A Government Shutdown, A Monetization Change At YouTube, and A Mighty Little Rocket Launch | Vol. 5 / No. 13

Photo: Phil Roeder, CC BY 2.0

This week we’ve got news about the US government shutdown, the changes in who can make money off YouTube, and a new rocketry company launching out of New Zealand! It’s the top of the news for Sunday, January 21, 2018.


As of 12:01am Saturday morning, the US government is in “shutdown.” But what does that mean for science and technology? Well, for starters, if you’re a scientist waiting on federal grant money, it’ll take longer to get to you, and if you have an upcoming deadline and need to talk to your program officer, you can’t, because they’re “on furlough” (i.e. on mandatory, unpaid vacation). Also:

In addition, SpaceX’s static fire test of the Falcon Heavy will have to be suspended, because it requires civilian members of the 45th Space Wing to be present, and they’re furloughed, too. So let’s just say we’re all pretty unimpressed at the inability of the party that controls the Presidency, House, and Senate to effectively govern.


Image: YouTube

YouTube vs. The Little Guys

YouTube has announced new rules for who can be paid for their content, and, just like their AdSense rules have been for some time now, it’s not looking great for small-time producers. Previously, channels needed only to have amassed 10,000 total views to qualify, but under the new rules, they’ll be required to have 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of watch time over the previous 12 months to qualify for the “right” to run ads on their content. The change seems to be justified as Google saying “we can’t moderate all the content on here, so if you’re not seen by enough people, you’re not worth our time and effort.” On the one hand, I can see where they’re coming from, but their actions, like the TSA at an airport, aren’t likely to do much except provide “security theater.” It’s simply a move to reassure advertisers that the videos their ads are being placed on will be better monitored. You can read more at Gizmodo.


Image: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab

On the lighter side of the news, we got to see a great (little) rocket launch yesterday, with New Zealand-based Rocket Lab’s second launch of its Electron vehicle, appropriately titled “Still Testing.” The Electron was designed with the idea that smaller satellites (like CubeSats) shouldn’t have to follow the flight schedule and cost structures of much larger launch vehicles like the Falcon 9. Accordingly, the Electron is a much smaller rocket: where the F9 is 230 feet tall (70m) and can take 50,300 pounds (22,800kg) to Low Earth Orbit in it’s “Full Throttle” configuration, the Electron stands at a mere 56 feet tall (17m) and can ferry up to 495 pounds (225 kg) to Sun-Synchronous Orbit (a polar orbit in which the satellites will pass the same point on the earth at the same time each day). Still, this should be enough to fit a small-satellite launch market and make the company viable, especially if all the technical hurdles are overcome. Given that this latest launch successfully delivered three satellites to orbit, one from Earth-imaging company Planet and two from weather and shipping traffic tracker Spire, it looks like they’ve got things worked out on that end, too. You can read more about the launch at The Verge.

Anyway, that’s the top of the news for this week. Check back next time for more!


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Richard Ford Burley is a human, YA author, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.