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Elon Musk says Starship should reach orbit within six months – and could even fly with a crew next year

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk delivered an update about Starship, the company’s nest generation spacecraft, which is being designed for full, “rapid reusability.” Musk discussed the technology behind the design of Starship, which has evolved somewhat through testing and development after its original introduction in 2017.

Among the updates detailed, Musk articulated how Starship will be used to make humans interplanetary, including its use of in-space refilling of propellant, by docking with tanker Starships already in orbit to transfer fuel. This is necessary for the spacecraft to get enough propellant on board post-launch to make the trip to the Moon or Mars from Earth – especially since it’ll be carrying as much as 100 tons of cargo on board to deliver to these other space-based bodies.

Elon Musk

These will include supplies for building bases on planetary surfaces, as well as up to 100 passengers on long-haul planet-to-planet flights.

Those are still very long-term goals, however, and Musk also went into detail about development of the current generation of Starship prototypes, as well as the planned future Starships that will go to orbit, and carry their first passengers.

The Starship Mk1, Mk2 and the forthcoming Mk3 and Mk4 orbital testers will all feature a fin design that will orient the vehicles so they can re-enter Earth’s atmosphere flat on their ‘bellies,’ coming in horizontal to increase drag and reduce velocity before performing a sort of flip maneuver to swing past vertical and then pendulum back to vertical for touch-down. In simulation, as shown at the event, it looks like it’ll be incredible to watch, since it looks more unwieldy than the current landing process for Falcon boosters, even if it’s still just as controlled.

SpaceX Starship Mk1 29

The front fins on the Starship prototype will help orient it for re-entry, a key component of reuse.

Musk also shared a look at the design planned for Super Heavy, the booster that will be used to propel Starship to orbit. This liquid-oxygen powered rocket, which is about 1.5 times the height of the Starship itself, will have 37 Raptor engines on board (the Starship will have only six) and will also feature six landing legs and deployable grid fins for its own return trip back to Earth.

In terms of testing and development timelines, Musk said that the Starship Mk1 he presented the plan in front of at Boca Chica should have its first test flight in just one to two months. That will be a flight to a sub-orbital altitude of just under 70,000 feet. The prototype spacecraft is already equipped with the three Raptor engines it will use for that flight.

Next, Starship Mk2, which is currently being built in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at another SpaceX facility, will attempt a similar high altitude test. Musk explained that both these families will continue to compete with each other internally and build Starship prototypes and rockets simultaneously. Mk3 will begin construction at Boca Chica beginning next month, and Mk4 will follow in Florida soon after. Musk said that the next Starship test flight after the sub-orbital trip for Mk1 might be an orbital launch with the full Super Heavy booster and Mk3.

Elon Musk 1

Musk said that SpaceX will be “building both ships and boosters here [at Boca Chica] and a the Cape as fast as we can,” and that they’ve already been improving both the design and the manufacture of the sections for the spacecraft “exponentially” as a result of the competition.

The Mk1 features welded panels to make up the rings you can see in the detail photograph of the prototype below, for instance, but Mk3 and Mk4 will use full sheets of stainless steel that cover the whole diameter of the spacecraft, welded with a single weld. There was one such ring on site at the event, which indicates SpaceX is already well on its way to making this work.

This rapid prototyping will enable SpaceX to build and fly Mk2 in two months, Mk3 in three months, Mk4 in four months and so on. Musk added that either Mk3 or Mk5 will be that orbital test, and that they want to be able to get that done in less than six months. He added that eventually, crewed missions aboard Starship will take place from both Boca Chica and the Cape, and that the facilities will be focused only on producing Starships until Mk4 is complete, at which point they’ll begin developing the Super Heavy booster.

Starship Mk1 night

In total, Musk said that SpaceX will need 100 of its Raptor rocket engines between now and its first orbital flight. At its current pace, he said, SpaceX is producing one every eight days – but they should increase that output to one every two days within a few months, and are targeting production of one per day for early in Q1 2019.

Because of their aggressive construction and testing cycle, and because, Musk said, the intent is to achieve rapid reusability to the point where you could “fly the booster 20 times a day” and “fly the [starship] three or four times a day,” the company should theoretically be able to prove viability very quickly. Musk said he’s optimistic that they could be flying people on test flights of Starship as early as next year as a result.

Part of its rapid reusability comes from the heat shield design that SpaceX has devised for Starship, which includes a stainless steel finish on one half of the spacecraft, with ceramic tiles used on the bottom where the heat is most intense during re-entry. Musk said that both of these are highly resistant to the stresses of reentry and conducive to frequent reuse, without incurring tremendous cost – unlike their initial concept, which used carbon fibre in place of stainless steel.

Musk is known for suggesting timelines that don’t quite match up with reality, but Starship’s early tests haven’t been so far behind his predictions thus far.

Tesla owners immediately tested the new Smart Summon in parking lots

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Tesla released its latest software update, V10, on Thursday, and amongst the new games, streaming services (Spotify at last!), and Joe Mode, came an autonomous driving update.

Customers who have a Full Self-Driving capable car or Enhanced Autopilot package already had a Summon feature through the Tesla mobile app. Now they have Smart Summon. And everyone is trying it out. 

Smart Summon goes beyond its predecessor’s simple ability to remotely move the car forward and backward while outside the vehicle. Now you can set the car to navigate a parking lot and come to you — but only if the car is within your line of sight.  Read more…

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Tesla, Elon Musk violated labor laws, judge rules

Tesla broke national labor laws when it unfairly prevented workers from unionizing, an administrative law judge in California ruled Friday.

