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      Dear Guests   12/24/2016

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    • The 21st Century Race For Space - BBC 15 May 2018 In this Film, Prof Brain Cox gets exclusive access behind the scenes at Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and Spaceport America, exploring what is really happening in privately financed space flight right now. A new age of space exploration, and exploitation, is dawning. But surprisingly, some of the boldest efforts at putting humans into space are now those of private companies started by a handful of maverick billionaire businessmen. From space tourism to asteroid mining, and even dreams of colonies on Mars, these new masters of the universe refuse to limit their imaginations. But are private companies led by Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk  really going to be able to pull this off? How will they overcome the technical challenges to achieve it? And is it really a good idea, or just a fool's errand? Cox meets key players in the story - Bezos, founder of Blue Origin as well as Amazon, and Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic. He wants to find out how entrepreneurs - and engineers - really plan to overcome the daunting challenges of human space travel. It certainly hasn't been easy so far. Jeff Bezos has sold a further billion dollars of Amazon stock this year to fund Blue Origin. Branson has been working on Galactic for more than a decade. Lives have been lost. And some companies have already all but given up. But real progress has been made too. The origins of the new space boom, the X-prize in 2004, proved that reusable space craft could be built by private enterprise. Now the challenge is to work out how to run reliable, safe, affordable services that will show a return on the massive financial investments. Sixteen years since Dennis Tito became the first civilian in space, Cox explores the hardware and companies that are aiming to make daily tourist flights to space. Beyond mass space travel, and even space mining and manufacturing, the dream of Elon Musk and others is true space exploration. His company, SpaceX, already delivers supplies to the International Space Station, and their next step is delivering astronauts too. But their true ambition is to ensure the survival of the human race by crossing our solar system and colonizing Mars in the next decade. Could commercial spaceflight companies eventually make us a space-faring civilization? Video Link
    • TESS, the satellite launched by NASA last month that will search thousands of stars for Earth-like exoplanets, has just sent back its first test image. It’s just a quick one, not “science-quality,” but it does give you an idea of the scale of the mission: the area TESS will eventually document is 400 times the area covered by this shot. What you see above is the star field around the constellation Centaurus; this 2-second exposure captured more than 200,000 stars. That’s just in one image from one of the four cameras on board; the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will employ all four during its mission, watching individual regions of space for 27 days straight over the course of two orbits. Repeated high-resolution imagery of these star fields will let the team on the ground watch for any that dim briefly, indicating that a planet may be passing in between the star and our solar system. This will let it watch far, far more stars than the otherwise similar Kepler mission, which even by looking at only dim stars with a relatively narrow field of view, found evidence of thousands of exoplanets for scientists to pore over. TESS just yesterday received a gravity assist from the moon, putting it near its final orbit. A last engine burn on May 30 will complete that maneuver and the satellite will enter into the highly eccentric, as yet untried orbit designed by its creators. Once that orbit is attained and all systems are go, new imagery will come in about every two weeks when TESS is at its closest point to Earth. “First light,” or the first actual fully calibrated, usable image from the satellite, is expected some time in June. https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/18/nasas-newest-planet-hunting-satellite-takes-a-stellar-first-test-image/  
    • SpaceX's launches the new, final version of its Falcon 9 rocket in its ninth flight of this year. Founder Elon Musk says the Block 5 version will be "the mainstay of SpaceX business" moving forward. The new Falcon 9 will be capable of launching over 100 times, with SpaceX aiming for turnaround times of under 24 hours by next year, Musk says. For nearly a decade, SpaceX evolved its Falcon 9 rocket every launch, trying to keep up with lead designer Elon Musk's relentless pursuit of innovation. Until now. An enhanced version of Falcon 9 called Block 5 launched for the first time on Friday. Musk plans for this new rocket to achieve a host of new milestones for SpaceX, including launching and landing the same rocket twice in 24 hours – as early as next year. "We expect [Block 5] to be the mainstay of SpaceX business," Musk said on a conference call with reporters before the launch. Block 5 is the version of Falcon 9 that SpaceX has been working toward since the rocket's debut in June 2010. Nearly twice as powerful as that inaugural Falcon 9 rocket, Musk called Block 5 "the last version" of the orbital class rocket. This is a historical moment for Bangladesh as well because Falcon-9 has carried the first ever telecommunication satellite called "Bangabandhu-1" to the space. Not only that, Block 5 also successfully returned to its drone-ship after the job.  Elon Mask is my Tony Stark... 
