(Reuters) – SpaceX, the rocket company of high-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, launched four astronauts on a flight to the International Space Station on Sunday. It is NASA’s first full-fledged mission sending a crew into orbit aboard a privately owned spacecraft.
SpaceX’s newly designed Crew Dragon capsule, which the crew has dubbed Resilience, lifted off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 7:27 p.m. Eastern time (0027 GMT on Monday) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese)
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Investors are in the market to make a profit, and that means finding the stocks with proven growth potential. Yes, it’s a cliché to remind everyone that past performance does not guarantee future results, but when a stock consistently shows strong share appreciation, over an extended period, it’s a positive sign for investors.With more than ten months behind us, the stocks that are now showing a combination of strong gains and a high near- to mid-term potential are going to attract investor interest.Bearing this in mind, we set out to find stocks flagged as exciting growth plays by Wall Street. Using TipRanks’ database, we locked in on three analyst-backed names that have already notched impressive gains and boast strong growth narratives for the long-term. Bandwidth, Inc. (BAND)We start in the communications software sector, where Bandwidth is a leading provider of VoIP systems, using its application programming interfaces (API) to offer customers both text and voice capabilities. The company’s products include applications for voice calling, text messaging, local phone numbers via internet, and 911 emergency phone system access. Bandwidth has developed and built its own network for voice over internet, helping to guarantee connectivity.Like many online tech companies, BAND has benefitted from the 2020’s shift to remote work. The move into the virtual office space has put a premium on internet communications, and BAND shares have reflected that – the stock is up an impressive 135% year-to-date. The company’s Q3 earnings were also strong – and at 14 cents per share were far above the 12 cent net EPS loss expected. Revenues for the third quarter came in at $84.8 million, for a 40% year-over-year increase.In addition to positive revenues and earnings, Bandwidth has also shown sound liquidity. The company had over $300 million in cash and cash equivalents available at the end of September, while liabilities totaled only $57.8 million.Finally, earlier this month, Bandwidth completed its acquisition of the European cloud communications company Voxbone. The deal was valued at 446 million Euros, or more than $520 million in US currency. The transaction included 354.6 million Euros in cash, and the remainder in stock.Bandwidth’s growth and healthy future prospects caught the attention of 5-star analyst Michael Walkley. Writing from Canaccord, this top analyst said, “With Covid-19 impacting the way we work, learn, and interact for the foreseeable future, we believe Bandwidth is a long-term beneficiary from anticipated strong growth trends due to increased customer usage of their platform. We believe revenue growth should remain strong given our expectations for some permanent long-term changes with an increased remote work environment driving both increasing usage from existing customers and layering in the potential for stronger new customer growth.”To this end, Walkley puts a Buy rating on BAND shares, and his $225 price target suggests room for nearly 50% upside in the next 12 months. (To watch Walkley’s track record, click here)Overall, BAND gets a Moderate Buy rating form the analyst consensus, based on 5 reviews, including 4 Buys and 1 Sell. The shares are priced at $150.50, and the average price target of $192.20 implies a one-year upside of ~28%. (See BAND stock analysis on TipRanks)Wayfair, Inc. (W)From cloud communications we move on to e-commerce, where Wayfair is a leader in the home goods and furniture sector. E-commerce has seen heavy gains during the COVID pandemic, as customers moved larger portions of their shopping online. The stock shows that, having grown 180% year-to-date.Earnings have also reflected strong sales during the pandemic period. EPS turned positive in Q2, coming in at $2.54 against a 55-cent forecast. In Q3, the earnings per share was $1.80, beating the estimate by 300%. Revenues are high, too, with the $3.8 billion in Q3 representing a 66% year-over-year gain. And like Bandwidth above, Wayfair has a sound balance sheet, with $2.6 billion in cash and liquid assets reported at the end of the third quarter.These fiscal gains stand on the shoulders of solid sales performance. Wayfair reported 11.3 million orders from repeat customers in Q3, making up almost 72% of the quarter’s total orders. Active customers in the company’s Direct Retail business segment increased 50% yoy, and reached 28.8 million.Peter Keith, 5-star analyst with Piper Sandler, writes of Wayfair, “Looking forward, KPI’s repeat customers (% of orders) and revenue per average customer (LTM) both hit all-time highs and suggest Wayfair will grow revenues nicely off a larger base of customers… We maintain our bullish thesis as above-trend sales growth is likely to persist at least into early 2021, and margins are expanding far above expectations – with longer-term drivers coming into focus.”It should come as no surprise, then, that Keith stays with the bulls. In addition to an Overweight (i.e. Buy) rating, he left a $370 price target on the stock. Investors could be pocketing a gain of 47%, should this target be met in the twelve months ahead. (To watch Keith’s track record, click here)Overall, Wayfair has 20 reviews on record, including 10 Buys, 7 Hold, and 3 Sell, making the analyst consensus view a Moderate Buy. W stock is