Starbase Surge, extra Houston St. chatter, and different spares from the Texan tech scene

What a difference a month makes.

At the beginning of June, we gained momentum as we headed towards something that resembles life before COVID. There was optimism, hope and a ray of hope on the horizon.

In a June 16 column, I wrote, “With the pandemic retreating, the tech scene in San Antonio and Texas continues to restart.”

The statement was true at the time, and then the COVID Delta variant caught on and the dark clouds of pandemic life rolled in again.

It’s too early to see the full impact of the Delta variant surge, but it’s clear that there’s little appetite for the mass closings and restrictions we’ve seen over the course of 2020. Despite the rise of the Delta variant, San Antonio tech freaks continue to make strides.

With our community doubling up on vaccinations and COVID precautions, it makes sense to clear the workbench of spares from the San Antonio and Texas tech scene.

Starbase rise

If you thought Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson’s summer space flights were impressive, just wait for SpaceX to send up its nearly 400-foot-tall Starship and Superheavy booster combo from its Starbase facility outside of Brownsville. With 29 engines and the ability to put 100 tons into orbit, it will be one of the most powerful rockets in history. On July 19, SpaceX conducted a 3-motor static booster fire.

Construction on the Starship Superheavy Orbital Launch Pad continues on Wednesday June 16, 2021 in Boca Chica, an unincorporated area near Brownsville.

Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle / Employee Photographer

Elon Musk plans to send the plane on its first orbital flight sometime this summer, but there is still a lot to do – complete the construction of the launch tower and spacecraft, test the engines, obtain licenses from the Federal Aviation Administration, and much more. The challenges don’t worry Musk, who has called in reinforcements to help out at the starbase.

Apparently, SpaceX sent hundreds of employees to the starbase to help build the orbital spaceship and booster. The hustle and bustle of activity has caused Space Twitter to flutter with chatter that SpaceX plans to get the ship ready for pre-flight tests by August 5.

SBIR madness

Four San Antonio-based companies recently won small business innovation research research contracts from the federal government. New Dominion Enterprises received $ 750,000 for work on batteries for tactical communication devices. Elevate Systems has received an SBIR contract for its 3D printing and support for the E-3 Sentry aircraft. SecureLogix received nearly $ 1 million from the Department of Homeland Security to research computer security for next generation 911 technology. Computerized Screenings Inc. received an SBIR contract for its mobile telemedicine devices.

“It’s a pretty difficult process to actually get an award,” said Brad Bowen, CEO of Computerized Screenings. “So we’re pretty pumped up on our side.”

Air Force Innovation Summit

More than 600 people are expected to attend the Air Force’s San Antonio Innovation Summit August 3-4 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. Government and industry experts will discuss innovation with military members and community leaders. Despite the delta variant and the precautions that are being ramped up, the conference will continue to take place as planned. Summit officials said masks will be required.

The sound of silence

No updates from the Judson Independent School District regarding the ransomware attack that has compromised the county’s communications and computer systems. On July 20, the district reported that its phones and email systems were working, but declined to elaborate on the status of the district’s computer systems.

CivTechSA selected

CivTechSA, a partnership between Geekdom and San Antonio’s Department of Innovation, selected tech-focused Tempugo for this year’s residency, which began July 28th. Tempugo will help companies communicate building closures to customers in order to mitigate lost business. Unfortunately, Tempugo is not a startup in San Antonio. The company is based in Berkeley, California.

Bond talks on Houston Street

As technology leaders on the nearby West Side and Geekdom begin a low-key dialogue about car-free turns on parts of Houston Street, VelocityTX – the life science innovation hub near the East Side – is trying to polish up its territory.

“I don’t know if we’re necessarily proposing to shut down Houston Street,” said Rene Dominguez, president and chief operating officer of the Texas Research and Technology Foundation, the parent company of VelocityTX. “But we’re big fans of combining the development that’s taking place here on the East Side with the opportunities at Geekdom and UTSA.”

He said VelocityTX is looking into programs that could temporarily close the street at night, or after festivals, that would encourage connectivity, economic activity and innovation.

“As part of the Bond process, we talked about better connectivity in terms of road links, bike lanes and improvements to the underpass,” he said. “Possibilities to physically combine the East Side development with the growth in the inner city.”

To be vaccinated

If you have not yet received your COVID vaccination, please do so. Let’s trust science so we can put this pandemic in the rearview mirror.

Brandon Lingle writes for Express News for Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.

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