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Satellites’ exploded view of life on Earth


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Superpowers continue to fire offensive weapons into space, from China’s testing of a hypersonic fractional orbital bombardment system to Nasa’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart) this week, aimed at crashing into and changing the orbit of a moonlet.

Last Friday, we looked at the debris fallout of Russia blowing apart one of its own satellites in a test of an anti-satellite missile, and described Astroscale’s efforts to clean up space junk, using a magnetic tow bar.

On Thursday, the London-listed Seraphim Space Investment Trust announced it had made a $12.5m investment in Astroscale, part of a $109m series F round for the Japanese company.

While Astroscale is dedicated to cleaning up the environment in space, another recent Seraphim ESG investment is focused on our planet. The UK’s Satellite Vu aims to be “the Earth’s thermometer in space”.

Using infrared and thermal imaging tech, its satellites will be able to monitor the temperature of any building globally in near real-time. This will give insights into economic activity, energy efficiency and carbon footprint.

Its first satellite, made for it by Surrey Satellite Technology in Guildford, is due to launch next year, followed by six more. In the meantime, it has been testing its tech by mapping the city of Liverpool using planes.

The number of use cases for the data it is gathering is multiplying fast. For example, thermal imaging can also see the different temperature of pollution as sewage is illegally pumped into waterways. Or individual homeowners could be told how energy efficient their property is, and get a comparison with their neighbours.

Anthony Baker, Satellite Vu’s chief executive, tells me its seed round was four-times oversubscribed and the UK Spacetech scene is vibrant: “It’s a good place to be now in the UK,” he says. “Probably the US still has a lot more support systems and the right investors, but I would say we’re number two [in the world] easily.”

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. Google satisfies UK on ad commitments
The UK’s competition authority has accepted commitments by Google to create a fair playing field in online advertising after it phases out third-party cookies. The Competition and Markets Authority said an independent monitoring trustee, who will have access to Google’s systems to make sure it is not squashing rivals, addressed its concerns.

2. India Paytm’s the price
The debacle of Paytm’s IPO this week has put the spotlight on the company and shareholders SoftBank and Alibaba. It has also sparked concern from investors and entrepreneurs, fearful that it could derail a string of expected Indian flotations that were supposed to cement the country’s status as a leading destination for tech start-ups after the US and China.

Bar chart of performance from offer price (%) showing Spotlight on Indian’s new tech listings

3. Taiwan’s UMC settles with Micron
Taiwanese chipmaker United Microelectronics Corporation will pay Micron Technology an undisclosed fee to settle a trade secrets dispute that stoked US fears that China was stealing technology. UMC was fined $60m in October last year after pleading guilty to US charges of stealing Micron’s confidential information and sharing it with China-based Fujian Jinhua.

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4. Pinduoduo and Meituan disappoint
Pinduoduo’s shares fell 15 per cent in early trading as the fast-growing Chinese ecommerce group reported disappointing revenue growth in the third quarter. Food delivery giant Meituan reported that its quarterly net loss had widened to Rmb10.1bn as the company continued to invest heavily in its own grocery and retail efforts.

5. Tesla battery plant loses out on EU funding
Tesla has been forced to turn down more than €1.1bn in European subsidies for its planned battery plant near Berlin after delays to the flagship project breached a key condition of the funding. Separately on Friday, a company filing in China revealed that Tesla plans to expand capacity at its Shanghai car plant, allowing it to increase staff numbers at the site by about a third and boosting production in the world’s largest electric car market.

Tech tools — Axie Infinity

© Financial Times

Axie Infinity has become one of the most popular gateways for introducing the general public to cryptocurrency markets, report Miles Kruppa and Tim Bradshaw. Loosely based on the Pokemon franchise, the game has spawned an entire economy and rewards players with tokens for winning battles and completing quests. Sky Mavis, the company that developed Axie, has recently tried to stem a freefall in the price of Smooth Love Potion (SLP), a cryptocurrency token players earn within the game. Read more

Chart showing 180-day price of Smooth Love Potion in USD

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