Tech Talk

• VIRGIN Galactic says it has received an operating licence for its space tourism rocket from the Federal Aviation Administration which will ultimately permit commercial operations.

The company said the licensing process involved a review of the system’s design, safety analysis and flight trajectory analysis.

Virgin Galatic’s first spaceship broke apart in 2014 during its fourth rocket-powered test flight when the co-pilot prematurely unlocked a key system. The first taxi test of the the company’s SpaceShipTwo new spacecraft took place on Monday morning at the Mojave, California, airport.

• THE first wave of genetically modified mosquitoes have been released in the Cayman Islands as part of a new effort to control the insect that spreads Zika and other viruses.

Genetically altered male mosquitoes, which don’t bite but are expected to mate with females to produce offspring that die before reaching adulthood, were released in the West Bay area of Grand Cayman Island, according to a joint statement from the Cayman Islands Mosquito Research and Control Unit and British biotech firm Oxitec.

The mosquitoes will be released over nine months in an area known to be a hot spot for the Aedes aegypti species, which are not native to the Cayman Islands and are the main vector for Zika as well as other viruses, including chikingunya and dengue. Oxitec has deployed its mosquitoes to fight Zika in Brazil following initial trials there and previously conducted tests in the Cayman Islands and Panama.

• TESLA wants to put its car and energy storage businesses under one solar-powered roof by buying solar panel maker SolarCity Corp in an all-stock deal worth $2.6 billion.

Thirteen-year-old Tesla currently makes two luxury vehicles - the Model S sedan and Model X SUV - as well as Powerwall and Powerpack energy storage units for homes and businesses.

The company said that a tie-up with SolarCity would create a one-stop shop for cleaner energy. With one service call, customers could get their solar panels installed and connected to a Powerwall, which preserves energy for later use. Users could also get the system hooked up to chargers for one of Tesla’s vehicles. The deal must still be approved by the government and shareholders at both companies.

• A University of Washington biology professor leading an ambitious project to scan and digitise all of more than 25,000 species of fish in the world is making progress.

Adam Summers has a small computed tomography (CT) to visualise the inner structures of stingray and other fish with the idea to have one clearinghouse of CT scan data freely available to researchers anywhere to analyse the morphology, or structure, of particular species. So far, he and others have digitised images of more than 500 species, from poachers to sculpins, from museum collections around the globe. He plans to add thousands more and has invited other scientists to use the CT scanner, or add their own scans to the open-access database.

“We have folks coming from all over the world to use this machine,” said Summers, who advised Pixar on how fish move for its hit animated films “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory” and is dubbed “fabulous fish guy” on the credits for “Nemo”.


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