Science

'Discovery of the Century': Mysterious Void Discovered In Egypt's Great Pyramid (nationalgeographic.com) 299

New submitter klgds writes: The cavity is the first major inner structure discovered in the pyramid since the 1800s. Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza -- one of the wonders of the ancient world, and a dazzling feat of architectural genius -- contains a hidden void at least a hundred feet long, scientists said. The space's dimensions resemble those of the pyramid's Grand Gallery, the 153-foot-long, 26-foot-tall corridor that leads to the burial chamber of Khufu, the pharaoh for whom the pyramid was built. However, it remains unclear what lies within the space, what purpose it served, or if it's one or multiple spaces. The void is the first large inner structure discovered within the 4,500-year-old pyramid since the 1800s -- a find made possible by recent advances in high-energy particle physics. The results were published in the journal Nature. "This is definitely the discovery of the century," says archaeologist and Egyptologist Yukinori Kawae, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. "There have been many hypotheses about the pyramid, but no one even imagined that such a big void is located above the Grand Gallery."
ISS

The International Space Station Is Getting Its First Printer Upgrade in 17 Years (mashable.com) 174

Lance Ulanoff, writing for Mashable: Somewhere, 254 miles above us, an astronaut is probably printing something. Ever since the International Space Station (ISS) welcomed its first residents in November of 2000, there have been printers on board. Astronauts use them to print out critical mission information, emergency evacuation procedures and, sometimes, photos from home. According to NASA, they print roughly 1,000 pages a month on two printers; one is installed on the U.S. side of the ISS, the other in the Russian segment. ISS residents do all this on 20-year-old technology. "When the printer was new, it was like 2000-era tech and we had 2000-era laptop computers. Everything worked pretty good," recalled NASA Astronaut Don Pettit, who brought the first printer up to the ISS. But "the printer's been problematic for the last five or six years," said Pettit who's spent a total of one year on the station. It's not that the Space Station has been orbiting with the same printer since Justin Timberlake was still N'Sync. NASA had dozens of this printer and, as one failed, they'd send up another identical model. But now it's time for something truly new. In 2018, NASA will send two brand new, specialized printers up to the station. However, figuring out the right kind of printer to send was a lot more complicated than you'd probably expect. NASA has turned to HP for its IT supply and needs. The agency requires the following things in its printer: print and handle paper management in zero gravity, handle ink waste during printing, be flame retardant, and be power efficient. HP, Mashable reports, has recommended the HP Envy 5600, its all-in-one (printer, scanner, copier, fax) device that retails for $129.99. The model has been modified, according to the report.
Math

Scientists Have Mathematical Proof That It's Impossible To Stop Aging (sciencealert.com) 177

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Alert: Mathematically speaking, multicellular organisms like us will always have to deal with a cellular competition where only one side will win. And ultimately, that means our vitality will always come out as the loser. We have a pair of researchers from the University of Arizona to blame for this depressing conclusion, who crunched the numbers on a hypothesis involving the weeding out of unfit cells and found it amounted to a catch-22 situation. Aging -- and all of the biological changes that come with it -- is more or less the result of cells slowing down and losing their functions. But what if there was a way to encourage the more active cells to stick around at the expense of their sluggish siblings? Surely if we knocked off those old cells we could keep making pigments and collagen a little longer. Researchers have pinned hopes on reversing the inevitable decay of biochemistry by repairing DNA or extending the shrinking bits of chromosome called telomeres, for example. While it's good in theory, there is a catch. Another feature of aging is a number of cells start to populate like there's no tomorrow, reproducing in uncontrolled ways that look too close to cancer for comfort. According to the researchers, this means we're damned either way.

The way we grow old poses something of a mystery. If replicating biology is good enough to continue for generations, why do our own cells wind down after just a few decades? A simple answer is evolution isn't strong enough to weed out genes that only cause us grief after we've popped out a few offspring. But this model of aging adds a new element to the existing hypothesis -- even if evolution did select for eternal youth, competition inside our own bodies would see us to an inevitable grave. In other words, since multicellular organisms are the cumulative effect of bunches of cooperating cells, we logically can't have it both ways -- if you clear the way for 'younger' cells to keep your skin baby-smooth, you're just asking for the big C.
The findings have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Earth

