Day: October 11, 2016

A second hacker group is targeting SWIFT bank system users with malware, Symantec warns

REUTERS

Cybersecurity firm Symantec said today a second hacking group has been trying to rob banks with phony SWIFT messages. That same method nabbed $81 million in a high-profile attack on the central bank of Bangladesh earlier this year.

Jim Finkle at Reuters reports:

Symantec said that a group dubbed Odinaff has infected 10 to 20 organizations with malware that can be used to hide fraudulent transfer requests made over SWIFT, the messaging system that is a lynchpin of the global financial system.

Symantec’s research provided new insight into ongoing hacking that has previously been disclosed by SWIFT. SWIFT Chief Executive Gottfried Leibbrandt last month told customers about three hacks and warned that cyber attacks on banks are poised to rise.

SWIFT and Symantec have not identified specific victims beyond Bangladesh Bank. Symantec said that most Odinaff attacks occurred in the United States, Hong Kong, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ukraine.

Symantec promises to share technical information about Odinaff with banks, governments and other security firms involved in the SWIFT system.

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The clumsy, amateurish IoT botnet has now infected devices in virtually all of the world's countries

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Mirai, the clumsily written Internet of Things virus that harnessed so many devices in an attack on journalist Brian Krebs that it overloaded Akamai, has now spread to devices in either 164 or 177 countries — that is, pretty much everywhere with reliable electricity and internet access.

Imperva, a company that provides protection to websites against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, is among the ones who have been busy investigating Mirai. According to their tally, the botnet made of Mirai-infected devices has reached a total of 164 countries. A pseudonymous researcher that goes by the name MalwareTech has also been mapping Mirai, and according to his tally, the total is even higher, at 177 countries.

Internet of Things Malware Has Apparently Reached Almost All Countries on Earth
[Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai/Motherboard]

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The Copyright Office wants your comments on whether it should be illegal to fix your own stuff

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Under Section 1201 of the DMCA, a law passed in 1998, people who fix things can be sued (and even jailed!) for violating copyright law, if fixing stuff involves bypassing some kind of copyright lock; this has incentivized manufacturers so that fixing your stuff means breaking this law, allowing them to decide who gets to fix your stuff and how much you have to pay to have it fixed.
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McDonalds to avoid advertising with Ronald McDonald until "creepy clown" fad subsides.

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The Associated Press reports that McDonald’s restaurants are to lay off using mascot Ronald McDonald for a while, until the current phase of “creepy clown” sightings fades.

The burger chain said Tuesday that it is being “thoughtful in respect to Ronald McDonald’s participation in community events” as a result of the “current climate around clown sightings in communities.”

The company did not provide any other details about how often its red-haired mascot makes appearances and how or whether that will change.

McDonald’s decision comes after a rash of pranks and threats nationwide and abroad that have involved eerie clowns. The trend began this summer with unconfirmed reports in South Carolina. Since then, reports have involved costumed hoaxsters frightening people on the street or people terrorizing others via social media.

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This Bluetooth Shower Speaker is just $9.99

This convenient speaker lets you stream your music or podcast straight from your smartphone while in the shower. The speaker is waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about any safety issues—just stick it to the shower wall with the included suction cup, and pick a track.

The built-in controls on the speaker itself mean you can play/pause, skip songs, and turn the power off, right from the speaker. You can even take calls if something really can’t wait.

This quality Bluetooth Shower Speaker is 85% off, just $9.99 in the Boing Boing Store. Grab one for yourself and a few for holiday gifts. You can never start too soon.

Explore more trending deals:

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Arduino clone project kit loaded with components

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The Elegoo UNO Project Super Starter Kit comes with a bunch of different components, including sensors, a servo motor, a stepper motor, a joystick, a breadboard, and lots more. Most of the reviewers say that the Elegoo UNO is a good Arduino Uno clone. The one thing people have complained about is the tutorials. They say they are poorly written. That’s not a problem because there are lots of great Arduino books, and I have a video class on getting started with Arduino on Skillshare that is highly rated. At $32, the components alone are worth the price.

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What Am I Doing Here? Existential absurdist cartoons from the 1940s

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What Am I Doing Here?

by Abner Dean

New York Review Comics

2016, 168 pages, 7 x 0.75 x 9.5 inches

$19 Buy one on Amazon

In the 1930s and 1940s, Abner Dean was a highly sought-after illustrator who drew covers, cartoons, and illustrations for The New Yorker, Esquire, Time, Life, and Newsweek, as well as advertising illustrations for insurance companies and product manufacturers. In 1945, Dean quit his day job and drew the first of seven books that have been described as “existential gag cartoons.”