The ruling, which will likely be appealed, was first reported by Bloomberg. Tesla has not responded to a request for comment. TechCrunch will update the article if Tesla responds.

The automaker and CEO Elon Musk were ordered by Judge Amita Baman Tracy to take several actions to remedy the violations, including reinstating and giving backpay to a fired pro-union employee. The judge also ordered Musk to hold a public meeting and read aloud the findings to employees at the factory informing them the NLRB concluded the company had broken the law.

From the ruling:

I recommend that Respondent be ordered to convene its employees and have Elon Musk (or, if he is no longer the chief executive officer, a high-ranking management official), in the presence security guards, managers and supervisors, a Board agent and an agent 15 of the Union, if the Region and/or the Union so desire, read the notice aloud to employees, or, at Respondent’s option, permit a Board agent, in the presence Musk, to read the notice to the employees at the Fremont facility only.

The NLRB, while able to determine Tesla violated the law, has a limited reach, Bloomberg noted. The NLRB, for instance, can’t hold executive personally liable, nor can it assess punitive damages.

The ruling, which was published Friday, found that Musk and Tesla had violated the National Labor Relations Act by repressing attempts to organize a union at the company’s Fremont. Calif., factory. The judge determined that Tesla violated labor laws when it created rules that prevented off-duty employees from distributing union organizing leaflets in the Fremont parking lot, fired two workers unfairly and interrogated employees about their union activities. The judge also determined that Musk’s own tweets violated the law when he implied that workers who unionized would have to give up company-paid stock options.

Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 21, 2018

 

Elon Musk promises to take Tesla Model S to ‘Plaid’ with new powertrain

Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised a more powerful powertrain option in future Model S, Model X and the next-generation Roadster sports car that will push acceleration and speed beyond the current high bar known as Ludicrous mode.

Musk tweeted Wednesday evening “the only thing beyond Ludicrous is Plaid,” a teaser to a higher performing vehicle and a nod to the movie Spaceballs.

The only thing beyond Ludicrous is Plaid

Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 12, 2019

 

These new higher performing versions of the Model S, Model X, and Roadster will contain what Musk describes as a Plaid powertrain and is still about a year away from production. This new powertrain will have three motors, one more than the dual motor system found in today’s Model S and X.

Yes. To be clear, Plaid powertrain is about a year away from production & applies to S,X & Roadster, but not 3 or Y. Will cost more than our current offerings, but less than competitors.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 12, 2019

This Plaid powertrain has already seen some action. Tesla revealed Wednesday that a Model S equipped with a Plaid powertrain and chassis prototype had lapped Laguna Seca racetrack in 1:36:555, a second faster than the record for a four-door sedan.

*~ Some personal news ~*

We lapped Laguna Seca @WeatherTechRcwy in 1:36.555 during advanced R&D testing of our Model S Plaid powertrain and chassis prototype

(That’s a second faster than the record for a four-door sedan) pic.twitter.com/OriccK4KCZ

— Tesla (@Tesla) September 12, 2019

 

The “Plaid” powertrain will not be offered in the lower cost Model 3 or Model Y, which isn’t expected to go into production until late 2020. Musk also promised that this plaid powertrain will cost more than “current offerings, but will be less than competitors” without explaining what that means.

Close followers of the automaker might recall hints of a three motor powertrain in the past.

When Tesla unveiled a new Roadster prototype in November 2017, Musk said it would have three motors and be able to travel a whopping 0 to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds and a top speed of 250 mph or even more. The Roadster isn’t expected to go into production until 2020.

What is new are Tesla’s plans to make this more powerful three-motor powertrain available in the Model S and Model X. And it stands to be an important option, if it does in fact materialize. The Model S has been around since 2012 and since the introduction the cheaper Model 3, sales have dipped.

And yet, Musk has said the X and S won’t be getting a major refresh. If Tesla hopes to maintain demand for either of its higher margin luxury vehicles, new trims like this plaid powertrain will be essential.

Tesla first announced Ludicrous mode in its Model S vehicles way back in July 2015. As shareholders and customers awaited the Model X to arrive, Musk unveiled several options for the company’s Model S sedan, including a lower priced version, longer battery range and “Ludicrous mode” for even faster acceleration.

Ludicrous mode, which improved acceleration by 10% to let drivers go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, came about as a result of an improved battery fuse. This new fuse, Musk explained in a blog post at the time, has its own electronics and a tiny lithium-ion battery that monitors current and protects against excessive current.

Tesla also upgraded the main pack contactor with a high-temperature space-grade superalloy instead of steel. This enabled the battery pack to remain “springy” under the heat of heavy current. In the end, the max pack output increased from 1300 to 1500 Amps.

Ludicrous was a $10,000 add on for new buyers. Tesla did reduce the price for existing Model S P85 owners for the first six months following the announcement and sold them the pack electronics upgrade needed for Ludicrous Mode for $5,000.

Musk joked in this 2015 blog post that there is “one speed faster than ludicrous, but that is reserved for the next generation Roadster in 4 years: maximum plaid.”

