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U.S.’ First Hyperloop Service Might Begin in 2022

The first Hyperloop trains (or is it, pods?) in the United States should become operational by 2022, if the optimistic expectations of California-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) is to be believed.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Cadiz, Spain (4E) – The first Hyperloop trains (or is it, pods?) in the United States should become operational by 2022, if the optimistic expectations of California-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) is to be believed.

This optimism seems to have sprung from HTT the other day unveiling its first full-size passenger capsule in Cadiz, Spain. HTT CEO Dirk Ahlborn said his company to have a full hyperloop system up and running in three years. “In three years, you and me, we can take a hyperloop,” he said.

The German-born Ahlborn estimates that worldwide adoption of hyperloop transport in places such as Bavaria, Germany and Guizhou, China might come in “maybe five to 10” years once a legal framework is in place.

“It’s definitely much sooner than anybody would expect,” said Ahlborn.

He revealed that HTT’s passenger capsule measures 105 feet long and weighs five tons. The interio’s still being designed. The capsule will fit between 28 and 40 passengers.

From Cadiz, the capsule will be transported to HTT’s research and development center in Toulouse, France to finish assembly. It will then be tested at the facility’s full-size track.

“The importance of what we achieved is that it’s a real full-scale capsule,” said HTT chairman and co-founder Bibop Gresta. “This is the first time that we’ve shown what a hyperloop would look like.”

Hyperloop transport was first envisioned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2013. The revolutionary technology uses magnets to levitate and propel pods through large vacuum tubes at speeds of more 1,000 km/h, almost ten times the average train speed. This means shortening travel time from Los Angeles to San Francisco (a distance of 615 km via I-5N) to just 30 minutes.

HTT is one of several companies hoping to realize Musk’s vision. Ahlborn founded HTT in 2014 to take-up Musk’s challenge to build a Hyperloop.

In a 78-page report he released in 2014, Ahlborn went over all of the needs for the Hyperloop to become a reality. At the time, Ahlborn claims his Hyperloop will cost anywhere between $7 and $19 billion to develop.

Ahlborn doesn’t plan for Hyperloop to be for the high-class only. Economy tickets should be available for $20 to $30.

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Finance

Weaker New Car Sales Expected in 2019

America’s car makers are projected to sell fewer vehicles in 2019 compared to 2018 as buyers turn more and more to the used car market to combat higher interest rates.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Dearborn, MI, United States (4E) – America’s car makers are projected to sell fewer vehicles in 2019 compared to 2018 as buyers turn more and more to the used car market to combat higher interest rates.

The average interest rates on new-vehicle financing have risen 60 to 70 basis points from 2017 through the third quarter of 2018, said Patrick Manzi, senior economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).

This spike has dramatically increased the cost of borrowing. Manzi expects interest rates will continue to increase, but there has been some speculation the frequency of rate increases may slow in 2019.

“Customers who are returning to the store this year and may have leased a car or purchased a car three to four years ago at a very low interest rate and are hoping to keep their payment roughly the same will not be able to do that, because the cost of borrowing has gone up considerably,” he said.

Higher interest rates and a range of new cars coming off lease will goad more customers into the used market in 2019, said Manzi. Car makers expect to sell 16.8 million passenger vehicles in 2019, a 1.1 percent drop from 2018 and below 17 million for the the first time since 2014, said NADA.

U.S. sales moved past 17 million in 2015 for the first time since the Great Recession of 2008. It peaked at 17.6 million vehicles sold in 2016. Sales been falling ever since, however, and are expected to continue plunging in 2019.

Car buyers mostly bought light trucks, cross-over vehicles, pickups and SUVs. Light trucks are on track to account for about 70 percent of all sales. On the other hand, cars sales will plummet to 30 percent, said NADA.

A decade ago, car sales represented 52 percent while light trucks, including SUVs, accounted for 48 percent of all sales.

Rising interest rates means dealers are growing concerned about “price creeping” that might keep some buyers out of the market, said NADA Chairman Wes Lutz.

Falling incentives and rising rates could put “tremendous” pressure on consumers’ monthly payments, said Lutz. He believes interest rates remain a “wildcard.”

