SpaceX’s sixth successful launch in 2017 puts Elon Musk’s company on pace to beat its rivals

Falcon 9 Inmarsat Elon Musk SpaceX Launch


Flying the biggest satellite that SpaceX has ever launched, weighing in at more than 6 metric tons, proved a routine piece of business for the company’s Falcon 9 rocket yesterday.

The Inmarsat-owned satellite, built by Boeing, was originally scheduled to fly on a larger rocket, the Falcon Heavy, that SpaceX hopes to debut later this year. Flying the big bird on a smaller rocket required some sacrifices on SpaceX’s part—the first stage booster could not be recovered for potential re-use, for example, since much of the fuel necessary would be used in flight. But the success puts the company on a path to finally hit its long-dreamed-of high-speed launch cadence.

SpaceX has been hoping to out-fly its competitors for the last several years, planning on a dozen to even 18 launches in a single calendar year. But in 2015, a mid-flight explosion grounded SpaceX’s rocket for six months, putting a kibosh on those plans, and a 2016 refueling mishap required four months of work to ensure the rocket was ready for flight.

Now, having launched six rockets before the halfway point of 2017, the company looks set to hit its goals and finally fly more rockets than its incumbent competitors, the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance, and the European champion Arianespace. That’s striking, given that SpaceX’s first commercial mission was in 2012. (ULA was formed in 2006, and Arianespace in 1980.)

This year, Arianespace has been the victim of circumstance, with its major spaceport becoming a pawn in a political battle between impoverished French Guianans and the mainland French government. The protests have now been resolved, allowing the company to start launching again.

For the rest of this year, SpaceX has plenty to do. It will launch a Bulgarian television satellite, and communications birds for Intelsat, Iridium, SES, and Echostar. It is expected to launch satellites on behalf of Taiwan and South Korea. And the company plans to launch its own demonstration satellite to provide internet access. Perhaps most importantly, it will fly three missions to the International Space Station for NASA, as well as demonstrating an uncrewed flight of its new astronaut-carrying space capsule. Plus, it expects to fly the experimental Falcon Heavy.

That’s a lot of work—at least a dozen more missions—and it will require the company’s engineers and technicians to move fast and carefully, with no major mishaps. The company’s goal has long been a mission cadence of one flight every two weeks, a pace it hit this month and in March but has yet to sustain over time. The tiny signals of progress are there—during yesterday’s launch, the company began loading liquid oxygen into the rocket ten minutes later than usual, part of an effort to compress and shorten the countdown process.

The rewards of frequent launches are clear: Besides establishing the Falcon 9’s reliability, and the constant stream of data used by engineers after every launch to refine the vehicle, each launch represents revenue won by SpaceX.

While the company brushed off financial concerns after its 2016 mishap, with officials noting that it had no debt and $1 billion in cash on its books, replenishing its coffers will give SpaceX greater security and more resources to tackle big projects ahead—including its mooted satellite internet constellation and an inter-planetary transportation system for reaching Mars.


Spotlight: HTC Communications Puts Team Work First

htc communications cable wifi services

Network cable and WiFi solutions might not seem like the most interesting or dynamic products. But they are pretty essential to running a business. In the Cleveland area, small businesses and other customers can turn to another local business for their cable and WiFi needs.

HTC Communications LLC is a small company that takes great pride in supplying its neighbors with the best service possible. It also takes pride in treating the members of its small team like family. Read more about this company and how its family atmosphere has helped it succeed in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Provides network cabling services, video surveillance, WiFi, and other audio/video solutions in the Cleveland area.

Business Niche

Building custom solutions.

Caroline Hill, owner of HTC Communications, says:

“Our telecommunications experts can quickly assess the needs of a business and design a custom-fit system.”

How the Business Got Started

Because of economic troubles.

Hill explains:

“Just like many of our friends, we lost a lot during the economic downturn. We lost our jobs, had to rebuild our lives, find new jobs, learn a new career and then hope for the best. We wanted to take control of our future and hopefully help our friends find a career in our company. We started our business for two simple reasons: One, to create an awesome place where our employees could grow, be happy and make a comfortable living. And two, to provide our customers with top-notch customer service that would make us proud as owners.”

htc communications cable wifi services

Biggest Win

Making customers happy.

Hill says:

“Every happy customer makes our team proud. And having a group of people who take pride in making our clients smile is the real win for HTC!”

Biggest Challenge

Adapting to owning a growing business.

Hill says:

“Most of our obstacles seem to be related to growth as a small company. It is a challenge to create and maintain processes when things always seem to be changing. Thankfully, our team is very flexible, and they have lots of great ideas.”

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Take care of employees.

HTC is currently a team of about seven employees. So, each person is incredibly important to the success of the business. And the company thinks it’s important to treat them as such.

Hill explains:

“If we had extra capital, I would first give everyone of our team members a bonus. They deserve it! Following that, I would purchase a couple more company vehicles, so my guys could each have their own work truck/van. If there is anything left after that, I would purchase some advertising space.”

htc communications cable wifi services

Business Motto

Always work as a team.

Hill says:

“We have an amazing company culture that allows us all to fall in love with our jobs. We hire based on personality and ability to work in a team. There is never anything we do as individuals — we are 100 percent a team.”

Images: HTC Communications


Amazon AWS MarketPlace Puts Desktop Apps in the Cloud

final amazon aws

Last year Amazon launched Amazon WorkSpaces, a virtualization service for desktops.

Now the company is taking their service a step further with Amazon Web Services Marketplace for Desktop Apps. The name might be a bit of a mouthful but the service could simplify desktop apps for business owners.

