SpaceX to Resume Supplying the ISS

The date of SpaceX’s next resupply mission to the ISS has been announced by NASA to take place on April 8th. SpaceX will be delivering the cargo onboard one of their Falcon 9 rockets, launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida at around 4:43 PM Eastern Time.

This will be the first time that SpaceX have made a launch to resupply the ISS in almost a year, the last cargo mission taking place in July 2015 ending in failure. On that launch, the Falcon 9 rocket exploded just minutes after launch, which was later reported by SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, to be caused by overpressure in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. Following this, the Falcon 9 returned to service in December last year, where it was also able to land successfully. Since then, there have been a number of Falcon 9 launches, and while a number of those have also exploded, it was only when they were attempting to land at sea following the mission, with one attempt coming very close to success.

Once again, SpaceX plans to attempt one of their famous rocket landings following the upcoming mission. Refusing to admit defeat and repeat the previously successful ground landing, they plan to land the rocket on a drone ship at sea and, this time, Musk is confident that the landing will succeed. Should a successful sea landing happen, it will not only be another historic feat for SpaceX, but it will also allow the company to recover and reuse an increasing number of their rockets that are launched. As well as delivering much-needed supplies and experiments for the astronauts aboard the ISS, the Dragon cargo capsule that the Falcon 9 carries will also have some important cargo to carry back to Earth, though in a far less impressive fashion than landing a rocket.

Like any SpaceX launch, this could have a very interesting result for the space industry, or at the very least an impressive explosion for those watching the event that will likely be live streamed. Musk and many others will certainly be hoping for the fifth time to be the charm for the sea landing, as well as a successful launch marking the resuming of their ISS resupply runs.

Image credit to SpaceX

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket to Return to Service this Month

Everything has been looking up for SpaceX recently, being one of the forerunners in the contest for NASA’s contest for their CSR2 contracts to resupply the ISS and NASA ordering the first mission from their new manned rockets by 2017. And now SpaceX have the chance to recover from the one blemish on their record with their Falcon 9 rocket tentatively planned to resume its regular missions to the ISS on the 19th of December.

After a critical failure that caused one of their Falcon 9 rockets to explode shortly after launch while making a routine supply run, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets and their accompanying Dragon cargo pods have been grounded for the last 6 months. At the time, SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk believed that the explosion was caused by an “overpressure event” in the upper-stage liquid oxygen tank of the rocket. Failed launches are far from an anomaly in recent times, with two other ISS supply missions by other companies also failing to launch.

Additionally, the launch should be followed by a ground landing on a pre-leased site at Cape Canaveral, after the last attempt to land at sea on a barge ended in failure. If this launch goes well, it should put SpaceX back on track, which could be just what it needs to win the next round of supply contracts and continue their supply runs for the foreseeable future.

MSI Z97A Gaming 6 LGA 1150 Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


The Z97 chipset is undoubted the king of the consumer chipsets; featured in almost all pre-built systems from the likes of OverclockersUK and PC Specialist, it is a safe yet, powerful base for even the most formidable gaming computers. Thanks to the Z97 chipset being released on the ‘tock’ cycle of the Intel production, it features all of the best bits from previous generations along with more features such as SATA Express being more widely used and M.2 support becoming common among almost every motherboard.

MSi have taken the Z97 range with both hands and stamped it well, producing some of the best-looking and best-performing motherboards on the market. Even though they offer the highest quality in terms of components and performance, the price is very conservative, almost undercutting the comparable competition by 10%.

Today on the test bench, we have the MSi Z97A-Gaming-6 motherboard. The Gaming 6 is considering to be ‘middle of the road’ in terms of MSi branding, with the Gaming 3 and M being below and Gaming 7 and 9 being above. This motherboard is poised to offer the best performance at the best possible price, while offering more features than you could possibly ever need or use.

Key Features

Manufacturers nowadays need to find innovative ways to stand out from the crowd, MSi is no exception and has crammed a huge array of features into this motherboard.

  • Audio Boost
  • Military Class 4
  • Oc Genie 4
  • Click Bios 4
  • Sound Blaster Cinema 2
  • Total Fan control
  • Gaming Device Port
  • Smart Utilities
  • Command Center
  • ECO Center

For more information on these functions, please visit the MSi Z97A Gaming 6 product page.

Packaging and Accessories

The box follows a similar design to the rest of the gaming series. Black and red with the MSi Gaming dragon.

Inside the box is a huge amount of accessories; consisting of more manuals than I ever would have thought I’d need, cable labels, door hanger, 2x SATA 6Gb/s cables, I/O shield, MSi SLi brdge, MSi Gaming plaque, button header extensions and an audio power adapter.

