Tag Archives: Elon Musk

Musk hints details of SpaceX Mars project

The competition heats up: In an interview with the Washington Post this week, Elon Musk gave some more hints at his company’s future plans to send its Dragon capsules to Mars.

“Essentially what we’re saying is we’re establishing a cargo route to Mars,” [Musk] said. “It’s a regular cargo route. You can count on it. It’s going happen every 26 months. Like a train leaving the station. And if scientists around the world know that they can count on that, and it’s going to be inexpensive, relatively speaking compared to anything in the past, then they will plan accordingly and come up with a lot of great experiments.”

The key to Musk’s effort is that he plans on doing it. He isn’t sitting around waiting for others, or trying to convince others to join him in a partnership before proceeding. He is simply doing it, and is welcoming others to take advantage of the opportunity he is offering.

Elon Musk sends a tweet and the world listens

The competition heats up: Yesterday Elon Musk sent out a tweet that simply repeated something his company has been saying now for several months — but with one slight additional detail — and the press went gaga.

What Musk said was that SpaceX hopes to reuse one of its used Falcon 9 first stages by September or October. Previously they had merely said they were aiming to do it before the end of the year. Since SES has offered one of its satellites for the job, and since it has had for months two such satellites scheduled for launch by SpaceX in September and October, this announcement by Musk is not really much of a surprise. Yet, the tweet was enough for all of the following mainstream news sources to gin up news-breaking headlines:

I am not really complaining. What I am really noting is how serious the world now takes what Musk and SpaceX are doing. They say they plan to do something new and revolutionary, and people sit up and take notice. And the reasons are twofold. First, everything they have said they were going to do, they have done. Musk’s announcement has to be taken seriously. Second, Musk owns SpaceX, and does not really need anyone’s permission to do this. He isn’t in a negotiation with numerous other players, as has been the case with NASA and its projects for the past half century. We know that if he wants to try something, the only things that could stop him are lack of capital and lack of good engineering, neither of which are an obstacle in this case.

So, be prepared for the first relaunch of a rocket’s first stage sometime this fall. And don’t be surprised if that isn’t the only new thing SpaceX accomplishes at the time.

Elon Musk to meet with Defense Secretary

The competition heats up: A private meeting to discuss modern innovation between Elon Musk and Defense Secretary Ash Carter has been scheduled for Wednesday.

Ash Carter, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and chief executive, will discuss innovation June 8 in a private meeting, the Pentagon’s top spokesman said. “Elon Musk is one of the most innovative minds in this country and the secretary, as you know, has been reaching out to a number of members of the technology community to get their ideas, their feedback, find out what’s going on in the world of innovation,” Peter Cook, the Pentagon’s press secretary said during a June 6 briefing. “The secretary’s had a number of meetings with business leaders and innovation leaders in particular out in Silicon Valley, other parts of the country, and I think that’s his goal here: to hear directly from Elon Musk on some of these issues.”

The meeting is private, which means an agenda or discussion items are generally not released. More details were not immediately available.

I am sure about one thing: This meeting is going to make the corporate board of ULA very nervous.

Billionaires propose big space plans

At separate interviews given during a media conference held this week in California, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos each expressed their thoughts about what they hope to accomplish in space over the next few decades.

First, Jeff Bezos outlined his belief that, in order to protect the Earth, humanity is going to have to eventually move its heavy manufacturing off the planet and into space. He thought colonizing the planets was a cool idea, but his focus remained with Earth, and using space as a way to protect it.

Musk meanwhile revealed his company’s long range plans for Mars, including their firm intention to send a Dragon capsule to the red planet during every future launch opportunity, beginning with 2018. Each mission will provide information needed to improve and develop their engineering so that they can hopefully send humans there by 2024.

A realistic appraisal of both men’s proposals will quickly recognize that they are probably overly optimistic. Bezos might be right that we should move our heavy industries into space, but he is not realistic to think this can happen soon, or is even possible. Musk’s company SpaceX might be laying the groundwork for the eventual colonization of Mars, but to think it will begin happening by 2024 is unrealistic.

Still, what both men are proposing are things that they are personally helping to make happen. Neither man has to get anyone else’s permission or approval to push these dreams. All they need to do is make sure the products they are building for accomplishing these tasks can also make money by providing services to others. Since this is exactly what both men are doing, they will likely achieve far more than anyone can imagine, even if the specific proposals they are putting forth now do not happen in their lifetimes.