What Am I Doing Here? is Dean’s second book, and is generally regarded as his best work. It was originally published in 1947. This facsimile edition just came out today and contains about 100 single panel drawings, rendered in India ink and graytone washes (in the classic New Yorker style of gag cartoons).

Dean’s drawings look like cartoons but they aren’t very funny, at least not in the traditional sense. They’re absurdist and disquieting. Everyone is naked and the action takes place either in decrepit urban settings, living rooms filled with grinning desperate characters, or barren surrealistic wastelands. Each drawing features the same hapless character, a lonely youngish man who questions his role in the human race, represented by a crowd that changes its form and behavior from page to page. The people are sometimes club-swinging brutes, other times they are blinkered sleepwalkers, insincere mask-wearers, bloodthirsty mobs, hysterical celebrators, suicidal lemmings, or guru-seeking fools. They often look more like animals than people. The protagonist is at times foolhardy, delusional, disappointed, fearful, proud, insecure, ruthless, or bewildered.

In the introduction, Clifton Fadiman (chief editor of Simon & Schuster in the 1920s and 1930s, and editor of The New Yorker‘s book review section for ten years after that) wrote:>

It is pointless to try to “explain” Abner Dean. His pictures are trick mirrors in which we catch sight of those absurd fragments of ourselves that we never see in the smooth glass of habit. Formulae for the art of Abner Dean are irrelevant. What is important is the fact that it jolts you into sudden awareness of your own pathos, your own plight, your own unending and gigantic laughableness.

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SPY is back! (sort of)

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Esquire has rebooted the greatly missed SPY magazine from the the 1980s. It exists as a web site and will run new pieces during the 30 days running up to the election.

SPY co-founder Kurt Andersen wrote:

As Trump became the Republicans’ presumptive nominee, lots more people, pretty much every day, said to me, “SPY really needs to be rebooted, if only just for the election.”

I guess maybe they’re right, so I’m very pleased that Esquire has decided to produce an online pop-up SPY during the last thirty days of the presidential campaign. It has my whole-hearted best wishes. And it’s also a nice serendipity that this October will mark the magazine’s thirtieth anniversary. It’s as if SPY, a retired superhero, is making a brief but necessary comeback.

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Investor to Theranos: Give us back our $96 million

holms

It’s hard to know who to feel less sorry for – a Silicon Valley company with a portfolio of quackery and deceit or the San Francisco hedge fund that was bamboozled into investing $96.1 million in it? On Monday, Partner Fund Management LP filed a lawsuit against Theranos in an attempt to get its money back. A letter to its investors said, “Through a series of lies, material misstatements, and omissions, the defendants engaged in securities fraud and other violations by fraudulently inducing PFM to invest and maintain its investment in the company.”

From the Wall Street Journal:

The suit is the first sign of trouble from investors who poured about $800 million into the company, and then remained silent as it navigated a challenging year that began when the Journal first reported on shortcomings in its operations and technology last October.

[Founder Elizabeth] Holmes had said Theranos could accurately perform dozens of tests using a few drops of blood, a premise that drove the firm to a valuation of $9 billion in a 2014 fundraising round. The Journal’s investigation showed it used its flagship technology for a small number of tests, relied on devices made by conventional manufacturers and released questionable test results to patients.

Since then, Theranos has voided tens of thousands of test results, faces federal civil and criminal investigations, and is appealing a regulator’s revocation of its blood-testing license at a California lab.

Good luck getting your money back, PFM. And good luck with your pivot, Theranos.

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US people pay more for health care, die sooner than people in other developed countries

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From Our World in Data: “The US stands out as an outlier: the US spends far more on health than any other country, yet the life expectancy of the American population is not longer but actually shorter than in other countries that spend far less.”

Why?

“[A]dministrative costs in the health sector are higher in the US than in other countries”

“[L]arge inequality in health spending…. The top 5% of spenders accounts for almost half of all health care spending in the US.”

