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SpaceX unveils heavy launcher

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WASHINGTON – SpaceX unveiled Tuesday what its chief executive Elon Musk has called the world’s most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy, which will have its first demonstration flight at the end of 2012.

The launcher is designed to lift into orbit satellites or spacecraft weighing more than 53 metric tons, or 117,000 pounds — more than twice the capacity of the Space Shuttle or Delta IV Heavy launcher.

“Falcon Heavy will carry more payload to orbit or escape velocity than any vehicle in history, apart from the Saturn V moon rocket, which was decommissioned after the Apollo program,” Musk said at the National Press Club.

“This opens a new world of capability for both government and commercial space missions,” he said.

Musk, a South African who made his fortune in the Internet, created SpaceX in 2002.

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“Falcon Heavy will arrive at our Vandenberg, California, launch complex by the end of next year, with liftoff to follow soon thereafter. First launch from our Cape Canaveral launch complex is planned for late 2013 or 2014,” he said.

His goal in the coming years is to transport cargo and astronauts for NASA to the International Space Station after the US space shuttles are finally retired in June.

Until there is a successor to the shuttles, NASA will depend exclusively on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the ISS.

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SpaceX, short for Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, is one of two private companies that NASA has contracted to transport cargo to the International Space Station.

To give a sense of the rocket’s might: 53 metric tons is more than the top take-off weight of a loaded Boeing 737-200 with 136 passengers. So Falcon Heavy can deliver the equivalent of an entire commercial jetload of passengers, crew, luggage and fuel all the way to orbit.


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France defiant on plans to impose ‘Gafa’ tax on tech giants

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France on Wednesday said it would push ahead with its law to tax tech giants that has sparked a row with the United States, saying that an international accord was the only way to solve the dispute.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire met US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the sidelines of the meeting of finance ministers from the world's seven most developed economies in Chantilly outside Paris.

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EU launches in-depth probe on Amazon over data use

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The EU's powerful antitrust authority launched an in-depth investigation into Amazon on Wednesday, amid suspicions the US-based online behemoth misuses merchant data hosted on its website.

The formal investigation opens a new chapter in the European Union's campaign to address the dominance of US tech firms with Google, Facebook and Apple also regular targets of regulators in Brussels.

With its probe, the EU competition watchdog is seeking to expand its oversight powers to data, the most prized asset for Silicon Valley giants that now dominate web-use worldwide.

"I have... decided to take a very close look at Amazon's business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer (and) to assess its compliance with EU competition rules," the EU's anti-trust commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

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3 myths to bust about breaking up ‘big tech’

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As the public and government regulators around the world discuss whether and how to manage the power of technology companies, one idea that keeps coming up is breaking up these large conglomerate corporations into smaller pieces. Public distrust for tech companies has shifted to talk of antitrust action against them. Facebook, for instance, might then have to compete with Instagram for photo-sharing and WhatsApp for messaging – rather than owning both.

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