The Asteroid That Wiped Out Dinosaurs Plunged Earth Into Catastrophic Winter (bbc.com) 103

The asteroid impact roughly 66 million years ago that wiped out three-quarters of plant and animal species, including the dinosaurs, dropped temperatures globally below freezing for several years. The new assessment, reported in the journal Geographic Research Letters, gives scientists a much clearer picture of the climate catastrophe following the event. BCC reports: The UK geophysicist was the co-lead investigator on the 2016 project to drill into what remains of the impactor's crater under the Gulf of Mexico. She and colleagues spent several weeks retrieving the rock samples that would allow them to reconstruct precisely how the Earth reacted to being punched by a high-velocity space object. Their study suggests the asteroid approached the surface from the north-east, striking what was then a shallow sea at an oblique angle of 60 degrees. Roughly 12km wide and moving at about 18km/s, the stony impactor instantly excavated and vaporized thousands of billions of tonnes of rock. This material included a lot of sulphur-containing minerals such as gypsum and anhydrite, but also carbonates which yielded carbon dioxide. The team's calculations estimate the quantities ejected upwards at high speed into the upper atmosphere included 325 gigatones of sulphur (give or take 130Gt) and perhaps 425Gt of carbon dioxide (plus or minus 160Gt). The CO2 would eventually have a longer-term warming effect, but the release of so much sulphur, combined with soot and dust, would have had an immediate and very severe cooling effect.
NASA

NASA Wants Private Company To Take Over Spitzer Space Telescope (spacenews.com) 37

schwit1 writes: NASA has issued a request for proposals from private companies or organizations to take over the operation of the Spitzer Space Telescope after 2019. SpaceNews reports: "NASA's current plans call for operating Spitzer through March of 2019 to perform preparatory observations for the James Webb Space Telescope. That schedule was based on plans for a fall 2018 launch of JWST, which has since been delayed to the spring of 2019. Under that plan, NASA would close out the Spitzer mission by fiscal year 2020. That plan was intended to save NASA the cost of running Spitzer, which is currently $14 million a year. The spacecraft itself, though, remains in good condition and could operating well beyond NASA's current plan. 'The observatory and the IRAC instrument are in excellent health. We don't have really any issues with the hardware,' said Lisa Storrie-Lombardi, Spitzer project manager, in a presentation to the committee Oct. 18. IRAC is the Infrared Array Camera, an instrument that continues operations at its two shortest wavelengths long after the spacecraft exhausted the supply of liquid helium coolant. The spacecraft's only consumable is nitrogen gas used for the spacecraft's thrusters, and Storrie-Lombardi said the spacecraft still had half its supply of nitrogen 14 years after launch." The way a private organization could make money on this is to charge astronomers and research projects for observation time. This could work, since there is usually a greater demand for research time than available observatories.
Earth

Every Other Summer Will Shatter Heat Records Within a Decade (vice.com) 322

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Think of the stickiest, record-hot summer you've ever experienced, whether you're 30 or 60 years old. In 10 years or less, that miserable summer will happen every second year across most of the U.S. and Canada, the Mediterranean, and much of Asia, according to a study to be published in the open access journal Earth's Future. By the 2030s, every second summer over almost all of the entire Northern hemisphere will be hotter than any record-setting hot summer of the past 40 years, the study found. By 2050, virtually every summer will be hotter than anything we've experienced to date. Record hot summers are now 70 times more likely than they were in the past 40 years over the entire Northern hemisphere, the peer-reviewed study found. What does all this mean? Heat alerts will be increasing, cities will have to employ aggressive cooling strategies most summers, and in places like South Asia, it will be too dangerous to work outside, Francis Zwiers, director of the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium at Canada's University of Victoria, said.
Japan

