Connect with us

News

This Startup Aims to Make a Human-Flying Spaceplane, a Concept NASA Failed in the 1990s

Published

on

This Startup Aims to Make a Human-Flying Spaceplane, a Concept NASA Failed in the 1990s
A rendering of Radian Aerospace’s Radian One spaceplane. Radian Aerospace

A space startup headquartered in the suburbs of Seattle is attempting to revive a spaceship concept that failed in the 1990s, hoping that technological progress in the past three decades can make it a reality in the 2020s.

Radian Aerospace, based in Renton, Washington, came out of stealth mode Wednesday with an announcement that it had closed a $27.5 million seed round investment led by Fine Structure Ventures, a venture capital fund affiliated with the parent company of Fidelity Investments.

Other participating investors include EXOR, The Venture Collective, Helios Capital, SpaceFund, Gaingels, The Private Shares Fund, Explorer 1 Fund and Type One Ventures.

Subscribe to Observer’s Business Newsletter

Radian is working on a reusable spaceplane called Radian One, designed for carrying people and “light cargo” to low Earth orbit and taking off from a runway instead of a rocket launch pad.

The concept is similar to Virgin Group’s “horizontal launch system” used by its space tourism unit Virgin Galactic and satellite delivery service Virgin Orbit. Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane can only reach 50 kilometers in space, far below the altitude of Earth’s orbit. Virgin Orbit uses a modified Boeing 747 to carry a satellite-delivering rocket to the middle of the sky before it launches further to reach orbit.

Radian shares the same goal with many human spaceflight-focused startups nowadays. “We believe that widespread access to space means limitless opportunities for humankind. Over time, we intend to make space travel nearly as simple and convenient as airliner travel,” Radian cofounder and CEO Richard Humphrey said in a statement Wednesday.

Spaceplanes belong to a category of spacecraft called single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO), referring to vehicles that can reach orbit without expending tanks or engines. The concept is now new in the space industry. Several companies pursued efforts in the 1990s, notably Lockheed Martin’s X-33 project commissioned by NASA. The project was abandoned before in 2001 before reaching the sky due to technical problems.

Ridian’s chief technology officer, Livingston Holder, was on the team leading Boeing’s proposal for NASA’s X-33 contract in 1994. “Back then I was convinced that, technically, one could indeed create a single-stage-to-orbit system but it would be hard for that thing to be a commercial enterprise because it was so expensive,” he said in an interview with SpaceNews.

Holder said several key technologies have advanced since then, including carbon composite materials for airframes, thermal protection systems and propulsion. “We’re enabling a capability by integrating technologies that have matured over the last few decades,” he said.

Few design details about Radian One have been disclosed. Until now, Radian has largely worked on conceptual design of the spaceplane. Proceeds from the seed round will fund its transition into the hardware development phase, the company said.

Radian is currently hiring several key roles, including aerospace engineer, CAD engineer and senior systems engineer, according to its website.

This Startup Aims to Make a Human-Flying Spaceplane, a Concept NASA Failed in the 1990s

News

Twins power way to series victory in Oakland with 14-4 rout in finale

Published

on

Twins power way to series victory in Oakland with 14-4 rout in finale

OAKLAND, Calif. — Before Sonny Gray threw his first pitch on Wednesday, the veteran starter was sitting on a three-run lead. It was that kind of day for the Twins, who put on a show on offense and rode a quality start from Gray to a 14-4 victory and a series win over the Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum.

The Twins opened up the game in the first inning, using four hits and a walk to produce their three runs. Gary Sánchez, who has started to heat up as of late, dropped a broken-bat single into left field to give the Twins a two-run lead. Gio Urshela followed with an RBI single of his own.

The Twins tacked on runs throughout the game, including a five-run sixth inning in which they broke the game wide open.

Carlos Correa, activated off the injured list earlier in the day, finished with two hits and a walk. He drove in a run on a double to center in the fourth, part of a two-run inning that included a Luis Arraez RBI double. Arraez finished the day with a team-leading three hits.