This bright and very possible future is far different than the powerpoint proposals that NASA and big government have offered to us over and over again for the past four decades. Those ideas, while also ambitious, could never happen because they were dependent on the approval of too many other players, Congress, the public, the press, the bureaucracy. They were not founded on profits, so they became a drain on the economy instead of a source of wealth. The result was that we have gone nowhere and developed little new space technology in the years since the last Apollo landing.

Only now, with our renewed reliance on capitalism and profits, are we finally beginning to see the dreams expressed in those NASA powerpoint proposals coming to life. And it isn’t the government that is making them happen, but free individuals, with big dreams and the will to pursue them.

Expect there to be privately funded manned missions to Mars in the next decade. And expect there to be factories in orbit, far sooner than anyone expects.

Musk makes first extended public comments since Falcon 9 failure

In the heat of competition: Elon Musk on Tuesday made his first detailed public comments about the Falcon 9 accident, the on-going investigation, and the aftermath.

Musk hopes to release more details on the failure by the end of this week after further data analysis and engineering reviews. “At this point, the only thing that’s really clear was there was some kind of over-pressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank, but the exact cause and sequence of events, there’s still no clear theory that fits with all the data,” Musk said. “So we have to determine if some of the data is a measurement error of some kind, or if there’s actually a theory that matches what appear to be conflicting data points.”

He also had no word on when launches would resume.

Musk hints at a team-up with space-based internet provider

The competition heats up: Elon Musk yesterday revealed that he is in negotiations to team-up with a venture that would put in orbit a constellation of 700 satellites to provide low-cost internet access.

The venture was originally linked with Google, but that partnership has faded. Musk meanwhile said that his deal will be announced within the next three months.

If you are hoping to buy stock in Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, Musk now says you will have to wait until they have begun regular missions to Mars.

If you are hoping to buy stock in Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, Musk now says you will have to wait until they have begun regular missions to Mars.

This is a change from earlier comments by Musk, which to me suggests that the company’s recent successes and sales has made it profitable enough that he’d rather maintain control than get cash from an IPO. By keeping the company private, Musk can avoid being beholden to stockholders. He can do what he wants.

The fundamental design flaw of all of Tesla Motors’ electric cars.

The fundamental design flaw of all of Tesla Motors’ electric cars.

A Tesla Roadster that is simply parked without being plugged in will eventually become a “brick”. The parasitic load from the car’s always-on subsystems continually drains the battery and if the battery’s charge is ever totally depleted, it is essentially destroyed. Complete discharge can happen even when the car is plugged in if it isn’t receiving sufficient current to charge, which can be caused by something as simple as using an extension cord. After battery death, the car is completely inoperable. At least in the case of the Tesla Roadster, it’s not even possible to enable tow mode, meaning the wheels will not turn and the vehicle cannot be pushed nor transported to a repair facility by traditional means.

This problem could destroy the company, which, believe it or not, might actually have a negative effect on the American space program! Elon Musk, the man behind SpaceX and the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon capsule is also the CEO of Tesla. If Tesla goes down, one wonders if that could have an impact on SpaceX’s effort to get Americans into space.

Space exploration and the unexpected consequences of government decisions

On Thursday, December 15, 2011, NASA management announced what seemed at first glance to be a very boring managerial decision. Future contracts with any aerospace company to launch astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) will follow the same contractual arrangements used by NASA and SpaceX and Orbital Sciences for supplying cargo to the space station.

As boring that sounds, this is probably the most important decision NASA managers have made since the 1960s. Not only will this contractual approach lower the cost and accelerate the speed of developing a new generation of manned spaceships, it will transfer control of space exploration from NASA — an overweight and bloated government agency — to the free and competitive open market.

To me, however, the decision illustrates a number of unexpected consequences, none of which have been noted by anyone in the discussions that followed NASA’s announcement back in mid-December.
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Rutan, Allen, Musk, Griffin team up to develop an air-launch rocket system to fire hardware and humans into orbit.

Superstars of space: Rutan, Allen, Musk, and Griffin have teamed up to develop an air-launch rocket system to fire hardware and humans into orbit.

Their concept calls for Rutan, a noted aircraft designer, to create a carrier jet with a 385-foot wingspan and six engines to ferry a liquid-fueled, 120-foot-long rocket built by SpaceX and outfitted with five main engines to altitude where the winged booster will be released for launch into orbit.

Doubts on Display from Congress during hearing on Private Space

Several Congressmen expressed doubts about and resistance to the new private space manned effort by companies like SpaceX during hearings today in the House.