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The weird history of dog-headed men

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Men with the heads of dogs appear in stories going all the way back to ancient Egypt and Greece. Over at Mysterious Universe, Brent Swancer introduces us to this common character found in weird tales from around the world:

Stories of purported dog-headed men go back well into history. Mostly referred to as the Cynocephali, which derives from the ancient Greek words “cyno,” meaning dog, and “cephaly,” meaning a disease of the head, these were typically described as essentially humans with the head of a dog, and they feature heavily in stories going across cultures throughout the world, from ancient Egypt, to ancient Greek, to medieval Europe and Africa, as well as in Christian mythology….

Travelers often wrote of these mysterious dog-headed people. One Italian monk by the name of Odoric of Pordenone, who traveled about converting people between 1317 and 1330, claimed to have come across the Cynocephali at the island of Nicoveran. They were described as being somewhat brutish, but displaying a form of organized religion, worshipping oxen and wearing various gold and silver religious charms. French inquisitor Cardinal Pierre d’Ailley claimed in 1410 that there existed a race of dog-headed humans in India, as well as a one eyed variation of the creatures referred to as the Carismaspi. Explorer Giovanni da Pian del Carpine also mentions a race of dog-heads which he claimed inhabited the lands north of the Dalai-Nor (Northern Ocean), and Lake Baikal. Indeed, depictions of the Cynocephali appeared on maps of the time, similar to the dragons and other wondrous beasts that mapmakers liked to adorn their maps with. The great explorer Marco Polo even writes of the dog-headed people. While describing his travels to the island of Angamanian, he tells of a strange race of people thus:

Angamanain is a very large Island. The people are without a king and are Idolaters, and no better than wild beasts. And I assure you all the men of this Island of Angamanain have heads like dogs, and teeth and eyes likewise; in fact, in the face they are all just like big mastiff dogs! They have a quantity of spices; but they are a most cruel generation, and eat everybody that they can catch, if not of their own race.

A Strange History of Dog-Headed Men

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President Obama's plan to take us to Mars

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In a CNN op-ed, President Obama outlines his plan for the United States to partner with private companies to get humans to Mars (and back!) by the 2030s.

I still have the same sense of wonder about our space program that I did as a child. It represents an essential part of our character — curiosity and exploration, innovation and ingenuity, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and doing it before anybody else. The space race we won not only contributed immeasurably important technological and medical advances, but it also inspired a new generation of scientists and engineers with the right stuff to keep America on the cutting edge…

This week, we’ll convene some of America’s leading scientists, engineers, innovators and students in Pittsburgh to dream up ways to build on our progress and find the next frontiers. Just five years ago, US companies were shut out of the global commercial launch market. Today, thanks to groundwork laid by the men and women of NASA, they own more than a third of it. More than 1,000 companies across nearly all 50 states are working on private space initiatives.

We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time. Getting to Mars will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators, and we’re already well on our way.

Barack Obama: America will take the giant leap to Mars

(above: NASA image of Mars from the Viking Lander, 1977, via Wikipedia)

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Samsung gives up on exploding cellphone, withdraws Galaxy Note 7 for good

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The Wall Street Journal reports that Samsung is to withdraw the Galaxy Note 7 cellphone for good. Subject to recurring reports of fires, even after replacement, the dodgy smartphone’s burned through users’ pockets to threaten the Korean brand itself.

The New York Times describes it as a “a humbling about-face.”

The demise of the Galaxy Note 7 is a major setback for Samsung, the world’s largest maker of smartphones. The premium device — with a 5.7-inch screen, curved contours and comparatively high price — won praise from consumers and reviewers, and was the company’s most ambitious effort yet to take on Apple for the high-end market.

But Samsung has struggled to address reports that the Galaxy Note 7 could overheat and catch fire because of a manufacturing flaw. Last month, the company said it would recall 2.5 million phones to fix the problem. But in recent days, Galaxy Note 7 users emerged with reports that some devices that had supposedly been repaired were overheating, smoking and even bursting into flames. And on Monday, Samsung asked Note 7 customers to power off the phones while it worked on the problem.

Previously: Southwest plane evacuated after Samsung Note 7 catches fire. It was a recall replacement.

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If you bail on Yahoo Mail, forget about having your email forwarded

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A week after the revelations that Yahoo illegally allowed American spies to access all Yahoo users’ email (possibly via a dangerous rootkit), and two weeks after admitting that 500,000,000 Yahoo Mail users’ passwords were leaked years previously, possibly to a “state actor,” the company has disabled email forwarding for Yahoo Mail users.