Can Japan Burn Flammable Ice For Energy? (cnn.com) 153

dryriver writes: Japan is a country that currently has to import 90% of its fuels for energy generation, having very little in the way of oil, coal or natural gas reserves in the country. Since the Fukushima disaster, its 50-plus nuclear reactors have been mostly idle. This makes Japan one of the least self-sufficient countries in terms of energy generation in the developed world. But there is an untapped energy resource that Japan has in abundance: ice that has large quantities of methane trapped in it. These ice crystals hold a remarkable quantity of natural methane gas. It is estimated that one cubic meter of frozen gas hydrate contains 164 cubic meters of methane. Japan has so far spent over $1 billion on research and development efforts in order to find a way to efficiently extract the methane from the ice. Where is this methane rich ice located? Engineers have so far focused on Nankai Trough, a long, narrow depression 50 kilometers off the coast of central Japan, which had been extensively surveyed over many years. Analysis of extracted core samples and seismic data has revealed that 1.1 trillion cubic meters of methane -- enough to meet Japan's gas needs for more than a decade -- lies below the floor of the trough. Some experts think that if an efficient method is found to extract methane from flammable ice, it could change the energy map of the entire world. Flammable ice has either been found, or is suspected to be present in large quantities, off the coastlines of all 5 continents in the world (the linked article has a map showing the currently known locations). Ten years from now the price of energy around the world may thus not be set by how much oil, coal or natural gas costs at that point in time, but rather by how much methane extraction from flammable ice costs.
Communications

Scientists Prove Emoticons Are Not Universally Understood (qz.com) 122

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: The most recent such study, published Oct. 24 in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, examined how emotions expressed in symbols and pictures are understood in three nations with varying degrees of internet connectivity and access: Japan, Cameroon, and Tanzania. Psychologists from the University of Tokyo tested subjects on how well they recognized emotions in emoticons and photographs. Participants across cultures could read emotion accurately in images of real people regardless of race -- but symbolic tech expression was not universally comprehensible. The study subjects were shown photographs of happy, neutral, and sad Caucasians, Asians, and Africans and told to describe the emotions expressed in the images. Generally, participants accurately assessed the feelings expressed across the board. The researchers noted one difference: African participants tended to confuse Asian neutral and sad faces, "perhaps due to lack of exposure to the out-group [Asian] faces," they suggest.

When it came to symbols, however, the scientists found clear cultural differences in emotion recognition. Subjects from all three countries were given a tablet, on which they were asked to scroll through a series of emoticons. They were shown emoticons in the Japanese style, with happiness, sadness, and neutrality expressed in the eyes; in a western style with emotion expressed in the mouth; and "smiley face" emoticons (pictured above). The Japanese subjects fluently read emotion in emoticons, whereas subjects from Cameroon and Tanzania found emoticons utterly mystifying at similar rates. This was true both for urban and rural dwellers in both African nations. The researchers believe this is due to the varying levels of internet exposure in the three countries.

Space

Entrepreneurial Space Age Began In 2009, Says Report (arstechnica.com) 67

"In July 2009, SpaceX launched its first commercial payload -- a 50kg Earth observation satellite for Malaysia -- which flew into space aboard a privately developed rocket," reports Ars Technica. "According to a new space investment report that will be published Tuesday by the Space Angels, an angel fund and a venture capital fund focused on space, which marked a key inflection point between the "governmental" space age and the "entrepreneurial" space age." From the report: "With that launch, SpaceX significantly lowered the barriers to entry in the space industry," the fund's chief executive, Chad Anderson, writes in the new report. "By vertically integrating, the company was able to drastically reduce the cost to get to orbit. But what deserves at least as much credit is their decision to publish their pricing, which fundamentally changed the way we do business in space. This transparency enabled would-be space entrepreneurs to develop a business plan and raise equity financing based on those cost assumptions."

From 2009 through September 2017, the report finds that $12 billion in equity investments have been made in space, with annual amounts increasing significantly in 2015 and beyond to more than $2 billion per year. At $10 billion, launch services, landers, and satellites have accounted for the bulk of this investment since 2009. Aside from the SpaceX launch that year, other data supports the year 2009 as the beginning of an entrepreneurial space age in which the private sector began making investments to return profits from space-based activities. About 250 space ventures have received non-government equity funding, the report states, and, of those, 88 percent have been funded since 2009.

