States are making plans to lift shelter-in-place orders in a bid to reignite the economy and return things to normal. But it’s possible that the current crisis is an inflection point that changes some things for good. Take, for instance, delivery robots. In cities where they had been introduced pre-pandemic, delivery robots have since exploded in popularity during confinement. And with the public quickly acclimating to seeing them around, these machines are here to stay.
In today’s newsletter, we’re taking a look at how delivery robots are going from fringe to mainstream. Also, NASA announces the private companies it has selected to help put the first woman and next man on the moon.
Scroll down for more and we’ll see you in a fortnight.
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Coronavirus Crisis Popularizes Delivery Bots
The coronavirus pandemic has meant Americans have spent the spring under shelter in place orders. It’s been a real boon to delivery robots like Starship, which can bring Starbucks, Wingstop wings, and grocery orders to customers' doorsteps.
Starship had been gaining a foothold in Virginia before the crisis, but now the robots have taken off. Executives are scrambling to build and release more of the 4-mph robots to keep up with interest. And the company reports that its business outside of London doubled overnight.
Right now, there are hundreds of Starship robots making deliveries, but that number could soon rise exponentially. The company works with cities before deploying its fleet. Other markets it serves includes areas in D.C.; Tempe, Ariz; Mountain View, Calif; Irvine, Calif; Houston, Texas; and Pittsburgh, Pa.
The robot delivery field is getting crowded. Starship competitor Kiwibot is also racing to meet demand. Street-driving delivery vehicle Nuro has scored contracts with Domino's, Kroger and Walmart. Its rival Udelv is also partnering with Wal-Mart. Amazon acquired a sidewalk delivery robot called Scout in 2017. And Postmates is developing a bot of their own.
Will delivery bots displace human delivery? It very well could as they prove more popular with customers who enjoy not having to tip. But for now, Starship’s Virginia operation is allowing Starbucks to remain operational and giving baristas more work hours.
The Private Companies Awarded NASA Artemis Contracts
NASA’s Artemis Program encompasses the agency’s upcoming moon exploration missions. Researchers will use the knowledge gained to prepare for a crewed trip to Mars.
Earlier today, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine unveiled the private companies selected to develop modern human landing systems (HLS) that will carry a crew to the lunar surface as one of three planned Artemis missions.
SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft was selected as a lander and the company’s Super Heavy fully-reusable booster was chosen to propel the spacecraft out of orbit. NASA selected the duo for their flexible design and SpaceX’s proposal for an uncrewed test landing on the Moon.
Blue Origin’s Blue Moon was also selected as a dedicated lander. Jeff Bezos’ company is partnering with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper to provide other elements of the launch system. Blue Moon will blast off using Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket, or ULA’s Vulcan.
And NASA selected Dynetics’ Human Landing System which includes a lander with ascent and descent capabilities. It’ll be carried aboard the ULA Vulcan launch system. Boeing was notably shut out from the contract awards.
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