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When "reputation management" becomes perjury, forgery and fraud against America's federal courts

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If you want to get a piece of information removed from the internet, there are few tools more powerful that a court judgment saying that it is defamatory. A judgment like that will get Google to de-index the result and frighten most web-hosts into getting rid of it. So it follows that the sleaziest end of the “reputation management” industry has occupied itself with securing these court orders at high volumes and low costs.
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Britain's new plastic money so hi-tech it can play vinyl records

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In this video, a man plays Abba’s 1976 classic Money Money Money using one of the new £5 notes issued in the UK. They’re made of plastic.

The new polymer five pound notes have a rather curious ability of being just about able to play vinyl records (with the aid of a contact microphone and small amplifier not shown on screen). As the corners on these new banknotes are more durable and sharper than its paper counterpart it acts like a very crude record needle.

Like a lady barbarian’s armor in a computer game, the new fiver doesn’t crumple easily or get wet or tear, but still folds, and has a see-through window. “I do quite like them,” says a Briton on the street.

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5 companies now control 80% of America's contracted spying

thomas-tolkein

America paid about $16 billion to five companies last year for 80% of our contracted domestic and international surveillance: Leidos Holdings, CSRA Inc., SAIC, CACI International, and Booz Allen Hamilton, recently in the news following an employee arrest on cyberweapons theft charges.

Tim Shorrock at The Nation did the legwork to to come up with the numbers.

“The problem with just five companies providing the lion’s share of contractors is that the client, the U.S. government, won’t have much alternative when a company screws up,” says David Isenberg, the author of Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq. […] “There comes a point when the marketplace is so concentrated that the service provider simply becomes too big to fail, no matter how lousy their performance,” says Isenberg, who closely monitors the privatization of national-security work. “If that makes you think of the financial-services industry, well, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.”

5 Corporations Now Dominate Our Privatized Intelligence Industry (The Nation)

Image: Thomas Tolkein

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The coming conservative "civil war" is going to be weird

aliendonald

Jeb Lund writes about Trump’s Vile Game of Distraction, running the wargames for what happens to his party now that he has destroyed its “beautiful dream of a permanent Christian ethnocentric oligarchy.”

The twitter-consensus is that there’s some kind of divide between principled conservatives and the Trumpkins who want to pick up his supporters after he’s gone. Ah, but:

Ordinarily, a rich and powerful man amplifying the anguish of powerless women who claimed to have been raped by another extremely powerful man would be a noble gesture. Out of context and devoid of sound, it would have been a silent, stunning reminder that Bill Clinton would be nearly unthinkable as a Democratic candidate today. … except, this time, it was done to distract from the very real possibility that the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States is a sex offender. That, and only that, was enough to arrest the endless forward movement of a party happy to glide on racism, religious discrimination, misogyny and xenophobia – profitably and seemingly forever.

Here’s Paul Krugman, writing that Trump and the GOP are Predators in Arms, that it’s naive to think Republicans care about sexual assault on any level other than its consequences for the horse race.

As many people are pointing out, Republicans now trying to distance themselves from Donald Trump need to explain why The Tape was a breaking point, when so many previous incidents weren’t. …

Of course, we know the answer: The latest scandal upset Republicans, when previous scandals didn’t, because the candidate’s campaign was already in free fall. You can even see it in the numbers: The probability of a House Republican jumping off the Trump train is strongly related to the Obama share of a district’s vote in 2012. That is, Republicans in competitive districts are outraged by Mr. Trump’s behavior; those in safe seats seem oddly indifferent.

He adds: Trump “isn’t so much an anomaly as he is a pure distillation of his party’s modern essence.”

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Why women of color struggle to find a place in fandom

The Flash -- "The Man Who Saved Central City" -- Image FLA201b_0443b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Candice Patton as Iris West and Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow  -- Photo: Cate Cameron /The CW -- © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

Writing for New Republic, cultural critic Angelica Jade Bastién explains:

I have been reading comics obsessively since I was about ten years old. I can probably quote from John Ostrander’s original Suicide Squad run in my sleep, I’ve watched all of the Star Trek series more times than I can count, and I often whip out Klingon when I’m nervous. But I’ve found that the love and knowledge I have on these subjects never seems to be good enough for the people who grow furious at a black woman writing about these properties. White male fans often don’t want to face how their beloved properties often have troubling racial and gender politics. (Just peruse the comments on my review of X-Men: Apocalypse for RogerEbert.com: “The author feels like the X-Men series in general has failed its female characters—ignoring the fact that Mystique is elevated to a leadership and relevance level well above the source material.” Many didn’t want to face a critique coming from a woman, and a fan, who knows them better than they do.) You can only delete emails and block people on Twitter for so long until you feel burnt out. The reason why we don’t see more black women writing about these subjects with such visibility isn’t because we haven’t been interested in them, it’s that publications rarely give us the opportunity, and when we do write, we often find ourselves facing personal scrutiny that has little to do with the actual writing. At times, I’ve been left to wonder, why do I love these stories so much when they rarely care about people who look like me?