That was more than enough support for Gray, who threw six innings in his longest start of the season. While he ran into some trouble in the earlier innings, he seemed to settle in later, retiring the final 10 batters he faced.

Continue Reading

News

What’s behind Gleyber Torres’ early season resurgence?

Published

on

What’s behind Gleyber Torres’ early season resurgence?

Gleyber Torres, at just 25 years old, has already lived several lives in pinstripes.

He was the anointed one, the heir apparent to Alfonso Soriano, a two-time All-Star and a playoff hero, all before his 23rd birthday.

Then the pitfalls that many people face in their early-to-mid-20s began to rear their ugly heads. The pandemic certainly didn’t help, but even in 2021 as things returned to normalcy, Torres was dreadful at his job. The former top prospect who looked like a pillar of the Yankees’ next great team instead lost his starting shortstop gig. When he was in the starting lineup, he was often buried in the seventh spot.

When Torres was officially moved off of shortstop at the end of last season, his manager said of his defensive issues at the high-pressure position, “I feel like it’s been a weight on him.” Trade talks swirled, as the combination of poor play and the impending free agency of Carlos Correa, Corey Seager and others made Torres seem like the odd man out.

Instead, the Yankees stood pat on free agent shortstops, kept Torres, and traded for a defensive maestro in Isiah Kiner-Falefa. With the stability of knowing that he’d still be a Yankee, plus not having to worry about playing shortstop anymore, Torres has started 2022 with a bang.

As of Wednesday morning, Torres has a 117 wRC+ and .741 OPS, both his highest since 2019, the last time he consistently punished the baseball. After five straight hitless games in mid-April, Torres turned things around with a pinch-hit single in Detroit. Though his eighth-inning knock ended up being mostly meaningless — he was stranded on the bases and the Yankees lost 3-0 — that plate appearance did something to get him back on track.

Starting with that game, Torres has slashed .301/.342/.521. Seven of his 22 hits in that span have gone for extra bases, including four home runs. As a result, his numbers on the young season show a completely different player than the one who sulked through two straight soul crumbling campaigns.

“Last year was a very [hard] struggle for me,” Torres said after driving in five runs in a win over Toronto on May 11. “All the work I put in the offseason, I can show that every time I go to home plate. I mean I can still learn the game.”

Glancing at his numbers, the things that Torres has seemed to learn this year are fairly simple, and also a very common school of thought across Major League Baseball right now. He’s mashing fastballs, putting the ball in the air more often, and as a result, he’s making a lot more hard contact.

In 2021, as Torres’ overall slugging percentage sagged to a career-low .366, fastballs were one of the main culprits. He slugged a not-ideal .352 on heaters, and with two strikes, fastballs resulted in a strikeout 19.6% of the time. This year, though things could still change as he gets more at-bats, Torres is slugging .536 on fastballs. They’re only putting him away 12.9% of the time he gets in a two-strike hole.

Hunting fastballs is an effective strategy for most hitters, but on an even more simplistic level, so is hitting pitches that are meant to be hit. First-year hitting coach Dillon Lawson showed up to his new job with the catchphrase “Hit strikes hard”. Torres appears to have taken that to heart. According to Baseball-Savant, in three key areas of the strike zone — middle-up, middle-down and up-and-in — Torres is hitting the ball hard at a significantly higher rate than he was last year.

Hard contact is particularly damaging when it’s in the air. Every stadium can hold a well-struck grounder, very few will contain an airborne missile. For the last two seasons — the ones Torres would like to forget — he ran a ground ball rate north of 40%. This year, it’s down to 35.2% so far, with fly balls getting above 40% for the first time since 2019. As Rangers’ salty manager Chris Woodward can attest to, sometimes getting the ball in the air at Yankee Stadium leads to “Little League home runs.” Whether they go 320 or 420 feet, a home run is a home run, and Torres is already more than halfway to his home run total from last year.