selling for $251.70 and has an average price target of $312.63, making the upside potential 24% for the coming months. (See Wayfair’s stock analysis on TipRanks)Schrodinger (SDGR)Last but not least is Schrodinger, a software company that develops applications for the life sciences and materials sciences industries. In short, the company builds the software platforms that allows customers to evaluate experimental compounds. Schrodinger describes its software as a physics-based platform, integrating solutions for collaboration, data analytics, and predictive modeling in chemistry. The platform is used extensively in the pharmaceutical industry, but also in aerospace, energy, and semiconductors.Schrodinger went public in February of this year, just as the corona crisis was ramping up, and quickly saw strong share gains. At the IPO, the stock sold for $26 per share, well above the initial pricing of $17. The company sold well over 11.8 million shares, making the opening one of the year’s most successful. Since then, SDGR shares have more than doubled, gaining nearly 140% in their first nine months of public trading.Revenues have remained consistent during the year, with the first three quarters of 2020 showing the top line between $23 and $26 million. The Q3 number, at $25 million, is right in the middle of that range. The Q3 top line beat the forecast by 10%Covering this stock for BMO, 5-star analyst Do Kim writes, “We believe the 42% y/y growth in software revenues reflects the accelerating adoption of computational drug discovery, in addition to a growing customer base. We expect software growth to continue into 2021, as we believe the pandemic trend of remote work is sticky, with increasing platform validation from collaborations.”In line with this upbeat outlook, Kim rates SDGR shares an Outperform (i.e. Buy) along with a $94 price target. This figure indicates confidence in a 37% one-year upside potential. (To watch Kim’s track record, click here)All in all, Schrodinger’s Strong Buy consensus rating is based on 3 Buys and 1 Hold. The stock has an average price target of $83, giving it a 21% upside from the current trading price of $68.52. (See SDGR stock analysis on TipRanks)To find good ideas for growth stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
China's 'space dream': A Long March to the Moon – RFI
Issued on: 24/11/2020 – 04:36Modified: 24/11/2020 – 04:35
China’s launch this week of an unmanned spacecraft aimed at bringing back lunar rocks — the first attempt by any nation to retrieve samples from the Moon in four decades — underlines just how far the country has come in achieving its “space dream”.
Beijing has poured billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022 and of eventually sending humans to the Moon.
China has come a long way in its race to catch up with the United States and Russia, whose astronauts and cosmonauts have had decades of experience in space exploration.
Beijing sees its military-run space programme as a marker of its rising global stature and growing technological might.
Here is a look at China’s space programme through the decades, and where it is headed:
Soon after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, Chairman Mao Zedong pronounced “we too will make satellites.”
It took more than a decade, but in 1970, China’s first satellite lifted into space on the back of a Long March rocket.
Human space flight took decades longer, with Yang Liwei becoming China’s first astronaut to go into space in 2003.
As the launch approached, concerns over the viability of the mission caused Beijing to cancel a nationwide live television broadcast at the last minute.
Despite the fears, the launch went off smoothly, with Yang orbiting the Earth 14 times during his 21-hour flight aboard the Shenzhou 5.
Since then, China has sent men and women into space with increasing regularity.
Space station and ‘Jade Rabbit’
Following in the footsteps of the United States and Russia, China is striving to open a space station circling our planet.
The Tiangong-1 was shot into orbit in September 2011.
In 2013, the second Chinese woman in space, Wang Yaping, gave a video class from inside the space module beamed back to children across the world’s most populous country.
The lab was also used for medical experiments and, most importantly, tests intended to prepare for the building of a space station.
The lab was followed by the “Jade Rabbit” lunar rover in 2013, which looked at first like a dud when it turned dormant and stopped sending signals back to Earth.
The rover made a dramatic recovery, though, ultimately surveying the Moon’s surface for 31 months, well beyond its expected lifespan.
In 2016, China launched its second station, the Tiangong-2 lab into orbit 393 kilometres (244 miles) above Earth, in what analysts say will likely serve as a final building block before China launches a manned space station.
Astronauts who have visited the station have run experiments on growing rice and other plants, as well as docking spacecraft.
Under President Xi Jinping, plans for China’s “space dream”, as he calls it, have been put into overdrive.
The new superpower is looking to finally catch up with the US and Russia after years of belatedly matching their space milestones.
The ambitions start with a space station of its own — China was deliberately left out of the International Space Station effort — with the assembly of pieces in space expected to start this year and manned use to begin around 2022.
China is also planning to build a base on the Moon, with Zhang Kejian, head of the country’s National Space Administration saying last year that the country aimed to establish a lunar mission by 2029.
But lunar work was dealt a setback in 2017 when the Long March-5 Y2, a powerful heavy-lift rocket, failed to launch on a mission to send communication satellites into orbit.