You can read the full piece on New Republic.

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The Emmy-nominated web series Her Story signs a light on trans romance

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Written by and starring Jen Richards and Laura Zak, Her Story blows the lid of the stereotypical trans story. According to the show’s website:

Trans women in the media have long been punchlines, killers, indications of urban grit, pathetic tragedies, and dangerous sirens. Rarely have they been complex characters who laugh, struggle, and grow, who share strength in sisterhood, who seek and find love. Her Story depicts the unique, complicated, and very human women we see in queer communities, and explores how these women navigate the intersections of label identity and love.

And not only is Her Story a big win for representation, it’s also funny, thoughtful, and romantic. You can find the full six-episode series on YouTube.

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Law and Order - Trump Unit

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Orbital, Airbus team to build Eutelsat satellite to launch with Orbital satellite-servicing mission

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat on Oct. 11 said it had inaugurated its design-to-cost spending-reduction plan by ordering a direct-broadcast television satellite from Orbital ATK of the United States and Airbus Defence and Space of Europe.

In another cost-reduction measure, the satellite, Eutelsat 5 West B — benefiting from Orbital’s smaller platform size — will be launched in 2018 as a co-passenger aboard an International Launch Services Proton Breeze-M rocket.

Riding to geostationary transfer orbit with the Eutelsat satellite will be Orbital’s precedent-setting satellite in-orbit serving Mission Extension Vehicle, MEV-1, which uses the same GEOStar-based platform as Orbital’s telecommunications satellites.

Stacking the savings on a single Proton

Stacking two GEOStar-derived platforms on top of each other, without an adaptor between them, saves weight and will allow Eutelsat — and Orbital, for the MEV-1 — to save on launch costs.

Fleet operator Intelsat is Orbital’s inaugural customer for MEV-1, which will perform a test mission with Intelsat before moving on to its operational scenario of docking with a satellite, assuming control of its propulsion and attitude control, and providing fuel to extend its service life.

MEV-1 then undocks and is available to perform similar mission-extension missions on several satellites. Like the satellites themselves, MEV-1 has an estimated 15-year service life.

Satellite insurers are taking a cautiously optimistic view of MEV-1 and similar satellite in-orbit servicing initiatives. They have said MEV-1 customers likely will be forced to sign amended, higher-premium insurance policies, which usually provide for annual coverage of healthy satellites in orbit, to reflect the higher risk associated with servicing missions.

Eutelsat 5 West B will replace the Eutelsat 5 West A satellite at 5 degrees west longitude. It will carry the equivalent of 35 36-megahertz Ku-band transponders to deliver direct-to-home television to audiences located mainly in France, Italy and Algeria.

Eutelsat 5A, which also carries a C-band payload, was launched in mid-2002 and is nearing retirement.

Eutelsat’s revenue and profit warning in May had a chilling effect on the entire fixed satellite services industry. The company said the market reaction was overblown and that growth would return within three years.

Nonetheless, Eutelsat announced a broad cost-cutting program that included a 16 percent reduction — to 420 million euros ($470 million) per year for the coming three years from the earlier 500 million euros — in annual capital spending for three years.

The company said it would be pressuring its supply chain, notably satellite builders and launch-service providers, to minimize the effects of the lower spending on new capacity to be placed into orbit.

Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital’s GEOStar platform occupies the lighter end of the commercial geostationary-orbit satellite market. Airbus said the Eutelsat 5 West B would have a launch mass of about 3,000 kilograms and would generate 5 kilowatts of power to the payload at the end of its 15-year life.

Eutelsat Chief Technology Officer Yohann Leroy said the idea to marry an Airbus payload with an Orbital-built platform emerged as the natural consequence of Eutelsat’s bid request, whose power specifications were below what Airbus usually provides to customers.

Other companies besides …read more