Bezos offers to cover $2 billion in NASA costs in exchange for astronaut lunar lander contract
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos on Monday offered to cover billions of dollars of costs in exchange for a NASA contract to build a lunar lander to land astronauts on the moon.
Bezos said Blue Origin would waive all payments up to $2 billion from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the current and next two government fiscal years. Blue Origin would also fund its own pathfinder mission to low-Earth orbit, according to the letter. In return, the company requested a fixed-priced contract from the government agency.
“This offer is not a deferral, but is an outright and permanent waiver of those payments. This offer provides time for government appropriation actions to catch up,” Bezos said in an open letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
NASA in April awarded Elon Musk’s SpaceX with a sole $2.89 billion contract to build the next crewed lunar lander under its Human Landing Systems program. Before selecting the winner of the contest, NASA gave 10-month study contracts to SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics to begin work on lunar landers.
“Instead of this single source approach, NASA should embrace its original strategy of competition,” Bezos said. “Without competition, a short time into the contract, NASA will find itself with limited options as it attempts to negotiate missed deadlines, design changes, and cost overruns.”
He and his fellow passengers floated in microgravity for a couple of minutes before their capsule returned and landed after 10 minutes and 10 seconds.
The New Shepard launch represented a milestone in its progress toward his vision to create “a future where millions of people are living and working in space to benefit Earth.”
Right now, Bezos and fellow billionaire Richard Branson are the only two major entrepreneurs in the market of launching tourists to the edge of space. Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which also recently completed a crewed flight, has historically sold seats on its flights between $200,000 and $250,000 per ticket.
The tourism market is just one component of a space economy valued no less than $420 billion. Yet its high profile means it has a powerful and widespread influence over the space industry, with investors often pointing to astronaut flights as driving excitement about the broader consequences of the extraterrestrial marketplace.
Blue Origin has sold nearly $100 million worth of tickets for future passenger flights to the edge of space, Bezos said last week. The company is actively working on building more rocket boosters to fly more frequently at the “very high” rate Bezos hopes for.
— CNBC’s Michael Sheetz contributed reporting.
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TikTok halts e-commerce service in Indonesia following ban
A merchant sells crystal ornaments via a live TikTok broadcast.
CFOTO | Future Publishing | Getty Images
TikTok Indonesia said it will end transactions on its e-commerce marketplace by Thursday, in order to comply with new local regulations.
The announcement comes after the Indonesian ministry of trade last week set a one-week deadline for TikTok to become a standalone app, without any e-commerce feature, or risk being shut down.
“Our priority is to remain compliant with local laws and regulations,” said TikTok in a statement on Tuesday.
“As such, we will no longer facilitate e-commerce transactions in TikTok Shop Indonesia by 17:00 GMT+7, October 4, and will continue to cooperate with the relevant authorities on the path forward,” it said.
The move comes after President Joko Widodo recently called for social media regulations. He said the influx of such platforms has contributed to a sales decline for domestic businesses by flooding the market with foreign imports.
The new regulation could deal a major blow to TikTok’s Southeast Asian ambitions. CEO Shou Zi Chew previously said that the app will invest billions of dollars into the region as it looks to diversify its business globally as U.S. pressure escalates.
Indonesia is TikTok’s largest Southeast Asian market and second-largest market globally with 125 million users after the U.S., according to the company.
Sachin Mittal, head of telecom, media and technology research at DBS Bank, previously said that TikTok “operating as a standalone app may still be challenging.”
He explained logging into a separate app might lead to a sharp drop-out rate as most purchases on TikTok are impulse buys.
Ripple obtains full license to operate in Singapore as it expands in Asia-Pacific
Brad Garlinghouse, chief executive officer of Ripple Labs Inc., speaks during the Token2049 conference in Singapore, on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.
Joseph Nair | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Cryptocurrency company Ripple said on Wednesday that it has obtained a major payments institution license in Singapore, a strategic step toward growing its presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
The new development comes less than four months after the Monetary Authority of Singapore granted an initial in-principle approval in June. With the full license, Ripple will continue to provide regulated crypto payment services in Singapore.