 

Realtek DRAGON LAN Chip Spotted

The onboard Local Area Network (LAN) is a massively overlooked part of your system; most users tend to buy on the impulse of shiny heatsinks, colour scheme or maybe because it has so many USB 3.1 ports. Despite the lack of consumer interest, companies manufacturer ultra high-speed LAN chips which offer consumers the best in wired internet connections.

Realtek is one of the oldest in the business, along with Intel and Killer (Qualcomm), the three dominate the LAN option market. Up until recent, Killer has held the top spot for gamers with some of the best connections available, regularly hitting within 90% of the listed speeds. Well, now Realtek has produced a new chip, dubbed “Dragon”.

The current RTL8111 chip is aging and lagging behind the competitors, Dragon is based on the new RTL8118AS design. Realtek states is has made numerous improvements over the previous generations, set to offer better performance for traffic with small UDP packets; which incidentally is how most online multiplayer games send information.

Along with the new name comes a new branding logo, which manufacturers will be able to print directly onto the PCB instead of the entire company name. The new chip is set to launch on the upcoming LGA1151 motherboards from ECS.

Are you using onboard LAN networking? What brand is it? Let us know in the comments

Thank you to Anandtech via TechPowerUp for providing us with this information.

MSI Gaming Radeon R9 380 2GB Graphics Card Review

Introduction


MSI is one of those names you think of when compiling a list of computer components. You know that the amount of testing and quality control that goes into each product released will shine through in performance and longevity. It produces some of the best looking, cooling, sounding and performing graphics cards on the market thanks to the military grade components that go into every card.

Today we have the MSI GAMING R9 380 2GB in for some punishment. The card itself comes equipped with the latest Twin Frozr V cooling solution that not only looks great, but keeps this card cool and quiet at all times. It features a new fan design, called TORX fans; the new design is to simply force more air downwards into the heat sink and over the components at lower fan speeds.

Sadly, when thoughts turn to the R9 300 range, most consumers would laugh at the fact that they are rebranded R9 285 GPU’s with slightly higher clock speeds. While this is true, the matured manufacturing process has allowed AMD to squeeze every bit of possible performance out of the cores and then passed onto the sub-vendors to add lashings of high-quality components to ensure the core retains that performance for years to come.

The box is minimalistic with the Gaming dragon and dragon logo drawing the most attention. A faint PCB like design takes up the rest of the box, turning attention to the technologies inside the box. Inside the box you can find the typical accessories of a low-end card, DVi adapter and user manuals and disks.

The cooling shroud is very large, but it doesn’t over hang the PCB by too much on the end. Following the unique style of previous MSI Twin Frozr V cooling designs and implementing the new TORX Fans.

The Twin Frozr V cooling design and features arei well explained in the MSI video:

This backplate is so minimalistic; it’s great. Matt undercoat with a glossy dragon logo and key holes to aid cooling of the rear components.

A close up on the power connections reveals two 6-pin PCIe connections. This helps provide stable power when the card is in OC mode.

This new fan design is implemented on every other fan fin. The traditional fin helps bring in more air while the TORX design pushes less, but much faster air in to quickly remove the heat.

At the business end of the card, we see the usual connections of 2x DVI, 1x HDMI and 1x DisplayPort.

SpaceX Falcon Explodes on ISS Resupply Mission

Space industry upstart SpaceX has suffered an explosive set back on its latest mission. Setting out to resupply the International Space Station, the Falcon 9 rocket suffered an unrecoverable failure and ended up exploding shortly after launch.  At this point, the exact cause of the failure is not known yet with both SpaceX and NASA working to determine the fault. A preliminary report suggests that an overpressure event compromised the second stage liquid oxygen tank which makes sense as the first stage appeared to keep firing properly until the end.

While not critical, the ISS supply situation is sub-optimal with two other failures already this year from other launchers. Orbital Sciences and Roscosmos both had failures earlier that either destroyed the payload or made it impossible to properly deliver it. Some of the items set to be delivered today were already replacements for those lost on earlier missions.

In a disappointment for Elon Musk fans, the third try at landing the rocket will have to wait. Earlier attempts had failed explosively but many had been hoping the third time would be the charm. Even with this failure though, SpaceX still has a relatively good track record and is already pretty cost effective. Hopefully, SpaceX can take this experience and prepare for the day they launch manned missions.