AI

MIT Researchers Trained AI To Write Horror Stories Based On 140,000 Reddit Posts (qz.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Shelley is an AI program that generates the beginnings of horror stories, and it's trained by original horror fiction posted to Reddit. Designed by researchers from MIT Media Lab, Shelley launched on Twitter on Oct. 21. Shelley, named after Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, is interactive. After the program tweets a few opening lines, it asks people on Twitter to continue the story, and if the story is popular, it responds to those responses. Using information from 140,000 stories from Reddit's r/nosleep, Shelley produces story beginnings that range in creepiness, and in quality. There's some classic "scary stuff," like a narrator who thinks she's alone and then sees eyes in the dark, but also premises one can only imagine are Reddit-user-inspired, like family porn.
Security

New VibWrite System Uses Finger Vibrations To Authenticate Users (bleepingcomputer.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Rutgers engineers have created a new authentication system called VibWrite. The system relies on placing an inexpensive vibration motor and receiver on a solid surface, such as wood, metal, plastic, glass, etc.. The motor sends vibrations to the receiver. When the user touches the surface with one of his fingers, the vibration waves are modified to create a unique signature per user and per finger. Rutgers researchers say that VibWrite is more secure when users are asked to draw a pattern or enter a code on a PIN pad drawn on the solid surface. This also generates a unique fingerprint, but far more complex than just touching the surface with one finger. During two tests, VibWrite verified users with a 95% accuracy and a 3% false positive rate. The only problem researchers encountered in the live trials was that some users had to draw the pattern or enter the PIN number several times before they passed the VibWrite authentication test. Besides improvements to the accuracy with which VibWrite can detect finger vibrations, researchers also plan to look into how VibWrite will behave in outdoor environments to account for varying temperatures, humidity, winds, wetness, dust, dirt, and other conditions. This new novel user authentication system is described in full in a research paper entitled "VibWrite: Towards Finger-input Authentication on Ubiquitous Surfaces via Physical Vibration."
Communications

Algorithm Can Identify Suicidal People Using Brain Scans (wired.com) 87

An anonymous reader quotes a report from WIRED: In a study published today in Nature Human Behavior, researchers at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh analyzed how suicidal individuals think and feel differently about life and death, by looking at patterns of how their brains light up in an fMRI machine. Then they trained a machine learning algorithm to isolate those signals -- a frontal lobe flare at the mention of the word "death," for example. The computational classifier was able to pick out the suicidal ideators with more than 90 percent accuracy (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). Furthermore, it was able to distinguish people who had actually attempted self-harm from those who had only thought about it. In today's study, the researchers started with 17 young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 who had recently reported suicidal ideation to their therapists. Then they recruited 17 neurotypical control participants and put them each inside an fMRI scanner. While inside the tube, subjects saw a random series of 30 words. Ten were generally positive, 10 were generally negative, and 10 were specifically associated with death and suicide. Then researchers asked the subjects to think about each word for three seconds as it showed up on a screen in front of them. "What does 'trouble' mean for you?" "What about 'carefree,' what's the key concept there?" For each word, the researchers recorded the subjects' cerebral blood flow to find out which parts of their brains seemed to be at work.
Space

SpaceX Lands the 13th Falcon 9 Rocket of the Year In Flames (theverge.com) 106

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida this afternoon and, while the rocket successfully delivered the Koreasat-5A to its designated orbit, it managed to catch fire after landing on one of SpaceX's autonomous barges. The Verge reports: That rocket's mission [was] to send a satellite known as Koreasat-5A into space, where it will hang above Earth for 15 years while providing communications bandwidth for Korea and Southern Asia. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully delivered Koreasat-5A to its designated orbit, marking the the company's 16th successful mission of the year -- twice the number of successful missions in 2016. Shortly after liftoff, the first stage of the rocket returned to Earth and landed (flamboyantly) in the Atlantic Ocean on one of SpaceX's autonomous barges. (The fires eventually went out.) It was the 13th successful landing of a Falcon 9 rocket this year, the 15th in a row, and the 19th overall.
Earth

Carbon Pollution Touched 800,000 Year Record in 2016, WMO Says (bloomberg.com) 354

Carbon dioxide levels surged to their highest level in at least 800,000 years because of pollution caused by humans and a strong El Nino event, according to the World Meteorological Organization. From a report: Concentrations of the greenhouse gas increased at a record speed in 2016 to reach an average of 403.3 parts per million, up from 400 parts per million a year earlier, the WMO said in a statement on Monday warning of "severe ecological and economic disruptions." The WMO said the last time the Earth had a comparable concentration of CO2s, the temperature of the planet was 2 degrees to 3 degrees Celsius warmer and sea levels were 10 meters to 20 meters higher than now.
Math