    • Google  will soon launch a new version of Google Maps that will give you more personalized recommendations than before. Google has long worked to make Maps seem more personalized, but since Maps is now about far more than just directions, the company is introducing new features to give you better recommendations for local places. “Today, our users aren’t just asking for the fastest route to a place but also what’s happening around them, what the new places are and what the locals are doing in their neighborhood,” Google VP for engineering and product management Jen Fitzpatrick noted in today’s keynote. The first new feature to enable this is the ‘for you’ tab. This new part of Google Maps will learn from your personal preferences and tell you about what’s new in your neighborhood (or other neighborhoods you are watching). Maybe there’s a new cafe or restaurant. Over the course of the last few years, reviews in Google Maps have also become increasingly important. But what does a four-star review really mean? So going forward, Google Maps will take those reviews and mash them up with what it knows about you to give you a more personalized score based on your context and interests. Another — not AI-related — feature Google is adding to Maps is a new Group Planning feature that’ll allow you to long press on a place and then add them to a shareable list. Techcrunch https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/08/google-maps-will-soon-give-you-better-recommendations/ 8 big announcements from Google I/O 2018 https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/08/8-big-announcements-from-google-i-o-2018/  
    • For much of the last 25 years, Boston was a construction site. The Big Dig project put an elevated highway under ground, to improve traffic flow and create green space where the roadway had once divided the city. What many people didn’t recognize was how much soil conditions affected the project: Boston is built on landfill, some of it centuries old, and is subject to coastal weather and ocean tides. Digging a tunnel under a working city is never easy; add in our fleet of small to large skyscrapers, historic buildings and working roads and bridges, and it becomes a geotechnical nightmare. Geotechnics is the branch of engineering that merges geology and physics to model soil mechanics and rock behavior, considers the effects of water from rain, rivers or tides, and other aspects of the physical site in which a AEC project might find itself. The Big Dig engineering companies had  geotechnical experts, but many of Boston’s landmark owners and operators hired their own experts to make sure that their assets would be safe as the project proceeded from exploratory digging to tunneling to construction and, eventually, to daily operations. Each stage of the project was modeled and analyzed, but in the end, I am told, most things were over-designed in the interest of safety. The compute horsepower we have today wasn’t available back then, the algorithms not as sophisticated, and the risk too great to do anything else. Enter Bentley Systems, which makes software used in the design, construction and operations of roads, bridges, railways, dams, buildings, offshore rigs and wind farms–just about any type of built asset. Bentley announced last night that it has acquired two players in geotechnical engineering, Plaxis and SoilVision, to create an integrated environment that will go from geotechnical analysis to structural mechanics to detailed design to generating construction instructions. Bentley wants to connect tasks that are currently disconnected to eliminate errors and duplication, and to make it possible to iterate, accurately, so that engineers stop over-designing. They see the future workflow like this: Bentley’s gINT product manages site surveys and soil sampling. Geotechnical engineers use Plaxis to calculate soil properties and behavior, and groundwater flow with SoilVision’s SVOFFICE. Taking all of these physical properties into account, they then model soil-structure interaction with Plaxis’ FEA-based design, simulation, and engineering tools, PLAXIS 2D and PLAXIS 3D. The results from these simulations are used as inputs into Bentley’s suite of design tools –for example, SACS for offshore structures or STAAD for general structures or foundations. These then feed into Bentley’s design and construction tools and, ultimately, asset operations solutions. And that’s Bentley’s secret sauce: its massive portfolio of surrounding products. For example,  the geotechnical applications will be integrated with the STAAD, RAM and SACS structural applications to close the loop between requirements and design. In the offshore world, an owner may change the requirements for a platform; given new loading and known soil conditions, how must that change the design of the platform’s supporting structure? Or, in the case of a congested urban environment, how will the construction of a new parking lot change drainage — and what does that mean for our brownstone’s proposed foundation? Or, looking further into the future, how will loads on a storm-weakened levee in New Orleans affect the structures around it? With real-time monitoring and enough compute capacity, we can know and act. I had the chance to speak this morning with Jan-Willem Koutstaal, Managing Director of Plaxis; Raoul Karp, Bentley’s VP, Design Engineering Analysis; and Chris Barron, Bentley’s Chief Communications Officer. Mr. Koutsaal said that his customers are excited by the possibilities the combination offers –integration between PLAXIS and Bentley’s analysis suite, access to technology such as reality capture that can smooth workflows– while Mr. Karp and Mr. Barron reinforced Bentley’s commitment to creating more efficient workflows. The companies know one another well: they integrated gINT and PLAXIS years ago and are already working on broader integration plans. A couple of things I hadn’t known about geotechnical engineering and the problems it solves: Soil is a natural object, inherently nonlinear and unpredictable. Structures are … not. That mix of nonlinear and linear is hard for many to wrap their brains around and, as a result, geotechnical engineering is often seen as too complicated. By offering both, Bentley will be able to help companies integrate their analytical processes Geotechnical engineering, as a discipline, is in huge demand. Boston is old landfill, but Singapore and Japan are building out into the ocean today, creating apartment blocks and airport runways where before there was just water. Careful geotechnical simulation is the only way to ensure safety and fit for purpose As they’re built, structures’ weight and center of gravity change. If the geotechnical modeling doesn’t take the changes into account, it’s possible to wind up with a leaning Tower of Pisa — not desirable. Geotechnical engineering should be done for all major milestones of a construction project to predict what might happen, so that it can be prevented In a perfect world, geotechnical and structural analysis would be iterative and would examine design alternatives that include geotechnical considerations as well as material cost, schedule, design aesthetic and other factors. Bentley believes that integrating these workflows can make that happen. For now, it’s business as usual. All of Plaxis’ experts have joined Bentley and are working with their Bentley counterparts on integration. But Plaxis is still marching to its own release plans, too:  its MoDeTo for offshore wind turbine structures will be out later this year. And it’s a great complement to Bentley SACS’ wind turbine structural analysis product. Tighter integration between geotechnical and structural engineering has compelling benefits, even if we only look at problems avoided. Add in opportunities for more innovative designs, less waste from over-design, and improved reliability via digital connections, and it becomes a question of how quickly rather than if. And that’ Mr. Koutstaal says, is his customers main question. They are excited about the combination and are looking forward to exploring the new possibilities if offers. It sounds like a great fit, culturally, too, as both sets of execs said they were “engineering companies that write software”. No financial information was released.   sources : http://schnitgercorp.com/2018/04/26/bentley-ups-its-game-in-geotechnics-with-plaxis-soilvision-acqs/
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