Elon Musk’s Neuralink looks to begin outfitting human brains with faster input and output starting next year

Neuralink, the Elon Musk-led startup that the multi-entrepreneur founded in 2017, is working on technology that’s based around ‘threads’ which it says can be implanted in human brains with much less potential impact to the surrounding brain tissue vs. what’s currently used for today’s brain-computer interfaces. “Most people don’t realize, we can solve that with a chip,” Musk said to kick off Neuralink’s event, talking about some of the brain disorders and issues the company hopes to solve.

Musk also said that long-term Neuralink really is about figuring out a way to “achieve a sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” “This is not a mandatory thing,” he added. “This is something you can choose to have if you want.”

For now, however, the aim is medical and the plan is to use a robot that Neuralink has created that operates somewhat like a “sewing machine” to implant this threads, which are incredibly thin I(like, between 4 and 6 μm, which means about one-third the diameter of the thinnest human hair), deep within a person’s brain tissue, where it will be capable of performing both read and write operations at very high data volume.

All of this sounds incredibly far-fetched, and to some extent it still is: Neuralink’s scientists told The New York Times in a briefing on Monday that the company has a “long way to go” before it can get anywhere near offering a commercial service. The main reason for breaking cover and talking more freely about what they’re working on, the paper reported, is that they’ll be better able to work out in the open and publish papers, which is definitely an easier mode of operation for something that requires as much connection with the academic and research community as this.

Neuralink1

Neuralink co-founder and president Max Hodak told the NYT that he’s optimistic Neuralink’s tech could theoretically see use somewhat soon in medical use, including potential applications enabling amputees to regain mobility via use of prosthetics and reversing vision, hearing or other sensory deficiencies. It’s hoping to actually begin working with human test subjects as early as next year, in fact, including via possible collaboration with neurosurgeons at Stanford and other institutions.

The current incarnation of Neuralink’s tech would involve drilling actual holes into a subject’s skull in order to insert the ultra thin threads, but future iterations will shift to using lasers instead to create tiny holes that are much less invasive and essentially not felt by a patient, Hodak told the paper. Working on humans next year with something that meets this description for a relatively new company might seem improbable, but Neuralink did demonstrate its technology used on a laboratory rat this week, with performance levels that exceed today’s systems in terms of data transfer. The data from the rat was gathered via a USB-C port in its head, and it provided about 10x more what the best current sensors can offer, according to Bloomberg.

Neurlalink’s advances vs. current BCI methods also include the combined thinness and flexibility of the ‘threads’ used, but one scientist wondered about their longevity when exposed to the brain, which contains a salt mix fluid that can damage and ultimately degrade plastics over time. The plan is also that the times electrodes implanted in the brain will be able to communicate wirelessly with chips outside the brain, providing real time monitoring with unprecedented freedom of motion, without any external wires or connections.

Elon Musk is bankrolling the majority of this endeavour as well as acting as its CEO, with $100 million of the $158 million its raised so far coming from the SpaceX and Tesla CEO. It has 90 employees thus far, and still seems to be hiring aggressively based on its minimal website (which basically only contains job ads). Elon Musk also noted at the outset of today’s presentation that the main reason for the event was in fact to recruit new talent.

Elon Musk, SEC agree to guidelines on Twitter use

Tesla,  Elon Musk and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reached an agreement Friday that will give the CEO freedom to use Twitter —within certain limitations — without fear of being held in contempt for violating an earlier court order.

Musk can tweet as he wishes except when it’s about certain events or financial milestones. In those cases, Musk must seek pre-approval from a securities lawyer, according to the agreement filed with Manhattan federal court.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan, the presiding judge on this matter, must still approve the deal. Nathan had given the SEC and Musk two weeks to work out their differences and come to a resolution.

Musk must seek pre-approval if his tweets include:

  • any information about the company’s financial condition or guidance, potential or proposed mergers, acquisitions or joint ventures,
  • production numbers or sales or delivery number (actual, forecasted, or projected),
  • new or proposed business lines that are unrelated to then-existing business lines (presently includes vehicles, transportation, and sustainable energy products);
  • projection, forecast, or estimate numbers regarding Tesla’s business that have not been previously published in official company guidance
  • events regarding the company’s securities (including Musk’s acquisition or disposition of shares)
  • nonpublic legal or regulatory findings or decisions;
  • any event requiring the filing of a Form 8-K such as a change in control or a change in the company’s directors; any principal executive officer, president, principal financial officer, principal accounting officer, principal operating officer, or any person performing similar functions

The fight between the two parties began after Musk’s now infamous August 7, 2018 tweet that had “funding secured” for a private takeover of the company at $420 per share. The SEC filed a complaint in alleging that Musk had committed securities fraud.

Musk and Tesla settled with the SEC last year without admitting wrongdoing. Tesla agreed to pay a $20 million fine; Musk had to agree to step down as Tesla chairman for a period of at least three years; the company had to appoint two independent directors to the board; and Tesla was also told to put in place a way to monitor Musk’s statements to the public about the company, including via Twitter.

The fight was re-ignited after Musk sent a tweet on February 19 that Tesla would produce “around” 500,000 cars this year, correcting himself hours later to clarify that he meant the company would be producing at an annualized rate of 500,000 vehicles by year end.

The SEC argued that the tweet sent by Musk violated their agreement. Musk has said the tweet was “immaterial” and complied with the settlement.

The SEC had asked the court to hold Musk in contempt for violating a settlement agreement reached last October over Musk’s now infamous “funding secured” tweet. The SEC had argued that Musk was supposed to get approval from Tesla’s board before communicating potentially material information to investors, the agency has argued. The SEC claimed a February 19 tweet violated the agreement.