The other adjustment Torres has made in the season’s first month is swinging more often. His swing percentage has shot up to 76.2%, nearly identical to the 76.3% he had when swatting 38 homers in 2019. This could be a sign that Torres isn’t overthinking things at the plate, a welcome sign for someone who has spoken openly about the mental strife he’s endured.

“First of all, I feel really good,” Torres told reporters last week. “I mean, my swing has gotten better and better. And I’m working hard every day to be the way I want to be. But so far, so good. I think confidence is back and that is the most important thing for me.”

That renewed confidence could also wind up being one of the most important things for the Yankees, a team that, at 27-9, has absolutely been the way they want to be.

()

Continue Reading

News

Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell wants to be more than ‘just an offensive coach’

Published

on

Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell wants to be more than ‘just an offensive coach’

Kevin O’Connell was an NFL quarterback and an offensive assistant in the league for seven years before being named head coach of the Vikings. But he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed.

“( want to) be visible to the defense, let them know that I’m learning their side of the ball just as much as they are,” the first-year head coach said Wednesday during the first week of organized team activities. ”I can complement them on detailed things they can do within our coverages, within a pressure, how we stop the run, and they can look at me as not just an offensive head coach.”

O’Connell replaced Mike Zimmer, who came from the defensive side of the ball and in eight seasons gave his offensive coordinator lots of leeway. O’Connell, who turns 37 next Wednesday, said it’s “really important” to him for defensive players and those on special teams to know he’s also invested in those aspects of the game.

With that in mind, Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks was asked if he thinks of O’Connell as more than just an offensive coach.

“He definitely knows what’s going on, but I don’t think he can fairly say that,” Kendricks said with a laugh. “He’s definitely an offensive coach. He definitely wants to light us up on defense, but that’s only going to get us better on defense.”

Kendricks said O’Connell can be valuable working with the defense.

“I notice from him watching film and him going over film on the defensive side of things, he kind of goes over what the offense’s mindset or mind frame is as he’s talking about the defense,” Kendricks said.

DIVERSITY SUMMIT

From Wednesday through Friday, the Vikings are hosting a diversity coaching summit at the TCO Performance Center. It is being attended by 12 young coaches, 11 from colleges, with the intention being to groom them for possible future NFL jobs.

“It’s really a chance for us to get exposed to them from the standpoint of how do they carry themselves?” said Vikings assistant head coach Mike Pettine, who is heading the summit. “We’re going to do mock interviews, film everything and give them feedback on it. They get a chance to be in our meetings. We’ll talk to them as well (about) the NFL culture and expectations.”

Pettine wanted to have such a summit when he Green Bay’s defensive coordinator from 2019-2020 but the coronavirus pandemic hit and then he was fired from his job.

Among the 12 invitees is one woman, Roseanna Smith, director of football operations/running backs coach at Division III Oberlin (Ohio) College.

BRIEFLY

— The Vikings’ top three draft picks all could end up starting but O’Connell is not rushing anything. First-round selection Lewis Cine has been working behind Camryn Bynum at safety, second-round pick Andrew Booth Jr. has been sidelined as the cornerback recovers from groin surgery and second-rounder Ed Ingram is getting reserve snaps at guard. O’Connell said the Vikings have a “teaching progression” for rookies but they “can earn” spots for sure.

— O’Connell has been impressed with how second-quarterback Kellen Mond has looked during offseason drills. “Kellen’s having a good spring so far, working hard, digesting the system,” O’Connell said. During Tuesday’s second session of OTAs,  O’Connell said Mond “made a couple of checks at the line of scrimmage that he wasn’t prepared play-by-play for” but that he “instinctively” adjusted.

— Tight end Irv Smith Jr., who missed all of last season with a knee injury, did some work on the field Tuesday but O’Connell said the Vikings will continue to bring him back slowly. “He’s going to be a major part of what we do,” O’Connell said. “It’s just making sure that we’re doing it in a really responsible way.”

Continue Reading

Trending