Boeing and SpaceX Win $6.8 Billion for Apollo-Style Space Taxis

Published on September 16, 2014, by

NASA is going back to the future with $6.8 billion in backing for Apollo-style spaceships designed by Boeing and SpaceX. Both companies have been given the go-ahead to build, test and fly their gumdrop-shaped “space taxis,” with the aim of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station starting in 2017.

“Today, we’re one giant leap closer to launching our astronauts from the U.S. on American spacecraft,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Tuesday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011, NASA has had to rely on the Russians for rides to the station, at a cost topping $70 million per seat. Tuesday’s award is the latest phase in a years-long commercial effort aimed at fixing that situation — an effort that already has cost NASA $1 billion.

“The greatest nation on Earth should not be dependent on any other nation to get to space,” Bolden said.

Boeing will get most of the funds for its CST-100 capsule, $4.2 billion, said Kathy Lueders, the head of NASA’s commercial crew program. But SpaceX wasn’t left out in the cold: Its crew-capable Dragon capsule won $2.6 billion from the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability program, known as CCtCap for short.

SpaceX has been launching uncrewed, cargo-carrying versions of the Dragon to the station atop its Falcon 9 rocket since 2012, but the Dragon V2 craft is being upgraded with all the safety features that NASA says will be needed for carrying astronauts.

Boeing has not yet built a flightworthy model of its CST-100 craft. The company’s executives said they were relying on CCtCap funding to proceed with construction. But Boeing can draw upon decades of experience in spaceship construction — including its experience as prime contractor for the International Space Station. The CST-100 would be launched by Atlas 5 rockets from United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Both the CST-100 and the Dragon are capable of carrying up to seven astronauts, and both have a roughly conical look that’s well-suited to the kind of atmospheric re-entry and ocean splashdown that astronauts experienced at the end of each Apollo moon mission. SpaceX is working on technologies that would allow for land-based touchdowns rather than splashdowns.

‘Best choice for NASA’

A third spaceship-builder, Sierra Nevada Corp., had proposed building a mini-shuttle with wings, known as the Dream Chaser. That company received more than $300 million from NASA during earlier phases of the commercial crew program, but lost out in the final round. In an emailed statement, Sierra Nevada said it was “disappointed” not to be chosen but commended NASA for its efforts and promised further comment later.

NASA officials declined to discuss in detail why they selected Boeing and SpaceX while passing on the Dream Chaser, but said it was a close call. “This wasn’t an easy choice, but it’s the best choice for NASA and the nation,” Bolden said.

Lueders said the different amounts set aside for the two companies were based on the amounts proposed by the companies themselves.

“Both Boeing and SpaceX proposed to the same set of requirements,” she said. “NASA awarded the contracts based on their proposals. It’s two contracts to the same requirements.”

‘Lifeboat’ for the space station

The requirements call for the two companies to design, build, test and certify their spacecraft, climaxing with a test flight to the space station with at least one NASA crew member aboard. The companies would be paid as they complete each of five milestones over the next three years. Lueders said the contracts committed each company to fly two to six missions after certification. Each of those missions would deliver a crew of four plus cargo.

Each spacecraft would serve as an emergency “lifeboat” for the space station’s crew for up to 210 days, Lueders said.

Bolden said the payouts would be dependent on receiving adequate funding from Congress. Lueders said the 2017 time frame for flying astronauts was NASA’s goal, but not necessarily set in stone. “We will not sacrifice crew safety for that goal,” she said.

Initial reaction to the awards was positive. Rep. Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said in a statement that it was “a good day for our nation’s space program and for all Americans.” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., rejoiced as well: “We’re headed back to space and away from any reliance on the Russians,” he said in an emailed statement.

John Elbon, Boeing vice president and general manager for space exploration, said in a statement that “Boeing has been part of every American human spaceflight program, and we’re honored that NASA has chosen us to continue that legacy.”

SpaceX’s billionaire founder, Elon Musk, also said he was honored by the trust the NASA placed in his company. “It is a vital step in a journey that will ultimately take us to the stars and make humanity a multiplanet species,” Musk said.