Musk has steadfastly maintained that he didn’t violate the agreement.

Elon Musk banks on his self-driving taxi service as Tesla burns through cash

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Tesla’s robo-taxis are needed more than ever.

The company lost $702 million in the first three months of the year and the EV maker doesn’t expect to be profitable again until the second half of the year, according to first quarter earnings results reported Wednesday. Revenue was lower than expected at $4.5 billion.

CEO Elon Musk had braced for a losing quarter back in February when he announced the $35,000 base price for the Model 3, but he still sounded disappointed on Wednesday’s investor call to discuss the sluggish numbers. 

“The brand is losing steam,” Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds, said in an email. Read more…

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Elon Musk defends tweets in SEC’s contempt proceedings

Tesla CEO Elon Musk argued Friday that his Twitter use did not violate a settlement agreement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and that the agency’s request to have him held in contempt is based on a “radical interpretation” of the order, according to court papers filed in Manhattan federal court.

The SEC has asked a judge to hold Musk in contempt for violating a settlement agreement reached last year over Musk’s now infamous “funding secured” tweet. Under that agreement, Musk is supposed to get approval from Tesla’s board before communicating potentially material information to investors.

Musk contends he didn’t violate the agreement and that the problem lies in the SEC’s interpretation, which he describes as “virtually wrong at every level.” The filing also reveals new details about the settlement negotiations, notably that the SEC sent Musk a draft agreement that would have required him to obtain pre-approval for all public statements related to Tesla, in any format.

Musk and Tesla never agreed to those terms. Instead, Musk says the agreement requires him to comply with Tesla own policy, which would require pre-approval for “written communications that contain, or reasonably could contain, information material to the company or its shareholders.”

The barbs traded via court filings are the latest in an escalating fight between the billionaire entrepreneur and SEC that began last August when Musk tweeted that he had “funding secured” for a private takeover of the company at $420 per share.  The SEC filed a complaint in federal district court in September alleging that Musk lied.

Musk and Tesla settled with the SEC last year without admitting wrongdoing. Tesla agreed to pay a $20 million fine; Musk had to agree to step down as Tesla chairman for a period of at least three years; the company had to appoint two independent directors to the board; and Tesla was also told to put in place a way to monitor Musk’s statements to the public about the company, including via Twitter.

But the fight was re-ignited last month after Musk sent a tweet on February 19 that Tesla would produce “around” 500,000 cars this year, correcting himself hours later to clarify that he meant the company would be producing at an annualized rate of 500,000 vehicles by year end.

The SEC argued that the tweet sent by Musk violated their agreement. Musk has said the tweet was “immaterial” and complied with the settlement.

Elon Musk shows off SpaceX’s Starship Raptor engine firing

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Who knew seeing a rocket fire up close could be so pretty?

On Sunday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared photos and video of the company’s Starship Raptor engine firing in its first ground test.

A still shows a kaleidoscope of colours streaming from the engine, although that could be just the camera not quite keeping up with the fire’s intensity.

“Green tinge is either camera saturation or a tiny bit of copper from the chamber,” Musk added in a tweet.

First firing of Starship Raptor flight engine! So proud of great work by @SpaceX team!! pic.twitter.com/S6aT7Jih4S

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 4, 2019 Read more…

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Tesla shares fall 7.6% following price cuts in China and Elon Musk’s promise to reimburse missed tax credits

Monday was a tough day for the U.S. stock market, but Tesla shares were hit especially hard. The stock fell by 7.6 percent after Tesla cut the Model 3’s price in China and CEO Elon Musk promised to reimburse U.S. customers if they miss a tax credit deadline due to Model 3 shipment delays.

Reuters reported this weekend that the Model 3’s prices on Tesla’s China website had been reduced by up to 7.6 percent, with the starting price now at 499,000 RMB (about $72,000). This is the third time since November that Tesla has lowered the price of its vehicles in China.

The first was in November, when it slashed the price of Model X and Model S vehicles by 12 to 26 percent, stating that it was “absorbing a significant part of the tariff to help make cars more affordable for customers in China.” Then this month, Tesla cut Model X and Model S prices again, citing China’s decision to temporarily suspend a new 25 percent tariff on American-produced vehicles and auto parts as the two countries reached a ceasefire in the trade war.

In October, Tesla announced on its site that if U.S. customers needed to order a Model S, Model X, or Model 3 before October 15 if they wanted the full $7,500 federal tax credit, which begins to phase out once a manufacturer sells 200,000 qualifying vehicles in the U.S. (Tesla hit that milestone earlier this year). As a result, the federal tax vehicle will be cut 50 percent to $3,750 for vehicles delivered January 1 to June 30, 2019, before behing halved again on July 1.

On Sunday, Musk tweeted in response to a question that if a customer’s pre-December order isn’t delivered before the end of the year, Tesla will reimburse the tax credits they missed out on.

If Tesla committed delivery & customer made good faith efforts to receive before year end, Tesla will cover the tax credit difference

Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 22, 2018

After months of production and delivery delays, Tesla ramped up fulfillment of Model 3 orders in the third quarter of this year, when it delivered a total of 83,500 vehicles, including 55,840 Model 3 units.