Though originally Workspaces allowed you to virtually share software among users on a variety of devices from laptops to tablets to smartphones, the apps store is the next logical step. It not only puts those applications in the cloud but also let’s you pay for only what you and your employees or contractors use.

That’s right, you only pay when a product is launched.

Amazon claims that AWS Marketplace for Desktop Apps makes it easy to search for and buy applications. The company boasts a broad selection of more than 100 apps in more than 10 categories. Options include Microsoft Office and Visual Studio, Python, and CorelDRAW.

Billing has been made easier, too. Applications can be purchased on a monthly subscription basis and, as stated above, you will only be charged if the product is launched. All prices are listed and software charges appear on one AWS MarketPlace bill.

AWS Marketplace for Desktop Apps lets you select applications you and others in your business can use via Amazon Workspaces. Apps are managed from a centralized console through Amazon WorkSpaces Application Manager (Amazon WAM).

According to Amazon, WAM will allow business owners to control access to their curated selection of apps. Through WAM they can do things like set the number of installations per organization, provision apps, deliver specific versions to end users, and more.

There are two subscription tiers of Amazon WAM available. Amazon WAM Lite is free but has limited administration controls. For a fee of $5 per user per month, you can gain access to Amazon WAM Standard. This tier gives more admin control such as the ability to audit app usage, and manage versions and updating. But perhaps the best feature of Standard is the ability to catalog third party apps as well as internally-developed custom apps.

Amazon Web Services Photo via Shutterstock


iPhone Spyware Puts Spotlight on Israel’s Secretive Surveillance Industry

iPhone Spyware Puts Spotlight on Israel's Secretive Surveillance Industry


  • ‘Pegasus’ spyware attributed to Israeli firm NSO Group
  • It is among some 27 surveillance firms headquartered in Israel
  • Israel among the world leaders in everything involving the cyber sector

The discovery of sophisticated spyware to infiltrate and remotely take control of iPhones without leaving a trace has put a spotlight on Israel’s secretive surveillance industry, considered among the world’s most advanced.

Apple rushed out a security update last week after researchers said a prominent Emirati rights activist was targeted by “Pegasus” spyware attributed to Israeli firm NSO Group, based in Herzliya in the country’s “Silicon Valley”.

NSO Group, now owned by US private equity firm Francisco Partners Management, has flown far under the radar, without even a website.

It is among some 27 surveillance firms headquartered in Israel, according to a recent report from British NGO Privacy International – putting the country of eight million people at the top of the list of such companies per capita.

According to Privacy International, Israel has 0.33 such firms per 100,000 people, while the United States has 0.04.

For the firms involved, the technology is meant to fight crime and terrorism through legal means. Israel’s defence ministry must also approve exports of sensitive security products.


But activists question whether enough attention is paid to the potential for abuse of such invasive technology, including whether governments will simply target opponents.

“Opposition activists, human rights defenders, and journalists have been placed under intrusive government surveillance and individuals have had their communications read to them during torture,” Privacy International said.

“State agencies are also utilising technologies used for surveillance for offensive and military purposes as well as espionage.”

‘Spy in his pocket’
An investigation by Lookout mobile security firm and Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto found the spyware that forced Apple’s update last week to be rare and powerful.

Emirati activist Ahmed Mansoor’s phone “would have become a digital spy in his pocket, capable of employing his iPhone’s camera and microphone to snoop on activity in the vicinity of the device, recording his WhatsApp and Viber calls, logging messages sent in mobile chat apps, and tracking his movements,” they said.

He was targeted by a simple text message that asked him to click on a link for information on detainees tortured in the United Arab Emirates.

Targeted by cyber attacks in the past, he became suspicious and forwarded it to Citizen Lab.

NSO did not confirm that it created the spyware used to target Mansoor. But it said in a statement that it “sells only to authorised governmental agencies, and fully complies with strict export control laws and regulations”.

“Moreover, the company does not operate any of its systems; it is strictly a technology company.”

Israel’s defence ministry, for its part, did not respond to a request for comment.

Daniel Cohen, a cyber-terrorism expert at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, said the country’s expertise in such products stems in part from its military, which puts a premium on cyber-warfare training.

Most Jewish Israelis are required to serve in the military, whose Unit 8200 for signal intelligence and code-cracking is considered an incubator for future start-ups.

“Israel is among the world leaders in everything involving the cyber sector,” Cohen said.

(Also see: Israel Cyber Cadets Train on Harry Potter-Inspired Battlefield)

“After leaving the military, such experts take advantage of their knowledge to create start-ups or get hired at exorbitant salaries by existing firms.”

Cohen said there are more than 300 cyber-related firms in Israel, though most create products to protect institutions against cyber attacks.

“Less than 10 percent of firms in the cyber sector have pursued an offensive niche, meaning technologies allowing the infiltration of computer systems,” he said.

Companies with Israeli roots have provided technology to monitor Internet and phone communication to secret police in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan as well as Colombian security forces, according to Privacy International.

They have also reportedly exported to Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Panama and Mexico, it said.

One case drew particular attention in 2011, when Internet-monitoring technology by Allot Communications was reportedly sold on by a distributor to Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy.

Citizen Lab said: “Clearly, additional legal and regulatory scrutiny of the ‘lawful intercept’ market, and of NSO Group’s activities in relation to the attacks we have described, is essential.”

“While these spyware tools are developed in democracies, they continue to be sold to countries with notorious records of abusive targeting of human rights defenders.”

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Tags: Apple, iPhone, Cyber Security, Mobile