Let’s be honest: it’s all about pork and only pork. Unfortunately, the new companies don’t deliver the same kind of pork to the right congressional districts, even if they might deliver a real product faster and for less money. To quote the article:

Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., rallied to the industry’s defense, citing a “hostility” to the private space industry. “Much to my dismay, I see some of the worst elements of decision making,” he said. “I see an anti-commercial-space attitude that could have very negative consequences.” Rohrabacher (who represents a district near SpaceX’s headquarters) seemed to chide Hall and Johnson, the two Texans who chair the panel, for parochial views. “Focusing on one’s own district and directing federal funds seems to be having a major impact on this decision,” he said.

As we anticipated yesterday, there were other regional pleas connected to the word of choice heard in the halls of Congress: jobs. Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Mich., for instance, asked how the space contract could be used to create jobs in his district of metropolitan Detroit. The witnesses made the most diplomatic kowtows they could. “I’ve been pushing SpaceX to use more automotive suppliers,” Musk responded. Other space industry execs went on to claim Michigan subcontractors, to praise the auto industry, and to speak of spin-offs from space science programs.

Elon Musk and the forgotten word

Elon Musk at National Press Club

When Elon Musk gave his speech at the National Press Club on September 29, he was asked one question to which he really did not know the answer. He faked it, but his response illustrated how completely forgotten is one fundamental fact about American society — even though this fact is the very reason the United States became the world’s most wealthy and powerful nation less than two centuries after its founding.

To explain this fundamental fact I think I need to take a step back and talk about the ongoing war taking place right now over how the United States should get its astronauts into space. On one side we have NASA and Congress, who want NASA to build a new heavy-lift rocket to carry its Orion capsule beyond Earth orbit. On the other side we have a host of independent new space companies, all vying for the chance to launch humans and cargo into space for fun and profit.

Which is right? What system should the United State choose?
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Reality always wins

Elon Musk’s talk yesterday at the National Press Club revealed several interesting things, about SpaceX’s rocket effort, about the state of the American commercial space industry, and about Elon Musk himself.

First, the company’s rocket design effort. Musk centered his talk on SpaceX’s new effort to make its Falcon 9 rocket completely reusable. Though he produced little specific details, and the moderator at the event asked no questions about it, it seems the engineering centers around these three concepts:
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SpaceX suspends production of its Falcon 1 rocket

SpaceX suspends production of its Falcon 1 rocket.

As much as I am a fan of Elon Musk and SpaceX, and though I realize that they have been focusing on getting Falcon 9 and Dragon off the ground — the payoff there is greater and a failure of Falcon 1 during this time could be very politically painful — this action contradicts SpaceX’s years of claims that they had a slew of signed contracts to launch Falcon 1.

I will be attending Elon Musk’s luncheon speech today at the National Press Club, and hope to ask him about this and other things.

Elon Musk defends his vision and success

Elon Musk defends his vision and success. Key quote:

For the first time in more than three decades, America last year began taking back international market-share in commercial satellite launch. This remarkable turn-around was sparked by a small investment NASA made in SpaceX in 2006 as part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. A unique public-private partnership, COTS has proven that under the right conditions, a properly incentivized contractor — even an all-American one — can develop extremely complex systems on rapid timelines and a fixed-price basis, significantly beating historical industry-standard costs.

China has the fastest growing economy in the world. But the American free enterprise system, which allows anyone with a better mouse-trap to compete, is what will ensure that the United States remains the world’s greatest superpower of innovation.

To put it simply, Musk is right, on all counts.

“We’re going all the way to Mars, I think… best case 10 years, worst case 15 to 20 years.”

Elon Musk: “We’ll probably put a first man in space in about three years. We’re going all the way to Mars, I think… best case 10 years, worst case 15 to 20 years.”

I believe him when he says he’ll launch his first manned mission in three years. However, I think he seriously underestimates the challenges of a mission to Mars, based on our present engineering abilities to build interplanetary spaceships.

SpaceX Unveils Plan for World’s Most Powerful Private Rocket

SpaceX unveils its plan for the Falcon 9 Heavy, what would be the world’s most powerful private rocket.

The new rocket will be able to carry about 117,000 pounds (53,000 kilograms) of cargo to orbit – about twice the payload-carrying capability of the space shuttle. The Falcon Heavy would launch more than twice as much weight as the Delta 4 heavy, currently the most powerful rocket in operation. Only NASA’s Saturn 5 moon rocket, which last launched in 1973, could carry more cargo to orbit, SpaceX officials said.

Musk said the rocket should lower the launch cost of cargo to about $1,000 per pound, about one-tenth the cost per pound on NASA shuttle launches.