The failure forced the postponement of the launch of Chang’e-5, which was originally scheduled to collect Moon samples in the second half of 2017.
Another robot, the Chang’e-4, landed on the far side of the Moon in January 2019 — a historic first.
China’s astronauts and scientists have also talked up manned missions to Mars as Beijing strives to become a global space power.
© 2020 AFP
Sea Level Watcher Takes Flight – nasa.gov
A joint U.S.-European satellite, built to monitor global sea levels, lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base just after 9 a.m. Pacific Time on November 21, 2020. About the size of a small pickup truck, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will extend a nearly 30-year continuous dataset on sea surface height.
The satellite’s principal instrument is a radar altimeter, which monitors the height and shape of the ocean’s peaks and valleys—known to scientists as ocean surface topography. Radar altimeters continually send out pulses of radio waves (microwaves) that bounce off the surface of the ocean and reflect back toward the satellite. The instrument calculates the time it takes for the signal to return, while also tracking the precise location of the satellite in space. From this, scientists can derive the height of the sea surface directly underneath the satellite.
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will continue a sea level record that began in 1992 with the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite and continued with Jason-1 (2001), OSTM/Jason-2 (2008), and Jason-3 (2016). Together, these satellites have provided long-term, precise measurements of sea level height while tracking the rate at which our oceans are rising in response to global warming. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will eventually pass the baton to its twin, Sentinel-6B, scheduled for launch in 2025.
“Together, these satellites will let us keep measuring global sea levels for another full decade,” said Josh Willis, the NASA Project Scientist for the mission and an ocean scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It is the first time we have been able to launch one of these while its predecessor is still young. Jason-3 is still within its design life, and that is a big deal for us because to keep the record accurate when it gets handed off from one satellite to the next, we really need them overlap so we can cross-calibrate.”
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The time-lapse video above shows the plume of exhaust from the Falcon 9 in the 25 minutes after the rocket launched from California. The images were acquired with the Advanced Baseline Imager (band 2/red) on GOES-17. The satellite is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NASA helps develop and launch the GOES series.
The spacecraft is named in honor of Michael Freilich, the former director of NASA’s Earth Science Division and a leader in advancing ocean observations from space. Freilich retired in 2019 and passed away on August 5, 2020. His close family and friends attended the launch of the satellite that now carries his name.
“Michael was a tireless force in Earth sciences. Climate change and sea level rise know no national borders, and he championed international collaboration to confront the challenge,” said Josef Aschbacher, the director of Earth observation programmes for the European Space Agency (ESA). “It is fitting that a satellite in his name will continue the ‘gold standard’ of sea level measurements for the next half-decade.”
“The Earth is changing, and this satellite will help deepen our understanding of how,” said Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division. “Changing Earth processes are affecting sea level globally, but the impact on local communities varies widely. International collaboration is critical to both understanding these changes and informing coastal communities around the world.”
After arriving in orbit, the spacecraft separated from the rocket’s second stage and unfolded its twin sets of solar arrays. Ground controllers successfully acquired the satellite’s signal, and initial telemetry reports showed the spacecraft is in good health. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will now undergo a series of exhaustive checks and calibrations before it starts collecting science data in a few months.
The initial orbit of Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) lower than its ultimate operational orbit of 1,336 kilometers (830 miles). In about a month, the satellite will receive commands to raise its orbit, trailing Jason-3 by about 30 seconds. Mission scientists and engineers will then spend about a year cross-calibrating the data collected by the two satellites. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will then take over as the primary sea level satellite and Jason-3 will provide a supporting role until the end of its mission. Scientific instruments on both satellites will also make atmospheric measurements that can be used to complement climate models and help meteorologists make better weather forecasts.
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich and Sentinel-6B compose the Sentinel-6/Jason-CS (Continuity of Service) mission developed in partnership with ESA, NASA, and NOAA. NASA JPL is contributing three science instruments to each Sentinel-6 satellite: the Advanced Microwave Radiometer for Climate, the Global Navigation Satellite System—Radio Occultation, and the Laser Retroreflector Array. NASA is also contributing launch services, ground systems and data support, and support for the U.S. component of the international Ocean Surface Topography Science Team.
To learn more about sea surface height and the long international collaboration to study it, read Taking a Measure of Sea Level Rise: Ocean Altimetry.
Looking for data related to sea level rise? The Sea Level Change Data Pathfinder on NASA’s Earthdata site highlights tools used by researchers to study ocean altimetry, including the Integrated Multi-Mission Ocean Altimeter Data for Climate Research.
NASA Earth Observatory video by Joshua Stevens, using GOES 17 data from NOAA and the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). Photographs courtesy of SpaceX. Story assembled from NASA and ESA press releases by Mike Carlowicz.
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