“Over 90% of Ripple’s business is outside of the U.S., and Singapore – and to a larger degree Asia Pacific – is one of its fastest growing regions,” the company said.
Ripple said it will continue to prioritize the region for adoption of its crypto payment services.
Monica Long, president of Ripple, told CNBC in an interview last month that the Singapore office’s “headcount has more than doubled in the past year because our business within the Asia-Pacific region has really exploded.”
Singapore has led crypto regulation in the region. The country’s Payment Services Act — which regulates payment services and the provision of crypto services to the public — has been in effect since January 2020.
The city-state has also stepped up scrutiny on crypto firms. It ordered crypto service providers to safekeep customer assets under a statutory trust before the end of 2023. It also restricts such firms from facilitating lending or staking of their retail customers’ assets.
“Since establishing Singapore as our Asia Pacific headquarters in 2017, the country has been pivotal to Ripple’s global business. We have hired exceptional talent and local leadership … and plan to continue growing our presence in a progressive jurisdiction like Singapore,” Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple, said in a statement.
“Under MAS’ leadership, Singapore has developed into one of the leading fintech and digital asset hubs striking the balance between innovation, consumer protection and responsible growth,” said Garlinghouse.
The comment stand in contrast to Ripple’s situation in the U.S., where it and Coinbase are embroiled in lawsuits with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC charged Ripple and its founders in 2020, alleging they illegally sold its native cryptocurrency XRP without first registering it with the SEC. But in July, a landmark ruling determined the token was not, in itself, necessarily a security.
Coinbase, Ripple and other crypto firms have slammed the U.S. for a lack of clarity around crypto rules and threatened to leave the country in response to the SEC’s crackdown.
Coinbase announced on Monday that it has obtained a major payment institution license in Singapore, after obtaining in-principle approval about a year ago. Ripple and Coinbase join more than a dozen firms that are licensed to offer crypto services in Singapore.
Intel plans to IPO programmable chip unit within three years; stock rises after hours
Pat Gelsinger, CEO, of Intel Corporation, testifies during the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on semiconductors titled Developing Next Generation Technology for Innovation, in Russell Senate Office Building on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
Intel said it will treat its programmable chip unit as as a standalone business, with an aim to spin it out through an IPO in the next two to three years.
The chipmaker’s stock price rose 2.3% in extended trading after the announcement on Tuesday.
Intel’s Programmable Solutions Group will have its own balance sheet as it heads toward independence. The company will continue to support the business and retain a majority stake, and could also seek private investment.
Sandra Rivera, who leads Intel’s broader Data Center and AI group, will become PSG CEO. Intel will manufacture the group’s chips.
The move follows Intel’s spinoff last year of Mobileye, its self-driving subsidiary, and continues a strategy under CEO Patrick Gelsinger to control costs and focus on the foundry business and core processors in an effort to catch Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. in manufacturing by 2026. Intel acquired the FPGA business when it bought Altera for $16.7 billion in 2015.
“Our intention to establish PSG as a standalone business and pursue an IPO is another example of how we are consistently unlocking more value for our stakeholders,” Gelsinger said in a statement.
The move also highlights the strong demand in the semiconductor industry for field programmable gate arrays, or FPGAs. Lattice Semiconductor, a maker of FPGAs, has seen its stock rise about 30% so far in 2023, and reported 18% growth in sales in the most recent quarter. AMD, Intel’s chief rival, bought FPGA maker Xilinx for $35 billion in 2022.
FPGAs are simpler than the powerful processors at the heart of servers and PCs but are often more flexible, respond faster and can be more power-efficient. They’re “programmed” after they’re shipped for specific uses in data centers, telecommunications, video encoding, aviation and other industries. FPGAs can also be used to run some artificial intelligence algorithms.
Intel’s FPGAs are sold under the Agilex brand. Intel doesn’t break out PSG sales yet, but said in July that the unit had three record quarters in a row, offsetting a slump in server chip sales. PSG has been part of Intel’s Data Center and AI group, which generated $4 billion in sales in the second quarter.
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