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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.

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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.

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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.

NASA and SpaceX practice Crew Dragon evacuation procedure with astronaut recovery vessel

NASA and SpaceX continue their joint preparations for the eventually astronaut crew missions that SpaceX will fly for the agency, with a test of the emergency evacuation procedure for SpaceX’s GO Searcher seaborne ship. The ship is intended to be used to recover spacecraft and astronauts in an actual mission scenario, and the rehearsals this week are a key part of ensuring mission readiness before an actual crewed SpaceX mission.

Photos from the dress rehearsal, which is the first coordinated end-to-end practice run involving the full NASA and SpaceX mission teams working in concert, saw NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken don SpaceX’s fancy new crew suits and mimic a situation where they needed to be removed from the returned Crew Dragon spacecraft and taken to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station from the GO Searcher by helicopter.

By all accounts, this was a successful exercise and seems to have left parties on both sides happy with the results. Check out photos released by NASA of the dry run below.

SpaceX and NASA continue to work towards a goal of launching Crew Dragon’s first actual crewed flight this year, though they’ve encountered setbacks that make that potentially impossible, including the explosion of a Crew Dragon test vehicle during a static test fire in April.

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.

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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 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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SpaceX lands its first rocket on West Coast ground

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SpaceX has just successfully landed its first rocket on the U.S. West Coast.

After launching a satellite from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base on Sunday evening with the Falcon 9 rocket, the spaceflight company brought its first stage booster back to Earth just under eight minutes after liftoff.

While SpaceX has launched a rocket from Vandenberg AFB in July, its landing took place on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean.

This time around, the Falcon 9’s booster returned to SpaceX’s ground-based Landing Zone 4 (LZ-4), located right next to the launch pad at Vandenberg AFB. It’s a former launch pad for NASA’s Titan family of rockets, which were retired in 2005.  Read more…

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Watch SpaceX’s Falcon 9 ‘Block 5’ rocket take its first re-flight

SpaceX is sending of one of newest Falcon 9 rockets back into space for the second time this early morning U.S. time.

The Falcon 9 ‘Block 5’ rocket is designed to be able to go into space and return 100 times, but these are early days. The rocket leaving today is taking Indonesian satellite Merah Putih in what will be its second trip — a re-flight — into space. If all goes well and the SpaceX robotic drone successfully collects the rocket off the Florida coast as planned, then this particular vehicle will be the first Block 5 to manage a repeat lift-off following a previous trip in May.

The next major focus for the firm is to reduce the preparation time and cost required between the relaunch of rockets. Obviously, there’s plenty of benefits for faster turnaround time and the cost-savings associated. But first thing is first and the vehicle out today could become the first Falcon 9 to go into space three times.

The launch happened a few minutes ago, but you can keep up with progress via the SpaceX live feed above.

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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Drive Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster past asteroids in this retro video game

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Avoid the asteroids and defeat Jeff Bezos while getting the Tesla Roadster safely through the stars in this gratifying retro video game.

Created by car blog AutoWise, the game puts you behind the wheel of Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster, launched by SpaceX in February as the payload of the Falcon Heavy rocket.

Set to an 8-bit version of David Bowie’s “Starman,” the same track playing in the space-dwelling Roadster and the name of the dummy pilot, the game takes three minutes to beat.

It’s set in three stages: Earth, Moon, and Mars. Each contains different enemies to destroy or avoid, and there’s a final boss in the form of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, founder of competitor space company Blue Origin. Read more…

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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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Here’s a video of Elon Musk watching the Falcon Heavy take off

 This past week, as we watched SpaceX launch its absolutely massive Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time, many of us wondered if it would make it off the launch pad. So did Elon Musk.
National Geographic just posted some incredible behind-the-scenes footage of the launch, capturing everything from about 15 seconds prior to takeoff to his moment of realization that the mission was a huge success. Read More

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 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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SpaceX caps a record year with 18th successful launch of 2017

 SpaceX has completed its 18th launch in 2017, marking a record year for the private space company. It’s the most rockets SpaceX has launched in a single year, beating its previous best by ten missions. The launch today was for client Iridium, delivering 10 satellites to low Earth orbit for its Iridium NEXT communications constellation. This is the fourth such mission that SpaceX has… Read More

Do VC woes extend to portfolio companies? For Rothenberg, probably not

 As VC brands go, Rothenberg Ventures has seen better days. The firm built up a reputation as an up-and-coming early-stage investor. But Silicon Valley soured on Rothenberg Ventures last year; lawsuits ensued. So it hasn’t been a good year for Mike Rothenberg. But what about the Rothenberg Ventures portfolio? Read More

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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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Africa Roundup: eBay expands, Google CEO visits Lagos, Ghana enters space

 eBay opened up its U.S. platform to Africa through its partnership with MallforAfrica.com. Americans can now buy products on eBay from select vendors in six African countries, starting with merchandise categories of fashion, art, jewelry, and clothing.
For the new program, MallforAfrica selects the sellers and handles payments on its proprietary platform. DHL is the shipping partner. Online… Read More

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SpaceX’s Hyperloop Pod speed competition winner tops 200 MPH

 SpaceX held its second Hyperloop Pod design competition for student feeds at the test track built near its test track today. The mile long track saw three finalist teams battle it out for speed supremacy, including WARR Hyperloop from Germany, Switzerland’s Swissloop and Paradigm, a North American team with members from Northeastern and Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada. The… 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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Crunch Report | SpaceX Successfully Re-launches a Rocket

Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey leaves Facebook, SpaceX successfully re-launches a rocket, Cloudera files for IPO and Snapchat now allows you to search Stories. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

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SpaceX’s Dragon supply ship failed to rendezvous with ISS, will try again Thursday

c5qordewqaa4de A GPS error prevented SpaceX’s Dragon supply ship from mating with the ISS early this morning. The craft was less than a mile away from the space station when the docking had to be aborted. NASA stated the Dragon craft and the ISS crew are safe. Another rendezvous will be attempted on Thursday. This is the first time SpaceX had to abort an ISS delivery mission as the company has… Read More

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SpaceX’s CRS-10 ISS resupply mission rocket launch scrubbed, next window is Feb 19

32945170225_e5b87acce0_k Update: SpaceX aborted the launch with 13 seconds to go, citing the issue with the positioning of an engine nozzle that’s responsible for steering the rocket in the second stage as the cause. The company said it was exercising “an abundance of caution” in postponing the launch, but wanted to be absolutely sure. The next launch window is at 9:38 AM ET on Sunday morning. At… 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 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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