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U.S. Has Two More Astronauts Courtesy of Virgin Galactic

The United States has two new astronauts and they come from space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Mojave, CA, United States (4E) – The United States has two new astronauts and they come from space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic pilots Mark Stucky and “Rick” C.J Sturckow earned their U.S. astronaut wings by flying the rocket-powered spacecraft named Unity to an altitude of 83 kilometers or 51.4 miles. The flight on Dec. 13 was Virgin Galactic longest rocket-powered flight ever.

Stucky and Sturckow are also Virgin Galactic’s first astronauts.

The U.S. military and NASA consider pilots that have flown above 80 kilometers to be astronauts. The Federal Aviation Administration said both pilots will receive their commercial astronaut wings at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. early 2019.

“Many of you will know how important the dream of space travel is to me personally,” said Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson. “Ever since I watched the moon landings as a child I have looked up to the skies with wonder. This is a momentous day and I could not be more proud of our teams who together have opened a new chapter of space exploration.

Slung underneath the jet-powered mothership named Eve, Unity took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert. Eve released Unity upon reaching an altitude above 40,000 feet.

Stucky and Sturckow then piloted Unity in a thunderous boost that lasted 60 seconds. The flight pushed Unity to a speed of Mach 2.9 (3,580 km/h) as it roared into a climb toward the edge of space, but far short of the Karman Line, which is the boundary where space begins.

After doing a slow backflip in microgravity, Unity turned and glided back to land at Mojave. This was the company’s fourth rocket-powered flight of its test program.

Unity also carried four NASA-funded payloads on this mission. NASA said the four technology experiments will collect valuable data needed to mature the technologies for use on future missions.

“Inexpensive access to suborbital space greatly benefits the technology research and broader spaceflight communities,” said Ryan Dibley, NASA’s flight opportunities campaign manager, in a statement.

In October, Branson said Virgin Galactic was “more than tantalizingly close” to its first trip to space.

“We will be in space with people not too long after that so we have got a very, very exciting couple of months ahead,” he said.

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Tencent Music Raises $1.1 Billion in Wall Street IPO Debut

Tencent Music Entertainment Group, which accounts for more than half of all music streaming revenues in China, raised $1.1 billion in its IPO at the New York Stock Exchange yesterday.

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New York, NY, United States (4E) – Tencent Music Entertainment Group, which accounts for more than half of all music streaming revenues in China, raised $1.1 billion in its IPO at the New York Stock Exchange yesterday.

Analysts said Tencent Music’s impressive debut on Wall Street continues to prove the enduring popularity of music streaming apps and the companies that market them. Tencent Music’s IPO was one of the largest by a Chinese company in the United States this year.

Its shares opened at $14.10, or 8.5 percent above its IPO price of $13 per share. This opening gave Tencent a market capitalization of $23 billion, and towards the end of the trading day had risen as much as 13.5 percent from its IPO price.

Tencent Music, which is owned by Tencent Holdings Ltd, priced its IPO at the lower end of its $13 to $15 pricing range on Tuesday.

“We are very proud to be able to complete the IPO despite the challenging market,” said Chief Strategy Officer Tony Yip. “Raising over $1 billion in this type environment is not an easy task.”

Tencent’s IPO debut marks an end to a turbulent listing process that saw Tencent postpone its IPO until November in a market wracked by Trump’s trade war with China. Its IPO came after the U.S. and China agreed to a 90-day truce in their trade war last week.

“If this (Tencent Music’s) IPO came out at a different time, without the geopolitical risk that is currently in the market, we would have seen a much different result in terms of Tencent Music’s pricing,” said Jeff Zell, senior research analyst and partner at IPO Boutique, an IPO tracking firm.

Tencent Music claims more than 800 million monthly active users and has a music content library with over 20 million tracks as of Sept. 30. It offers online music, online karaoke and music-centric live streaming services.

Online music services contributed 30 percent to the company’s total revenue in the first nine months of the year. On the other hand, music-centric social entertainment services (such as virtual gifts and premium memberships) accounted for more than 70 percent of its $1.65 billion revenues in 2017.

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