How Data Science Powered the Search for MH370 (hpe.com) 133

"In the absence of physical evidence, scientists are employing powerful computational tools to attempt to solve the greatest aviation mystery of our time: the disappearance of flight MH370." Slashdot reader Esther Schindler shared this article from HPE Insights: Satellite communications provider Inmarsat announced it had found recorded signals in its archives that MH370 had sent for another six hours after it disappeared. The plane had been aloft and flying for that whole time -- but where had it gone? As Inmarsat scientists examined the signals, they saw that what they had was not data such as text messages or location information. Rather, the signals contained metadata: information about the signal itself. This was recorded as the satellite automatically contacted the plane's communications system every hour to see if it was still logged on. Bafflingly, whoever had taken the plane hadn't used the satcom system to communicate with the outside world, but had switched it off and then on again, leaving it able to exchange hourly "pings" with the satellite. Some of the metadata related to extremely subtle variations in the frequency of the signal. "We're talking about changes as big as one part in a billion," says Inmarsat scientist Chris Ashton.

Nobody had tried to use this kind of data to try to locate an airplane before. At first, Ashton's team didn't know if the attempt would work. But painstakingly, over the course of weeks, the team figured out how the movement of the plane, the orbital wobble of the satellite, and the electronics within the satcom system all interacted to create the data values that had been received. "We had to create the model from scratch," Ashton says. Their work revealed that the plane had flown into the remote southern Indian Ocean. They didn't know where exactly. But since there are no islands in that part of the world, it was impossible that anyone could have survived. For the first time in history, hundreds of people were declared legally dead based on mathematics alone.

Then mathematician Dr. Neil Gordon led a team from the Defense Science and Technology Group "to extract a path from a subset of the Inmarsat data called the Burst Timing Offset. This measured how quickly the aircraft responded each time the satellite pinged it, and was used to determine the distance between the satellite and the plane." They ultimately generate "a probabilistic 'heat map' of the plane's most likely resting places using a technique called Bayesian analysis. These calculations allowed the DSTG team to draw a box 400 miles long and 70 miles across, which contained about 90 percent of the total probability distribution.
Power

SLAC Uses Nobel Prize-Winning Technique To Investigate Battery Fires (stanford.edu) 17

An anonymous reader quotes an announcement from SLAC: Scientists from Stanford University and the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have captured the first atomic-level images of finger-like growths called dendrites that can pierce the barrier between battery compartments and trigger short circuits or fires... This is the first study to examine the inner lives of batteries with cryo-electron microscopy, or cryo-EM, a technique whose ability to image delicate, flash-frozen proteins and other "biological machines" in atomic detail was honored with the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry... The ability to see this level of detail for the first time with cryo-EM will give scientists a powerful tool for understanding how batteries and their components work at the most fundamental level and for investigating why high-energy batteries used in laptops, cell phones, airplanes and electric cars sometimes fail, the researchers said...

In cryo-EM, samples are flash-frozen by dipping them into liquid nitrogen, then sliced for examination under the microscope. You can freeze a whole coin-cell battery at a particular point in its charge-discharge cycle, remove the component you're interested in and see what is happening inside that component at an atom-by-atom scale. You could even create a stop-action movie of battery activity by stringing together images made at different points in the cycle... Zooming in, they used a different technique to look at the way electrons bounced off the atoms in the dendrite, revealing the locations of individual atoms in both the crystal and its solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) coating. When they added a chemical commonly used to improve battery performance, the atomic structure of the SEI coating became more orderly, and they think this may help explain why the additive works.

Biotech

Can Science Make Alcohol Safer? (scientificamerican.com) 107

Long-time Slashdot reader Zorro was the first to spot this story. Scientific American reports: Could there be a "liver-friendly" vodka? One company claims its proprietary blend of additives reduces stress on the body... The researchers concluded that consuming the alcohol with the additives -- glycyrrhizin, derived from licorice; D-mannitol, a sugar alcohol; and potassium sorbate, a preservative -- may support improved liver health compared with drinking alcohol alone. Marsha Bates, a distinguished research professor and director of the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers University, said the study design "seemed appropriate." But, she added, study itself was small, with only 12 healthy men and women, and "doesn't really provide any information of what the long-term effects of consuming alcohol with this additive would be. It's a positive preliminary study but certainly does not provide a firm basis for speculating about long-term impact."

