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Brazil’s defense minister says SpaceX, Boeing interested in launching from Amazon base

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Brazil’s defense minister said on Thursday that SpaceX, Boeing and other companies have expressed interest in launching rockets from the South American nation’s Alcantara military base near the equator, and that a delegation of interested parties visited the site late last year.

Defense Minister Raul Jungmann told reporters that the government hopes that “several countries” and companies decide to make use of Brazil’s base. He did not indicate how far along any talks were. SpaceX and Boeing did not immediately reply to request for comment.

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China living up to trade deal promises, Biden’s agriculture secretary says

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US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack believes China is making good on promises it made as part of the landmark phase one trade deal it signed with the U.S. last year.

Vilsack said that the deal allows for market conditions to dictate how much Beijing is required to purchase from U.S. farmers. The pandemic, he added, would qualify as a material market condition that would impact how much China has to buy.

“The good news is – China seems to be living up to its responsibilities,” he said on Wednesday. “The bad news is: At any point in time, because of the complex nature of the China-U.S. relationship, things can happen that might affect those purchases.”

After months of tense negotiation and a tit-for-tat tariff feud, China agreed in January 2020 to purchase an additional $200 billion in U.S. goods over two years. The additional purchases are supposed to be in addition to of the quantity of goods and services Beijing bought from the U.S. in 2017.

Specifically, China agreed to purchase $12.5 billion worth of agricultural goods in 2020, followed by an additional $19.5 billion in 2021. The country’s purchases of U.S. soybeans and pork became of central importance during the bilateral talks throughout 2018 and 2019.

Still, some reports note that China hasn’t purchased the sums it promised before the Covid-19 pandemic, even if the rules of the trade deal allow for changes to the purchase amounts based market conditions.

In its first year of implementation, China imported $100 billion of the U.S. goods agreed to in the deal — roughly 58% of the targeted $173.1 billion for 2020, according to Chinese customs data compiled by think tank Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Still, Vilsack remained upbeat on the progress made by China.

“I think they still have a few days to be able to meet the Phase One, year one goal,” he said. “Whether they meet the exact amount I think is in question in part because of the pandemic.”

Vilsack, who assumed office on Wednesday, also served as Agriculture secretary under former President Barack Obama and was previously the governor of Iowa. His renomination by President Joe Biden was easily approved in the Senate, which voted 92 to 7 on Tuesday to confirm the former dairy industry executive for a second term.

Earlier this month, Vilsack was grilled by the Senate Agriculture Committee on his views on U.S. trade policy and climate change. He pledged to use funds included in the Commodity Credit Corporation to seek to capture atmospheric carbon.

Vilsack is expected to attempt to tackle several challenges in the world of U.S. agriculture, including the pandemic-era rise in hunger, but a sharp drop in restaurant demand for food products.

Civil rights groups have also raised concerns about his nomination, saying alleged discriminatory practices continued at the USDA under his prior tenure.

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Bezos’ Blue Origin delays first launch of New Glenn rocket to Q4 2022

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A “pathfinder” version of the New Glenn rocket in the company’s manufacturing facility.

Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos’ space venture Blue Origin delayed the first launch of its New Glenn rocket by a year, citing the loss of key Pentagon launch contracts to competitors SpaceX and ULA as the catalyst for the shift in schedule.

Blue Origin is targeting the fourth quarter of 2022 for New Glenn’s inaugural launch, having previously set late-2021 as the date. The company said the “updated maiden flight target follows the recent Space Force decision to not select New Glenn” for the latest round of national security launch contracts.

The Department of Defense in August awarded SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, the latter being the joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, with billions worth of contracts for launches over five years. The Pentagon selected SpaceX and ULA over bids from Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman.

“We hope to launch NSSL payloads in the future, and remain committed to serving the U.S. national defense mission,” Blue Origin said in a news release Thursday.

An artist’s illustration of a New Glenn rocket standing on the launchpad in Florida.

Blue Origin

New Glenn is the next-generation rocket that Blue Origin has been developing, with a rocket booster that is designed to land and be reused in a similar way to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. Blue Origin expects each New Glenn rocket will be capable of launching and landing 25 times.

The rocket would be larger than any other vehicle flying currently, and the company says it has invested $2.5 billion in New Glenn’s development. New Glenn stands about 320 feet tall and is designed to lift about 45,000 kilograms of payload to low Earth Orbit.

An aerial view of the company’s manufacturing and testing facility in Florida.

Blue Origin

Blue Origin has built a mockup of the booster stage of New Glenn to run tests ahead of the first launch from Florida.

The company has invested heavily in manufacturing and testing facilities at Cape Canaveral, with about 1 million square feet of real estate. The company noted that, of the $2.5 billion invested in New Glenn, about $1 billion was spent to rebuild the LC-36 launchpad.

Blue Origin’s work at LC-36 includes building a tower that can support launching people on New Glenn, which the company hopes to do later.

Bezos personally funds Blue Origin’s development by selling part of his Amazon stock. While he has said that he sells about $1 billion of Amazon shares annually to fund the space company, Bezos has recently increased his sales of Amazon stock, cashing out more than $10 billion worth in 2020.

Half of a rocket nosecone, also known as a fairing half, for New Glenn.

Blue Origin

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Coinbase files for direct listing after revenue more than doubles in 2020

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Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase on Thursday filed to become a public company and revealed that its revenue more than doubled last year.

According to the filing, Coinbase had net revenue of $1.14 billion in 2020, up from $483 million the previous year. The company also reported net income of $322 million for the year after posting a loss in 2019.

Additionally, Coinbase reported about $136 million in other revenue, which includes direct sales of crypto assets and interest income, pushing its total revenue for the year above $1.2 billion.

The company said it has 43 million verified users as of the end of 2020, with 2.8 million making monthly transactions. Trading in bitcoin and ethereum made up 56% of users’ trading volume, Coinbase said.

The company will use a direct listing to offer its shares instead of a traditional initial public offering.

A direct listing is an alternative to an IPO, and it involves investors and employees converting their ownership stakes into stock that’s listed on an exchange.

Founders have become increasingly disenchanted with the IPO process in recent years, leading to a boom in direct listings and special purpose acquisition vehicles. Streaming music giant Spotify also went public through a direct listing.

The move comes amid a boom in cryptocurrencies broadly, with bitcoin in particular gaining more acceptance among mainstream companies and investors. Large companies including Square and Tesla have been buying bitcoin in recent months.

Bitcoin was trading at just under $52,000 per coin on Thursday, according to coin metrics. The crypto asset had never traded above $20,000 prior to December.

Coinbase listed potential price declines in bitcoin as one of its risk factors.

“Our net revenue is substantially dependent on the prices of crypto assets and volume of transactions conducted on our platform. If such price or volume declines, our business, operating results, and financial condition would be adversely affected,” the filing said.

Coinbase’s stock would trade on the Nasdaq.

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