Elon Musk’s underground tunnel has potential, but leaves a lot to be desired

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At first, the alley looked like many others: cinder block walls, neglected asphalt, and chain link fences that back up on beige single family bungalows.

There was one big difference, though. At the end of this unnamed alley between 122nd and 120th streets in Hawthorne, California is a subterranean elevator that can transport a small SUV underground. Oh, and that car-sized elevator? It’s owned by Elon Musk. The guy helming Tesla and SpaceX. And the Boring Company.

On Tuesday, Musk held a proof of concept launch event for his 1.4-mile long test tunnel at SpaceX headquarters, which is just outside Los Angeles. Musk said he chose the location for his first tunnel so that he would be able to watch progress from the window at his desk.  Read more…

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Elon Musk’s high-speed hyperloop tunnel in L.A. will soon be open for public rides

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Elon Musk says the first tunnel is “almost done.” 

Posting on Twitter on Sunday night, the Boring Company founder and CEO announced the first test tunnel of the ambitious ultra-high-speed hyperloop project in Los Angeles will be open for public rides on Dec. 11.

The very first LA tunnel, which will primarily function to transport pedestrians and cyclists, was officially completed in May, after digging permission was granted in August last year. 

Opens Dec 10

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 22, 2018

Musk has previously announced that the service will apparently cost passengers just $1 to ride on shuttles within the city when it officially launches. Read more…

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Elon Musk: Tesla will remain a public company

Tesla will remain a public company, CEO Elon Musk said Friday night, less than three weeks after he announced to the world via Twitter that he was considering taking the electric automaker private at $420 a share.

Musk, who posted the announcement via Tesla’s blog, said Friday that after speaking with shareholders and investigating the process of taking the company private he believes the better path is for Tesla to remain public. Musk met with Tesla’s board of directors Thursday and told him his decision. The board agreed, he wrote.

Here’s an excerpt:

Given the feedback I’ve received, it’s apparent that most of Tesla’s existing shareholders believe we are better off as a public company. Additionally, a number of institutional shareholders have explained that they have internal compliance issues that limit how much they can invest in a private company. There is also no proven path for most retail investors to own shares if we were private. Although the majority of shareholders I spoke to said they would remain with Tesla if we went private, the sentiment, in a nutshell, was “please don’t do this.”

I knew the process of going private would be challenging, but it’s clear that it would be even more time-consuming and distracting than initially anticipated. This is a problem because we absolutely must stay focused on ramping Model 3 and becoming profitable. We will not achieve our mission of advancing sustainable energy unless we are also financially sustainable.

That said, my belief that there is more than enough funding to take Tesla private was reinforced during this process.

Friday night’s announcement closes a tumultuous 17 days that began with Musk tweeting that he secured funding and was considering taking Tesla private. The tweet wasn’t warmly embraced by the Tesla board or many shareholders. It also prompted the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate.

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/10268726522903797

While this 17-day ride might be over, the questions over Musk’s behavior (and possible drug use) and the company’s future are likely not.

NASA study says setting off bombs over Mars isn’t the best idea

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Remember when Elon Musk said he wanted to nuke Mars

As he later clarified, the idea was to create two “pulsing suns” over the poles with fusion bombs, which would release trapped carbon dioxide to thicken the atmosphere and warm the planet. Next, people would pack up their belongings, board a spaceship, and touch down on a much more habitable Mars. 

This is called terraforming — altering a planet to make it more like Earth. (Yes, like in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.)

Welp, it looks like that plan has a fatal flaw, according to a NASA-sponsored study published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy. There just isn’t enough carbon dioxide trapped on Mars to make it work.  Read more…

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Elon Musk tweets he’ll “bet ya a signed dollar” that Thai cave rescuer is a “pedo”

Elon Musk seems not only intent on burning all the goodwill he earned for trying to help last week’s Thai cave rescue, but rolling around in its ashes, too. In a series of extraordinarily offensive, now deleted tweets, the SpaceX and Tesla CEO called a British diver who participated in last week’s dangerous rescue mission a “pedo guy,” adding in another tweet “bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”

Musk’s tantrum was triggered by an interview the diver, Vern Unsworth, gave CNN International last Friday, in which he called the small submarine Musk had SpaceX engineers build a “PR stunt” and said Musk could stick it “where it hurts.” Though the submarine was intended to help the 12 boys stranded with their soccer coach navigate flooded cave passageways, Unsworth, who helped plan the rescue operation and recruited other cave diving experts, said it “had absolutely no chance of working.”

Unworth added that Musk “had no conception of what the cave passage was like. The submarine, I believe, was about 5 foot 6 long, rigid, so it wouldn’t have gone round corners or round any obstacles. It wouldn’t hadn’t have made the first 50 meters into the cave from the dive start point.” When the reporter mentioned that Musk had gone into the cave on Tuesday, Unsworth said he was “asked to leave very quickly. And so he should have been.”

The rescue mission, made even more challenging by monsoon season, claimed the life of a Thai Navy seal before all boys were saved last week.

This is not the first time that Musk has clashed with a member of the cave rescue team. As confirmation came in that the last group of boys and their coach had been freed on July 10, the head of the rescue mission, Narongsak Osatanakorn, told reporters that “although [Musk’s] technology is good and sophisticated it’s not practical for this mission.”