Beyond the space station

At the same time that NASA is working with commercial providers on space taxis for the station, the agency is also working on its own, more capable deep-space capsule known as the Orion. The Orion is due for its first uncrewed test flight in December, and it’s expected to start carrying astronauts beyond Earth orbit in the early 2020s.

Bolden said the CST-100 and the Dragon would play essential parts in NASA’s strategy to get to Mars and its moons sometime in the 2030s. “You can’t get there if you don’t have a robust low-Earth-orbit infrastructure,” he said.

During Tuesday’s briefing, NASA astronaut Mike Fincke said he was looking forward to getting a ride on the new spacecraft. He pointed out that they should also provide “a comfortable lift for those who are not [NASA] astronauts,” including space tourists and researchers. Boeing, for instance, already has forged a deal with Bigelow Aerospace that may someday see private-sector travelers heading to non-governmental space stations aboard CST-100 capsules.

“They’re going to be terrific machines,” Fincke said.

original article via: NBC


Team USA defeats Serbia 129-92 to win gold at FIBA World Cup

Published on September 15, 2014, by

With golden confetti raining on their heads and “Party in the U.S.A.” ringing in their ears, it must have been hard for the U.S. basketball players to hear anything.

Doesn’t matter. They had stopped listening long ago.

All the questions about their talent, the doubts about their ability, were put down as easily as their opponents.

“It kind of was, again, a smack to our face, saying the U.S. was sending the B-team to go play in the World Cup,” forward Kenneth Faried said. “Just because LeBron [James]‘s not here, Kobe [Bryant]‘s not here, [Kevin] Durant‘s not here, doesn’t mean anything. We can step up and win the gold, too. That’s what we did tonight.”

And just like every other game, the Americans did it easily.

Tournament MVP Kyrie Irving made all six of his 3-point attempts and scored 26 points, and the U.S. repeated as world champion for the first time by crushing Serbia 129-92 on Sunday in the Basketball World Cup.

James Harden added 23 points for the Americans, who made 11 of 16 3-pointers in a sensational-shooting first half, adding one final romp to a tournament full of them.

This depleted team that was supposedly weak enough to lose was too good to be touched.

“Obviously we didn’t have a very close game all tournament, but for that to happen we had to play hard for 40 minutes and not relax and not give any inch while we were out there,” guard Stephen Curry said.

The Americans came in winning by 32.5 points per game and their closest victory in the tournament was by 21 points over Turkey. They thought they would get a tough game Sunday, but were simply too good to let that happen.

They finished at 58 percent from the field. They made 15 of 30 3-point attempts and had eight of their 12 players score in double figures.

“I think the results were dominant, but we had spurts of dominance in a lot of games,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “And we had tough games and then all of a sudden we’d have a spurt and it looked like we dominated. Tonight we had like about a 35-minute spurt.”

The Americans were supposed to have All-Star forwards Durant, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin, who all informed USA Basketball not long before the tournament that they would be unavailable.

But Irving and Harden stuck around, and despite sending the youngest U.S. team since NBA players debuted in 1992, the Americans remained as dominant as ever.

They have won 63 straight games — 45 in official FIBA events and 18 in exhibition play — and are automatically qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

James, Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul might want to return for that competition. But the Americans will have to leave room for some players from this team, which has loads of young talent that figures to get even better from the time it spent together.

It was the fifth world title for the Americans, tying Yugoslavia for the most all-time. And the second for Derrick Rose, who used this tournament as his return after missing most of the last two seasons following a pair of knee surgeries, along with Curry and Rudy Gay.

It was the first medal for Serbia, which had been a part of Yugoslavia when it won five. The Yugoslavians had been the last repeat champions, winning in 1998 and 2002.

The Serbians were only 2-3 in the group stage but then routed previously unbeaten Greece and Brazil before building a big lead and holding on for a 90-85 semifinal victory over France, which had beat them in the group stage and knocked out tournament co-favorite Spain in the quarters.

Serbia carried that momentum into the early moments of this one. Using a fluid offense that produced layups and dunks, Serbia opened the biggest lead any team had against the U.S. in this tournament when Miroslav Raduljica’s three-point play made it 15-7.

That was wiped out in a minute, and Serbia’s hopes of winning didn’t last much longer.

“I don’t think anything worked what we planned, but nevertheless I’m still happy with the effort that we put on the floor,” Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic said.

