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Axiom Space launches Turkey’s first astronaut along with three crew members on flight to space station

Axiom Space launches Turkey’s first astronaut along with three crew members on flight to space station

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Axiom Space launches Turkey's first astronaut along with three crew members on flight to space station

Turkey’s first astronaut and three other crew members representing Europe were launched from Florida on Thursday on a voyage to the International Space Station in the latest commercially arranged mission from Texas startup Axiom Space.

A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying the Axiom quartet lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket about an hour before sunset from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, beginning a planned 36-hour flight to the orbiting laboratory. The launch was shown live on an Axiom-SpaceX joint webcast.

The autonomously operated Crew Dragon was expected to reach the International Space Station (ISS) early on Saturday morning and dock with the outpost orbiting some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth and currently occupied by seven regular crew members.

Live video showed the two-stage 25-story-tall launch vehicle streaking into partly cloudy skies over Florida’s Atlantic coast atop a fiery, yellowish tail of exhaust.

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Cameras inside the crew compartment beamed footage of the four men strapped into their pressurized cabin, seated calmly in helmeted white-and-black flight suits as the rocket soared toward space.

Nine minutes after launch, the Falcon 9’s upper stage delivered the crew capsule to its preliminary orbit.

Responding to congratulations from mission control, flight commander Michael López-Alegría radioed back from the Crew Dragon, “As I was saying, it’s a team sport. Thank you, guys.” 

Minutes earlier, the rocket’s reusable lower stage, having detached from the rest of the spacecraft, flew itself back to Earth and safely touched down on a landing zone near the launch site, eliciting cheers audible from the control room.

The mission was the third such flight organized by Houston-based Axiom over the past two years as the company builds on its business of putting astronauts sponsored by foreign governments and private enterprise into Earth orbit.

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The company charges its customers at least $55 million for each astronaut seat.

TWO WEEKS OF ORBITAL RESEARCH

Plans for the Axiom-3 mission call for the crew to spend roughly 14 days in microgravity aboard the ISS conducting more than 30 scientific experiments, many of them focused on the effects of spaceflight on human health and disease.

More symbolically, the mission reflects the growing number of nations venturing to Earth orbit as a way of enhancing global prestige, military prowess and satellite-based communications.

Turkey, a longtime applicant for EU membership, was poised to enter the exclusive-but-expanding club of ISS-guest countries by sending Alper Gezeravcı, 44, a Turkish Air Force veteran, on his nation’s debut human spaceflight as an Ax-3 mission specialist.

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He was being joined by: Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei, 49, Ax-3’s designated pilot; Swedish aviator Marcus Wandt, 43, another mission specialist; and López-Alegría, 65, a retired NASA astronaut and dual citizen of Spain and the United States.

López-Alegría, an Axiom executive, also commanded the company’s first mission to the ISS in April 2022.

Axiom billed the flight as “the first all-European commercial astronaut mission” to the space station.

If all goes smoothly, they will be welcomed aboard ISS early on Saturday by the seven members of the station’s current regular crew – two Americans from NASA, one astronaut each from Japan and Denmark and three Russian cosmonauts.

In May 2023, Axiom-2 launched a guest team of two Americans and two Saudis, including Rayyanah Barnawi, a biomedical scientist who became the first Arab woman ever sent to orbit, on an eight-day mission to the ISS.

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SpaceX, the privately funded rocket and satellite company of billionaire Elon Musk, provides Axiom’s launch vehicles and crew capsules under contract, as it has for NASA missions to the ISS.

SpaceX also runs mission control for its rocket launches from the company’s headquarters near Los Angeles.

NASA, besides furnishing the launch site at Cape Canaveral, assumes responsibility for the astronauts once they rendezvous with the space station.

Axiom, an eight-year-old venture headed by NASA’s former ISS program manager, is one of a handful of companies building a commercial space station of its own intended to eventually replace the 25-year-old ISS, which NASA expects to retire around 2030.

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ByteDance confirms layoff plan at its Indonesian unit

ByteDance confirms layoff plan at its Indonesian unit

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ByteDance confirms layoff plan at its Indonesian unit

China’s ByteDance will lay off staff at its Indonesian unit following a deal where it bought a local e-commerce firm and combined it with its TikTok operation, a spokesperson said on Friday.

ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, did not say how many employees would be affected. Bloomberg had earlier reported there would be 450 jobs cut.

In January ByteDance completed a deal to buy a majority stake in Tokopedia, an Indonesian e-commerce firm, from the GoTo group.

ByteDance spokesperson Nuraini Razak told Reuters in a statement the company would “make necessary adjustments” as a result of the combination of TikTok and Tokopedia.

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“We identified areas to strengthen our organisation and better align our teams with company goals,” she said, adding the company would “aim to support employees throughout this transition”.

ByteDance had its own e-commerce operation in Indonesia via its TikTok app, but that was banned under an Indonesian rule that social media applications could not operate as an e-commerce platform.

Tokopedia is one of the leading e-commerce platforms in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

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Indonesia minister threatens to shut down X over adult content

Indonesia minister threatens to shut down X over adult content

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Indonesia minister threatens to shut down X over adult content

Indonesia is prepared to shut down social media platform X if it does not comply with a regulation barring adult content, the country’s communications minister said on Friday. Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, has strict rules that ban the sharing online of content deemed obscene.

Minister Budi Arie Setiadi told Reuters he had sent a warning letter to X related to this matter.

“We will certainly shut its services down,” he said, pointing to Indonesia’s electronic information and transaction (ITE) law that can carry a six-year jail sentence if someone spreads pornographic content.

His comments in an interview come after the social media platform recently updated its policies to permit consensually produced adult content.

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X, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, has not responded to Indonesia’s warning letter, Budi said, adding the government would send more letters before deciding on a potential closure.

X, formerly known as Twitter, did not immediately respond to a request by Reuters for comment.

Indonesians are big users of social media and X has 24.85 million users in the country, according to data gathering business Statista.

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Japan watchdog recommends action on MUFG units over sharing of client data

Japan watchdog recommends action on MUFG units over sharing of client data

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Japan's securities watchdog recommended on Friday that the banking and securities units of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group opens new tab (MUFG) be penalised for what it said was unauthorised sharing of client information. The Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) made the recommendation to the banking regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), which hands out such punishments in Japan. The recommendation, which was widely expected, followed the SESC's investigation into MUFG's banking arm, MUFG Bank, and its two brokerage ventures with Morgan Stanley (MS.N), opens new tab. The investigation found that confidential client information had been shared between MUFG Bank and one of the two securities firms on at least 26 occasions between 2020 and 2023. MUFG Bank also illegally offered preferential lending rates to clients that did business with the group's two securities brokerages, the SESC said. Japan's "firewall" regulations prohibit banks and securities companies in the same group from sharing customer data with one another without the customer's consent. The investigation found no evidence of insider trading, but monitoring and internal controls were lacking, the SESC said. MUFG group companies will make every effort to strengthen control systems in light of the recommendation and will take measures to prevent recurrence, the parent company said in a statement. The two brokerages were established in 2010, two years after MUFG invested in Morgan Stanley at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. MUFG owned around 23% of Morgan Stanley as of March 2024.

Japan’s securities watchdog recommended on Friday that the banking and securities units of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group  opens new tab (MUFG) be penalised for what it said was unauthorised sharing of client information.

The Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) made the recommendation to the banking regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), which hands out such punishments in Japan.

The recommendation, which was widely expected, followed the SESC’s investigation into MUFG’s banking arm, MUFG Bank, and its two brokerage ventures with Morgan Stanley (MS.N), opens new tab.

The investigation found that confidential client information had been shared between MUFG Bank and one of the two securities firms on at least 26 occasions between 2020 and 2023.

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MUFG Bank also illegally offered preferential lending rates to clients that did business with the group’s two securities brokerages, the SESC said.

Japan’s “firewall” regulations prohibit banks and securities companies in the same group from sharing customer data with one another without the customer’s consent.

The investigation found no evidence of insider trading, but monitoring and internal controls were lacking, the SESC said.

MUFG group companies will make every effort to strengthen control systems in light of the recommendation and will take measures to prevent recurrence, the parent company said in a statement.

The two brokerages were established in 2010, two years after MUFG invested in Morgan Stanley at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. MUFG owned around 23% of Morgan Stanley as of March 2024.

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