In response, Musk dismissed the credentials of Ostanakorn, who led the joint command center coordinating the operation and is former acting governor of Chiang Rai, the province where the cave is located. In a tweet he said Ostanakorn was “described inaccurately as ‘rescue chief’” and “is not the subject matter expert” (the Columbus Dispatch reports that Ostanakorn holds a Master’s degree from Ohio State University, where he studied geodetic engineering and surveying).

Though Musk’s tweet about Ostanakorn was sharply criticized, many still gave him credit for his efforts. After all, engineering a submarine in a few days to save a group of children is an impressive and laudable feat. While Musk is known for going on strange Twitter rants, however, his attack on Unsworth is an entirely different stratosphere. In addition to defaming Unsworth in a particularly heinous way, the implication that a British diver would only go to Thailand, one of the world’s top diving destinations, for child sex tourism is problematic and arguably racist, as many have pointed out.

Elon Musk implying that British expats who live in Thailand are all kiddie fiddlers?
Erm… wow… isn’t that kind of a little bit racist?

— Robert Percy (@astweetedbyRP) July 15, 2018

Sure, Elon Musk calling a diver who help rescue 12 boys a ‘pedo’ just because he lives in Thailand is insulting, inflammatory and borderline libelous, but let’s not forget that it is also horrifically racist.

— Bay Area for Bernie (@BayArea4Bernie) July 15, 2018

He didn’t just call the British rescuer in Thailand a pedophile. He called him a pedophile because he couldn’t imagine another reason for a white guy to be in Thailand. Which is a false assumption. Sometimes white guys visit Thailand to show off their useless submarines.

— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) July 15, 2018

TechCrunch has contacted SpaceX for comment on Musk’s remarks.

Elon Musk is building a ‘kid-size submarine’ to rescue Thai kids trapped in cave

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Elon Musk is coming to the rescue.

The tech leader, along with SpaceX and Boring Company engineers, have been working with cave experts in Thailand to rescue the boys’ soccer team of 12 that’s been stuck in a cave system since June 23.

On Saturday, Musk tweeted an updated rescue plan, which essentially involves constructing “a tiny, kid-size submarine” that he plans to fly to Thailand.

Musk began his Saturday updates by discussing an “escape pod design” and “an inflatable tube with airlocks.” But as the day progressed, he settled on the idea of a mini-submarine. Read more…

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Elon Musk details his plan to rid LA of traffic with $1 rides on the Boring Co. ‘Loop’

This evening, Boring Company executives Elon Musk and Steve Davis offered a few more details about their plans to revolutionize LA urban transit, introducing the “Loop” which would eventually be composed of all-electric pods that transport up to 16 passengers at a time. Musk theorizes that the Loop could take Los Angeles residents from downtown LA to any terminal at the LAX airport within 8 minutes for about $1.

Much of the focus of the presentation was to assure the public that the Boring Company’s efforts would not be disruptive to the public or heavily stress the city’s existing highway systems. While the company has been best known for its hat and flamethrower sales, its most daunting challenge is courting public opinion for its plans to upgrade LA’s transport infrastructure.

The odd little presentation held at an LA synagogue started about 25 minutes behind schedule after a late arrival from Elon Musk who ironically said he got stuck in traffic. Musk offered a few minutes of eccentric discussion about why flying cars couldn’t solve the problem of “soul-destroying traffic.” Tunnels, on the other hand, Musk detailed were “way less nerve-racking than flying cars” and still “so fun.”

Alongside the execs onstage was Boring Company “mascot” Gary the snail.

Musk said that Boring Company Loop’s vision of the future would be much more congruous with city life than subways, and that while it was very difficult to weave large stations into a city, building many more parking spot-sized stations could theoretically be much more effective. Musk also noted that he hoped the Loop would supplement existing transport systems and connect public transport lines.

To get moving towards this “Loop” vision, the company will begin with a 2.7 mile test tunnel on private property with private funds. Just last month, SEC documents were filed detailing that Musk’s Boring Company had raised just shy of $113 million.

Once the test site has been completed, Musk suggested that they would begin offering free rides which he hoped the company could make as fun as a Disney theme park, joking that guests could “bring [their] flamethrowers.”

As Musk has previously noted, the Boring Company’s focus will prioritize pedestrian traffic rather than pods that house vehicles. While the executives were sure to distinguish the difference between the “Loop” and the Hyperloop, Musk also theorized that the two systems could eventually be seamlessly connected so riders could travel within the city and between cities with minimal friction.

Musk was notably asked during a Q&A about whether the Boring Company would do a full environmental impact report. He noted that they would but given the length of the process would do so once moving towards a larger-scale project rather than on one of the test tunnels.

It’s clear from the presentation that things are very much in their early stages, but Musk and Davis seemed to do a good job assuring the public that they would be moving with the bureaucracy on this project rather than trying to push their vision forward quickly and recklessly.

Elon Musk drops epic Falcon Heavy launch trailers made by ‘Westworld’ co-creator

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Attendees of the the Westworld panel at SXSW got a surprise visit from Elon Musk.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO used the panel to not only inspire a new generation on space exploration, but also drop two epic highlight reels of the Falcon Heavy rocket launch that carried Starman riding in a Tesla Roadster into deep space.

“Life cannot just be about solving one miserable problem after another,” Musk said. “That cannot be the only thing. There need to be things that inspire you, that make you glad to wake up in the morning and be part of humanity.” Read more…

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Elon Musk just replied to Trump’s SpaceX Falcon Heavy tweet

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President Donald Trump has congratulated Elon Musk’s SpaceX for the successful launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket.