Harden had a three-point play and a 3-pointer, DeMarcus Cousins tied it with a pair of free throws, and then Irving had a jumper, 3-pointer and layup to cap a 15-0 burst that made it 22-15.

Irving hit a couple more 3s in an 11-0 run later in the quarter that provided a 35-19 cushion, and the Americans poured it on midway through the second in making it 56-30 after back-to-back 3s by Irving and Harden.

France beat Lithuania 95-93 on Saturday for the bronze.

original article via: ESPN


Burger King Confirms Deal to Buy Tim Hortons for About $11 Billion

Published on August 26, 2014, by

Burger King BKW -2.39% Worldwide Inc. agreed to buy Canadian coffee-and-doughnut-chain Tim Hortons Inc. THI.T +8.89% for about $11 billion, confirming plans to move the iconic American brand north of the border under a tax inversion deal.

The relocation of a such a high-profile American brand is likely to elevate the debate over tax inversions at a critical time as U.S. lawmakers look to stem the growing wave of company departures.

Adding a twist to the deal, legendary investor Warren Buffett‘s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. BRKB +0.33% is providing $3 billion in preferred equity financing, throwing him into the center of the debate over U.S. tax policy.

The deal would create the world’s third largest quick-service restaurant company, with about $23 billion in system sales and more than 18,000 restaurants in 100 countries. The new global company will be based in Canada, though each brand will be managed independently after the deal’s completion, the companies said.

“By bringing together our two iconic companies under common ownership, we are creating a global [quick service restaurant] powerhouse,” said Alex Behring, executive chairman of Burger King and managing partner of 3G Capital.

Tim Hortons shareholders will receive C$65.50 in cash and 0.8025 shares of the new company for each share, valuing the restaurant company’s stock at C$94.05 based on Monday’s close. As an alternative, shareholders will be able to choose to receive either C$88.50 in cash or 3.0879 shares of the new company.

The acquisition of Tim Hortons, which is Canada’s largest quick-service chain and has a market capitalization of about $10 billion, would have to win Canadian government approval. That means Burger King, which is controlled by Brazilian private-equity firm 3G Capital Management, would have to show that the deal provides a so-called net benefit to Canada.

Tim Hortons, which today operates in only a handful of countries outside Canada and the U.S., is synonymous with Canada, with more than 3,600 Canadian shops located in strip malls and street corners in both small towns and big cities. It is named after its co-founder, a former defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs NHL franchise.

3G Capital will own about 51% of the new company. Berkshire Hathaway, which previously joined with 3G to buy H.J. Heinz & Co. in 2013, won’t be involved in the management or operation of the business.

In order to fund the deal, Burger King has obtained commitments for $12.5 billion of financing for the cash portion, including commitments for a $9.5 billion debt financing package led by J.P. Morgan JPM +0.88% JPMorgan Chase & Co. U.S.: NYSE $59.86 +0.52+0.88% Aug 26, 2014 11:20 am Volume (Delayed 15m) : 3.10M P/E Ratio 15.37 Market Cap $223.19 Billion Dividend Yield 2.67% Rev. per Employee $404,867 60.0059.7559.5059.2510a11a12p1p2p3p 08/26/14 HEARD ON THE STREET: Copper Mi… 08/26/14 Burger King Confirms Deal to B… 08/26/14 United Engineers Sells Car Bus… More quote details and news » and Wells Fargo. WFC +0.38%

The companies said Burger King Chief Executive Daniel Schwartz will become CEO of the new company. Mr. Behring will be executive chairman, and Tim Hortons CEO Marc Caira will be vice chairman. Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Caira will continue to serve as CEOs of their respective companies during the transition period, the companies said.

Shares of the new company will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Miami-based Burger King, founded in 1954, operates in about 14,000 locations in nearly 100 countries. The chain, which 3G Capital acquired in 2010, has become a franchiser that collects royalty fees from its franchisees—not an operator of restaurants. Since the 3G Capital acquisition, Burger King has significantly increased its presence in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

In an inversion, a U.S. firm relocates—usually through a merger with a smaller company—to a country where tax rates and rules are perceived to be friendlier, but it typically continues to be managed from the U.S.

original article via: WSJ