Paul Allen powers up private space race with massive Stratolauncher aircraft rollout

We’re not gonna need a bigger airplane

The space race between tech billionaires just warmed up – again. Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, whose private space-launch system operates under Vulcan Ventures, rolled out their Stratolaunch aircraft for the first time, and needless to say, it was a big debut. The twin-fuselage, six-engine monster aircraft- the widest airplane in the world – is designed to lift half a million pounds of space-bound cargo.

Once at altitude, the launch vehicle – it could be a satellite or a manned space vehicle – will drop from the Stratolaunch, fire its rockets and head to orbit, or maybe beyond. This strategy greatly decreases the amount of fuel a rocket needs to reach orbit, which, of course, greatly lowers the cost as well. A smaller version of the aircraft is currently used in testing Space Ship Two, a non-orbital space plane designed to give wealthy thrill ride fans a quick taste of space and zero G.

Ukraine’s’s giant six-engined Antonov 225 is a bit longer than the Stratolaunch and is currently the largest aircraft flying on a regular basis. The Stratolaunch is set to undergo ground and flight testing before doing a test run of its launch abilities in 2019.

Skype me maybe

For many of us, Skype is the go-to video call app and for years, it’s pretty much worked and looked just about the same as it always has, with some tweaks along the way. That just changed.

Microsoft bought Skype six years ago, and today took the wraps off a big redesign, and what do you know, it now looks an awful lot like some other popular apps all the cool kids are using to talk to each other these days. The new Skype includes emojis, gighys, and other fun features that seem to take aim at SnapChat. There’s even a “Stories”-like feature called Highlights. The Skype re-skin is rolling out to Android phone users first, with iOS and PC updates due soon.

Through a scanner, easily

Remember scanning documents? People still do it when something needs to be “official,” but for most of us, a quick snap of that multi-million-dollar contract with our smartphone seems to be sufficient, right? Well, Adobe has now taken that idea to heart in their new Adobe Scan app, which automatically crops and polishes up that quick snap and then converts it into a PDF file for easy sending through the internets.

Or, if you’ve got the Adobe Acrobat app, you can import the PDF, make some changes and then send it on its way, no hours of photoshop training required. The Adobe Scan and Acrobat apps are both free and available now, just don’t try to add one more zero to that contract amount… try to add two.

We’ve got more news on our Facebook page and YouTube channel, and be sure to tune in to this week’s DT podcasts: Close to the Metal (computers and such) on Tuesday, Trends with Benefits (general tech shenanigans)  on Thursdays, and Between the Streams (movie and TV topics) every Friday.