Musk replied, “An exciting future lies ahead.”

Trump tweeted at the SpaceX and Tesla CEO on Tuesday after the launch of the Falcon Heavy (and its payload of a Tesla Roadster) from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. 

It would have been a much more straightforward space-related moment for Trump than the time he looked directly into an eclipse without glasses

Congratulations @ElonMusk and @SpaceX on the successful #FalconHeavy launch. This achievement, along with @NASA’s commercial and international partners, continues to show American ingenuity at its best! pic.twitter.com/eZfLSpyJPK

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 7, 2018 Read more…

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Elon Musk’s Boring Co. flamethrower is real, $500 and up for pre-order

 So that flamethrower that Elon Musk teased The Boring Company would start selling after it ran out of its 50,000 hats? Yeah, it’s real – and you can pre-order one now if you want need a ridiculous way to spend $500. Musk revealed the flamethrower on Saturday, after some digging tipped its existence late last week. The Boring Company Flamethrower is functional, too, as you can see… Read More

Elon Musk announces an early February launch plan for Falcon Heavy

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Elon Musk’s “week or so” until the Falcon Heavy launch is now looking like it’ll be closer to two weeks.

The SpaceX founder confirmed on Twitter that he’s “aiming” to have a Feb. 6 launch for the private aerospace company’s largest rocket to date. It will lift off from the Apollo launchpad 39A at Cape Kennedy, Musk tweeted.

“Easy viewing from the public causeway.”

Aiming for first flight of Falcon Heavy on Feb 6 from Apollo launchpad 39A at Cape Kennedy. Easy viewing from the public causeway.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 27, 2018 Read more…

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Elon Musk promises to make a pickup truck ‘right after Model Y’

 On the heels of Elon Musk unveiling the Tesla all-electric semi-truck and a second-generation Roadster in November, Musk took to Twitter today to ask his fans how Tesla can further improve. In response to someone who requested a Tesla pickup truck, Musk said, “I promise that we will make a pickup truck right after Model Y. Have had the core design/engineering elements in my mind for almost… Read More

Here’s our first look at Elon Musk’s Boring Co. LA tunnel

 Elon Musk is digging a tunnel under Hawthorne near SpaceX headquarters in California, after receiving approval from city council to do so. Musk’s Boring Co. has already made considerable progress on the dig and tunnel build, apparently, as Musk shared an image of the tunnel from the inside showing a reinforced tube that stretches off into the distance out of sight.
The tunnel features… Read More

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Elon Musk says story about fired assistant is 'total nonsense'

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In the last couple of days, a story lifted from Ashlee Vance’s biography of Elon Musk has been making the rounds on the internet, claiming that Musk fired his assistant of 12 years when she wanted a raise.

The story portrays Musk as an unusually cruel (or extremely efficient, depending on your perspective) leader, but now Musk himself has taken to Twitter to explain that the story isn’t true. 

The anecdote, originally published in Vance’s book Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, goes like this. Mary Beth Brown asked for a significant raise after having worked as Musk’s assistant for 12 years. Musk responded by asking Brown to take two weeks’ leave to see whether she’s really indispensable to him. After he’d realized she’s not, he promptly fired her.  Read more…

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Crunch Report | SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch Planned for November

Falcon Heavy launch is set for November, i.am+ acquires Wink and Stitch Fix has confidentially filed for an IPO. All this on Cruch Report. Read More

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Elon Musk says first Model 3 will exit the factory Friday

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Tesla’s affordable mid-size electric sedan, the Model 3, is ready for production, and the first car (Musk calls it SN1 which likely means serial number 1) will be completed on Friday. 

That’s according to Elon Musk, who shared the news on Twitter, explaining the Model 3 passed “all regulatory requirements for production two weeks ahead of schedule.” 

Musk also tweeted that he plans to throw a “handover party” for the first 30 Model 3s to be handed to customers on July 28. He says that production will grow “exponentially,” meaning the company should be producing 100 cars in August, more than 1,500 in September, and 20,000 in December.  Read more…

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Elon Musk's weird Ambien tweets are back

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Don’t tweet while on Ambien.

If you didn’t already know that before, let Elon Musk’s series of bizarre tweets on Tuesday night serve as an example kids. 

Case in point: 

A little red wine, vintage record, some Ambien … and magic!

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 7, 2017

Once you add the vintage record player, it’s all good

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 7, 2017

It started off with him talking about the Tesla shareholder meeting — and then things quickly take a very random turn. 

And um … not trying to brag or anything, but I think I look good for 500

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 7, 2017 Read more…

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Crunch Report | Elon Musk’s Tunnel Vision Gets Rendered

Elon Musk shows off a video about his tunnel boring company, The Boring Company, a self-driving Apple test vehicle is spotted in the wild and Cloudera and Carvana each price their IPO at $15; one does well, the other not so much. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

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Elon Musk draws farting unicorn to showcase Tesla's new Sketch Pad feature

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Of course the new software update for Tesla cars has a hidden feature. Of course, it’s a sketch pad. 

And of course, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the feature with a drawing of what appears to be a farting unicorn. 

Musk shared two drawings, the other one being a slightly displeased Mona Lisa, complete with a signature and all. 