Dragon Quest PS4 Limited Edition Console Announced

Isn’t it cute? Yesterday in Tokyo, Sony and Square Enix announced Dragon Quest Heroes for the top-selling next-gen console and it’s older brother, the PS3. This action game will also have an accompanying eye-pleasing console counterpart, the extremely adorable silver console and controller.

This game release is set to be the first of a massive series and said to be the first of its kind to be released in almost a decade. Produced in collaboration with Koei Tecmo, this game and console are set to bolster Sony sales next year in the local Japanese market where it has currently been seeing some issues moving through units. This issue is said to be mainly due to a lack of games that appeal to their audience.

Appropriately named the ‘metal slime’ edition, this PS4 is decked out with silver and contains the cute Slime mascot imprinted, there’s also ultra-cute metal slime dripping over the edge of the console.

Dragon Quest Heroes is set for release next spring in Japan – and we’re unaware of an exact release date or price for its custom PS4 counterpart. Will you see this popping up in your local stores (outside of japan)? Most likely not, but there’s always the possibility of an import for die-hard fans.

Image courtesy of Polygon

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming (Z77) Motherboard Review

Whilst at CeBIT earlier in the year, I swung by the MSI booth to see what products they had to show off to the world. Now for most people that attended the show, being able to look around MSI’s booth was not going to be possible as they were situated in an area that was out of bounds to the general public, meaning that only those associated with the industry, like us at eTeknix, could have a look. Whilst on their stand, there was something that caught the eye and in some respect looked a little odd. Typically when we see MSI motherboards from a glance we expect to see the blue or yellow highlighting that appears on their boards, however one cabinet housed something different and in some respects a little bit special.

This change that caught the eye is MSI’s new line of gaming orientated motherboards. The obvious question is why do they stand out so much? Well until now, MSI have stuck with blue or yellow schemes on their boards, but the gaming line use red – which to some is an automatic association with gaming. So why the new line? Well a number of other key players in the market have their own lines of gaming orientated boards, ASRock have the Fatal1ty association, Asus have Republic of Gamers (ROG), Gigabyte have G.1 and now MSI have Gaming. Essentially these new boards from MSI are tweaked and tuned variants of the standard Z77 range so at their heart they have a very similar product spec, but they feature some components that will benefit gamers during their online battles. The most notable of these is a NIC from BigFoot networks – the Killer E2200- which reduces in game latency by prioritising game traffic over other network communications.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/QE6KcbkxLiA[/youtube]

MSI’s box, features a bold dragon on the front and everything is pointing towards the gaming aspect. A new MSI gaming logo sits to the right above the product name and on the flap to open the box the tag ‘Just Game!’ is printed. Inside there is a decent accessory set with four SATA cables, an SLI bridge, driver CD (although we recommend going to MSI’s website to get the latest drivers), quick connect headers, voltage check cables, a bold case badge, red and black coloured IO shield and various manuals with a door card for warning others in the house that you’re too busy gaming to pay any other attention.

ASUS GTX 660Ti Dragon Graphics Card Spotted

ASUS graphics cards are always some of the best and most exciting on the market. Typically we are used to seeing Direct CU or the Republic of Gamers branded ASUS graphics cards but Dragon variants are much rarer indeed. The first one we saw was the HD 7850 Dragon, that was around July last year, although this graphics never actually materialised into a publicly available card.

The Dragon series for those who do not know is a series of ASUS cards that are new and rare. The graphics cards from the Dragon range are sat somewhere in between the Direct CU and ROG product series. As you can see from the images the card is almost identical to the Direct CU II cooling design but there are some key differences that are equally as visible.

Firstly the card features blue accents not red accents, obviously this is a totally cosmetic change and isn’t, on its own, enough to make it different from the Direct CU variants. The Dragon series pack a full metal backplate, similar to what we see on some ROG series cards. This backplate bears the Dragon branding and logo. Finally, the Dragon GTX 660Ti appears to have an electrical noise filter or extra power module attached to the rear of the GPU. Although it is not immediately obvious what it is or what it does, it looks similar to MSI’s GPU Reactor Module.

The out-of-the-box clock speeds are 1150MHz on the core and 6.1GHz effective on the memory. It will feature 2GB of GDDR5 across a 192 bit interface. There are no details on potential pricing or availability. I would hazard a guess that this graphics card might suffer the same fate as the HD 7850 Dragon and only end up being a concept card. I personally think ASUS should go to market with this because it offers the price flexibility of being a GTX 660Ti “Sweet Spot” graphics card, yet has some of the higher end features we’d normally only see on their very expensive ROG series graphics cards.

What do you think of this new ASUS Graphics card design? Would you buy it? What price would you consider reasonable for it?

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