Functional or not, Harsha Chigurupati needs approval from federal regulators before he can tout curative powers on a label... Specifically, Chigurupati is seeking approval to make the claim that his blend, known as NTX for "No Tox," provides "antioxidant and inflammatory support" and "reduces the risk of alcohol-induced liver diseases," among other claims... Chigurupati said his goal is not to enable people to drink more, but to drink with less physical harm.

The claim "leaves some experts deeply skeptical," adds the article, while 33-year-old Chigurupati admits that an earlier formula "tasted terrible and it actually burned my mouth." But his company later developed a formula which he says tasted good and is easier on the liver. "I don't believe in abstinence," Chigurupati told the Wall Street Journal. "What I do believe in is using technology to make life better. I'm not going to stop drinking, so why not make it safer?"
Moon

India, China, and Japan Are All Planning Moon Missions (upi.com) 114

schwit1 shares an article from UPI: India will make its second mission to the moon in 2018, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced this week. The Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft consists of an orbiter, lander and rover configuration "to perform mineralogical and elemental studies of the lunar surface," the ISRO said... Several other countries, including China and Japan, are planning lunar expeditions in the coming years -- partly to better understand the moon's environmental conditions for the potential of human settlements...

According to Popular Mechanics, the ISRO is attempting to make the lunar landing on a budget of $93 million, which is about the same cost of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket that's scheduled for launch by the end of this year. The Falcon rocket, though, is only going into orbit -- and a $93 million price tag for a lunar landing could have impact on other countries' space plans.

India landed a spacecraft on the moon in 2008, and plans to complete this second lunar landing by March.
Medicine

NotPetya Outbreak Left Merck Short of HPV Vaccine Gardasil (securityledger.com) 63

chicksdaddy shares a report from The Security Ledger: The NotPetya malware infection shut down pharmaceutical giant Merck's production of the pediatric vaccine GARDASIL last June, forcing the company to borrow the drug from a stockpile maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to meet demand, The Security Ledger reports. The anecdote was contained in a quarterly filing by Merck with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday. That filing also showed that the company continues to suffer financial fallout from the outbreak of the NotPetya malware in June, reducing both sales and revenue for the quarter by hundreds of millions of dollars. In its quarterly 8-k filing, Merck said that revenue for the quarter was "unfavorably impacted" by around $135 million due to "lost sales in certain markets related to the cyber-attack." Sales in the third quarter of 2017 were also reduced by around $240 million, which Merck chalked up to production shutdowns resulting from NotPetya. In a chilling insight into the extent of the disruption the malware caused to Merck's operations, the company disclosed that part of its quarterly losses were linked to the interruption of its production of GARDASIL, a vaccine used to prevent Human Papillomavirus (HPV) which is linked to certain cancers and other diseases. To make up for what it described as "overall higher demand than originally planned," Merck was forced to borrow the vaccine from a stockpile maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the company said.
Space

SpaceX Eyes 19 Launches In 2017 (arstechnica.com) 50

SpaceX has managed to launch fifteen rockets this year as a result of its more efficient production flow over last year, a maturing Falcon 9 rocket, and an experienced workforce. On Monday, the company will go for its 16th launch of the year, doubling its previous record. It plans to launch its 19th rocket before year's end. Ars Technica reports: This year has seen a number of firsts for the company -- first reflight of a Falcon 9 booster, first reuse of a Dragon cargo spacecraft, first national security payload, and a remarkable dozen landings. But probably the biggest achievement has been finally delivering on the promise of a high flight rate. For years, competitors in the global launch industry have noted, with skepticism, that SpaceX has been unable to achieve higher flight rates and fly out its lengthy manifest. Those concerns appeared to have some merit, especially after SpaceX endured difficult financial years in 2015 and 2016, when the company lost two Falcon 9 rockets (one during launch and the other during a ground test) along with a payload. However, competitors worried, if SpaceX did ever figure things out, the company could become a "steamroller" with its lower cost flight opportunities.

On Monday, weather permitting, SpaceX will attempt to launch the Koreasat 5A communications satellite for a South Korean company. The launch window for the Kennedy Space Center-based liftoff opens at 3:34pm ET. After this, it's likely that SpaceX will launch two or three (possibly more) missions in 2017, bringing the company's tally for the year to 19 missions. (That would be one shy of the company's total for 2014, 2015, and 2016 combined).

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