Made today on Tesla sketch pad pic.twitter.com/Z8dFP2NN41

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 30, 2017

We’ll leave it to the cruel, cruel world of Twitter to critique these. As for how to get the sketch pad in your Tesla, Musk shared that, too: Tap the T on your Tesla’s center screen three times.  Read more…

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Crunch Report | Tesla’s Long List of Updated Updates

Tesla’s long list of updated updates, Instacart agrees to settle class-action lawsuit and SB Drive pulls in $4.6 million. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

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Tesla Model 3 is ‘just a smaller, more affordable’ Model S, says Elon Musk

 The Tesla Model 3 is not a product iteration along the lines of successive iPhones, Elon Musk clarified on Twitter on Friday. Instead, it’s a “smaller model affordable versions of Model S” with less range, less power and fewer features, according to the Tesla CEO. The Model S is still going to be the leader in terms of it technological capabilities – so think more iPhone… Read More

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The hat for Elon Musk's 'Boring Company' is predictably boring

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As we’ve said time and time again, Elon Musk is serious about boring. 

The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX (who, since recently, also has “Tunnels” listed in his Twitter description) has posted a photo of a hat with a sign “The Boring Company.” 

The hat, a flimsy black baseball cap — you know, the type your granddad probably wears — is exactly what we’d expect from Musk at this point, since he made several puns about “boring” tunnels. 

pic.twitter.com/3YSXZq1EVj

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 6, 2017

If you’re wondering what the hell are we talking about and whether this is the same Musk who aims to send people to the Moon and Mars, the answers are “we’re not quite sure yet” and “yes, it’s the same Musk.”  Read more…

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Jeff Bezos wants Blue Origin to be the Amazon of the Moon

Fourth successful launch of the same New Shepard vehicle during test flights / Image courtesy of Blue Origin Not one to be left out, Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is also making plans to go to the Moon, just like fellow space magnate Elon Musk. Bezos’ plan, uncovered by The Washington Post via a draft proposal presented to NASA and Trump’s administration, outlines Blue Origin’s plan to create a cargo spacecraft destined for the Moon that would help it ferry supplies… Read More

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Crunch Report | Tesla and Rollercoasters

Waymo is suing Otto and Uber for allegedly stealing its trade secrets, Layer gets more funding and acquires Cola, a major Cloudflare bug leaked sensitive data from customers’ websites and Elon Musk addresses unionization concerns at Tesla. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

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Crunch Report | Elon Musk’s Tunnel Project

Apple’s WWDC moves to San Jose, an update on Elon Musk’s tunnel project, Google makes an update that plays piano duets and Google Home steps on Alexa’s turf. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

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SpaceX targets February 18 for Dragon resupply mission to ISS

spacex-iridium-1 SpaceX has a new date for its next launch – February 18, when it’s hoping to make its first launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at pad LC-39A. The first launch from the Florida facility was originally set for January 29, and was set to be a mission to deliver a commercial EchoStar satellite into orbit,  but that was pushed back to a target of the end of February when… Read More

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Elon Musk: Tesla Model 3 won't come with a 100 kWh battery

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If you wondered just how big a battery will Tesla pack into its upcoming Model 3 electric car, we’ve got some bad news for you: It won’t have a 100 kWh capacity like some Model S and Model X models.

Elon Musk confirmed that in a reply on Twitter on Tuesday, explaining that the Model 3’s wheelbase just can’t fit such a big battery. 

@jovanik21 @Veidit No, will be lower. Wheelbase can’t fit 100.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 7, 2017

Musk did not say exactly how big a battery the Model 3 will have. The Model S is available with either a 60, 75, 90 or a 100 kWh battery, so it’s likely the Model 3 with come with one of the lower three options. In the car’s initial announcement in March 2016, Tesla said the car will have a minimum 215-mile range.  Read more…

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Elon Musk defends meeting with Trump: 'Does not mean I agree'

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Elon Musk, one of the tech leaders that joined President Donald Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum in December 2016, will not be leaving just yet, despite not being too happy with some of the Trump administration’s decisions. 

On Friday, Musk posted a public note explaining why he didn’t quit the council. 

“Advisory councils simply provide advice and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the administration,” he wrote in the note that he shared on Twitter. 

Musk also said he would express his objections to Trump’s recent executive order on immigration — or so-called the “Muslim ban” — at the scheduled council meeting on Friday.  Read more…

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Elon Musk says he’ll present objections to Trump’s immigration order at Friday advisory council meeting

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23:  White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller (L) and Klaus Kleinfeld of Arconic visit with Elon Musk (C) of SpaceX before a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Roosevelt Room at the White House January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Business leaders who also attend the meeting included Elon Musk of SpaceX, Mark Sutton of International Paper, Michael Dell of Dell Technologies, Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin, Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical and others.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Tesla CEO Elon Musk issued a statement about his participation in Donald Trump’s economic advisory council, and a scheduled meeting of the group tomorrow. Musk said that he and others on the council will take the opportunity to voice their opposition to the president’s executive order on immigration and suggest how it might be changed. Musk took the opportunity to specifically… Read More

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Energy is the new new internet

Photo: Chris Sattlberger/Blend Images/Getty Images If you’re not paying attention to what’s going on in energy, you should. We’ve seen this movie before. Spoiler alert: There’s massive economic opportunity ahead. How massive? Imagine standing in 1992, knowing that Google, Akamai, Netflix, Facebook, Amazon, eBay, BuzzFeed and Uber lay ahead. This time it’s the “Enernet,” not the internet, that will… Read More

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