” acknowledged one LG Display official, who, like others in this article, declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media. “Customers had been asking for price cuts, but we didn’t act until it got too late.”

Prices in free fall

LG Display posted five straight years of strong profits after Han took the helm in 2012, riding a tide of LCD screen orders from Apple and strong demand for both phone and TV screens from LG Electronics, which owns more than a third of the display-maker.

LG Display also began to invest in OLED displays, which unlike LCD screens don’t require backlighting and can deliver more natural-looking colours. OLED screens also consume less energy and can be bent and folded.

But the technology is expensive, and LG Display was earning the vast majority of its revenue from LCDs. Until its recent cutbacks, it was running eight LCD production lines in South Korea and another in China.

While LG Display hummed along, Chinese companies, led by BOE Technology Group, were pouring huge sums into LCD production.

By January 2017, BOE had become the No. 1 supplier of LCDs larger than 9 inches, according to market tracker IHS Markit, taking 22.3 percent of unit shipments versus 21.6 percent for LG Display. It was the first time a Chinese display maker had taken the top spot.

By early 2018, prices for many types of LCDs were in free-fall. Prices for 50-inch LCD television panels, for example, slid 32 percent in August versus the same month last year, according to IHS Markit.

LG Display’s big South Korean rival, the display unit of Samsung Electronics, had begun pulling back from LCD years earlier, shutting down older LCD production lines in South Korea beginning in 2010, according to a Samsung Display official. The company now has just two LCD factories in South Korea and one in China.

But LG Display was caught flat-footed and is now furiously slashing LCD capacity. It has closed three LCD production lines since last year and abandoned plans for a new one.

The company in April also rolled out an “emergency management system,” with employees being told to use cheaper flights and cut back on group meals, company sources told Reuters. Cash flow has become a concern: it was negative 838.2 billion won ($743.93 million) in the second quarter, according to Eikon data, and has been negative for three straight quarters.

Three company sources say the company is not planning layoffs for fear of losing talent to China, but some employees are frustrated with cuts in benefits.

“Executives are trying to keep the morale up, telling us media reports about a voluntary redundancy program are false,” a company source with knowledge of the matter said.

OLED a game changer?

LG Display is now betting the house on OLED, and says it can fund $17.6 billion in OLED investments over the next three years. It expects the newer technology to account for 40 percent of revenue by 2020, up from just 10 percent today.

As OLED becomes more prevalent, LG Display’s fortunes could turn, analysts say.

LG Display’s OLED panels have helped its sibling, LG Electronics, take the lead in high-end televisions. Some analysts believe LG Display has been pressured to supply those panels cheaply, hurting its profitability, though the company denies that is the case.

But the OLED market promises to be tough. Samsung boasts that it has been investing in OLED since 2005. BOE is getting into OLED too. There are also still technical challenges in making large-panel OLED TV screens that don’t wear out too quickly, noted Ross Young, CEO of research provider Display Supply Chain Consultants.

Son Young-jun, LG Display’s vice president of public relations, said in a statement that the company is the only producer of large-size OLED displays and had “unmatched technological expertise” in OLED. “The potential and outlook ahead is promising,” he said.

LG Display says its OLED division will turn a profit in the third quarter. It also expects LCD prices to stabilise, enabling it to squeeze profits from the older technology until the newer one matures.

“Given OLED is our answer and solution to the crisis, there’s nothing else we can do other than tightening our belts and pushing for OLED,” a company official said.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

China’s Didi Has Its #DeleteUber Moment After Passenger Deaths

China's Didi Has Its #DeleteUber Moment After Passenger Deaths

Thousands of Chinese users have pledged to delete the country’s most popular ride-hailing app after another woman was allegedly murdered while using its Hitch car-pooling service.

Didi Chuxing came under fire from netizens, state media and regulators alike over the weekend after the customer was allegedly killed despite an earlier passenger complaining about the driver’s behaviour. In two statements on the matter, the Beijing-based startup has deeply apologized, pledged to overhaul its services and suspended two senior executives at the company.

But the latest death – the second in three months after a flight attendant was allegedly murdered in May – has spawned fury among China’s web users, with many taking to social media and saying they will delete the app. It comes at a critical time for the country’s most valuable startup as it faces rising competition from fellow tech giants and attempts to become a global ride-hailing giant capable of taking on Uber on the world stage.

Chinese actress Wang Xiaochen posted screenshots of her phone to her 9 million followers on Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, as she deleted the Didi app with a caption saying “goodbye!” The viral update received 285,000 ‘likes’ and generated over 40,000 comments – many of which were followers showing proof they’d done the same.

Others took their complaints about Didi’s safety directly to the startup’s own Weibo account, where they commented on the company’s statements. One popular reply that garnered 63,000 ‘likes’ said that while they couldn’t stop Didi from making a fortune, they could uninstall the app.

The push to get rid of Didi has echoes of the #DeleteUber campaign that hit Uber Technologies. in 2017 amid a series of scandals and missteps at the US ride-hailing giant.

Didi declined to comment beyond its earlier statements.

The wave of high-profile deletions are unlikely to remove Didi from the top of China’s ride-hailing market. Didi said it has more than 30 million daily active users while data from research firm QuestMobile estimates that its nearest rival Dida Chuxing has 982,000.

The world’s fourth-most valuable tech startup Meituan Dianping, which is preparing to list in Hong Kong later this year, is also ramping up its campaign to provide ride-hailing services in key markets such as Shanghai.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Uber Execs Traveling Globe to Reassure Regulators After Controversies

Uber Execs Traveling Globe to Reassure Regulators After Controversies

Uber executives are travelling the globe to reassure regulators that the company is changing the way it does business, after a string of controversies, including a data breach, hurt the ride-hailing firm’s reputation, its Asian head said on Monday.

“We’ve learned very quickly and we’re tacking very quickly,” Brooks Entwistle, Uber Technologies Inc’s recently appointed chief business officer for Asia Pacific, told Reuters in an interview at the company’s offices in Tokyo where he is meeting Japanese regulators.

Uber this month disclosed that it covered up a 2016 data breach which compromised data of some 57 million customers and drivers. That revelation prompted governments around the world to launch probes into Uber’s handling of the matter.

In the meanwhile, Uber plans to move ahead with a deal to bring in Japanese technology company SoftBank Group as a major investor by disclosing the pricing early next week in formal tender offers to the ride-hailing service’s investors, two people familiar with the plans said on Friday.

The start of the tender follows Uber’s disclosure of the 2016 data breach. The people familiar with the plans did not say how much investors would be offered for the shares, or say if the price had been cut do to the breach or governments’ response to the disclosure.

Investors will have 20 business days, or about a month, to respond to emails and letters to be sent early next week, said one of the sources, who declined to be named because they were not authorized to discuss terms before they are public.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]