Elon Musk Says Sea Landed Falcon 9 Could Relaunch Soon

The Falcon 9 rocket that SpaceX successfully landed at sea yesterday could be the first of its kind to be relaunched into space revealed Elon Musk at a press conference held by NASA. The first rocket that was landed successfully back in December was kept in storage instead of reused with Musk wanting to keep it as it was the first vehicle they had ever landed and this made it “unique”. As a result, this re-launch will be the true test of the reusability of SpaceX’s rocket and help them gain some ground on Blue Origin, who already launched one of their rockets for the third time.

Firstly, the Falcon 9 must be retrieved, which will be a tricky process in itself and will involve welding the rocket onto the deck of the drone ship, Of Course I Still Love You. From there, it will be delivered to port by Sunday and once safely back on land it will be put through a series of engine test fires to see how well they are working. According to Musk, the rocket’s engines will be test fired as many as 10 times in a row, and if everything is working fully, the Falcon 9 could be well on its way to another mission by as soon as May or June. In future, SpaceX hopes to reduce the process of preparing a rocket for relaunch to as little as a couple of weeks.

Musk said that it hadn’t been decided whether this next launch would be for a paying customer or not, saying that “We think it’ll be a paying customer, but we have to have discussions on it.” He was also positive about the amount of reuse the rockets were capable of, with each Falcon 9 potentially being usable for 10 to 20 missions and even up to 100 with minor refurbishments made to it during its lifespan.

SpaceX Successfully Land Falcon 9 Rocket on Drone Ship

After a number of tries, SpaceX has finally achieved their goal of landing a Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage on one of their drone ships at sea. The landing took place following the launch that marked the first ISS supply mission undertaken by SpaceX since the accident last year, which also went off without a hitch. This is the first sea landing of a rocket to ever succeed, giving the company and their Falcon 9 rocket two historic landings in just 5 months.

With SpaceX having proven their rocket’s ability to land on both land and at sea, the potential reuse of the Falcon 9 should improve dramatically considering the main objective of mastering the rocket landing is so they can be reused. At this point, SpaceX is yet to reuse the one rocket they successfully landed at Cape Canaveral in December, instead opting to preserve it, but maybe this second surviving Falcon 9 will see another launch to prove the reusability of the craft.

SpaceX persisted on mastering the sea landing due to its superiority over the ground landing. Despite the seeming instability of a platform at sea, the drone ship is able to move into the rocket’s expected landing trajectory, compared to a ground landing where the rocket has a set landing location and must counter factors such as the rotation of the Earth in order to make the target. This allows the rocket to require less fuel be saved for landing, which if a heavy load was launched may render a ground landing entirely impossible. Not to mention the greater flexibility of launch locations if a rocket doesn’t require solid ground to land on afterwards.

Having succeeded in landing the Falcon 9, SpaceX must be looking to concentrate on starting to reuse the rockets they retrieve, which is the overall goal of landing them in the first place. Currently, a new rocket must be built for each launch at a cost of around $60 million, with the fuel only costing $200,000. SpaceX has shown themselves to be a company that will keep trying to achieve even greater things and the success at the sea landing after so long means that where they go from here should be exciting for everyone.

Elon Musk And Talulah Riley to Divorce After Two and a Half Years

Elon Musk is known for a lot of things, from building the popular electric Tesla vehicles, co-founding Paypal and even banning those who are rude from buying his vehicles. It would seem however that amongst all this that has been given the public there have been private consequences, as a result we are sad to report that Elon Musk will separate from his wife after two and a half years together.

Wife Talulah Riley filed for divorce on the 21st March 2016, following up from an initial divorce filing that Musk filed in 2014 but later withdrew. All is not lost though as both parties say that the pair agreed to the divorce filing and that the action will be amicable.

In their statement, they revealed that they plan to remain friends and have been living separately for the past six months. The filing cites “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for the divorce filing, but Riley will be requesting spousal support from Musk, a man who has five sons from a previous marriage but none with Riley.

This isn’t their first divorce, with the pair originally marrying in 2010 only to divorce in 2012. The pair remarried 18 months later, sadly to end again the marriage again this year.

We wish both Elon Musk and Talulah Riley the best in their futures, both professionally and personally.

SpaceX to Resume Supplying the ISS

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

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

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

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

Image credit to SpaceX

SpaceX Rocket’s Sea Landing Fails – Again

Once again, another successful launch by SpaceX, and sadly, another failure to land their Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship at sea. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, said that the Falcon 9 rocket had “landed hard on the droneship.” SpaceX had expected this landing would likely fail due to the mission requirements set out, including a very hot reentry and lack of propellant to arrest momentum.

This marks the fourth attempt by SpaceX to land a Falcon 9 rocket on one of their drone ships, and sadly, also the fourth failure, despite the third attempt coming very close. This landing would be especially difficult for the rocket as the SES-9 is a larger and heavier satellite than those previously launched, as well as targeting a higher orbit than most, requiring the Falcon 9 to travel a lot faster and consequently, burn more fuel that could be used to slow the rocket’s descent.

Despite the failure of the landing, the mission was a success, with the SES-9 satellite was delivered to a high enough altitude that it can now use its own power to arrive in the intended orbit. Once in position, SES-9 will loiter at 22,000 miles above the equator, able to providing a satellite communication service to Northeast Asia, South Asia, and Indonesia.

This failed landing certainly won’t be SpaceX’s last attempt at landing the Falcon 9. Whether the next landing will be another sea landing or a return to the already successful ground landing remains to be seen, but with an ISS supply mission scheduled for the next few weeks, we should know soon enough. Musk, at least, seems far more confident about this next landing being a success.

Image credit to SpaceX

Elon Musks Hyperloop Construction Delayed

Everyone travels these days, be it for work or to see family and friends, we live in a world where going from A to B is as casual as breathing. You can fly or catch trains, drive or even hire a taxi with your phone, but there are still other ways. With the addition of  electric streetcars coming to New York, the next revolution to travel is set to be the Hyperloop.

The Hyperloop is a new train system that will use a vacuum tube to help trains reach speeds of over 700mph. Recently they announced that construction had been started with the completion date set for public access in 2018 on its test track. That was until recently when Tech Insider revealed that there may be a delay to that timeline.

In an email sent to the Student teams that are working on the pods that will shoot down the track, SpaceX (the company responsible for the Hyperloop) could have the final part of the competition, to see which pod would be best chosen for the project, happening in August (or even later). In the email, SpaceX stated,

“Our best guess for Competition Weekend is early-to-mid August, but this could move in either direction (based on construction and post-construction testing)”

With the original date set for June, the delay is minor if it still happens in August, but if is delayed even further behind then the 2018 opening gets more and more like a pipe dream with each week.

Elon Musk “Tempted” to Build Electric VTOL Jet

Not content with his fleet of Tesla electric cars, his astronautics startup SpaceX, and his attempts to revolutionise public transport with Hyperloop, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has revealed that he is “tempted” to build an electric vertical-take off and landing (VTOL) jet plane.

“I’ve been thinking about the vertical-take off and landing electric jet a bit more,” Musk said at a recent Hyperloop event, International Business Times reports. “I think I have something that might close. I’m quite tempted to do something about it.”

While the audience initially responded with disbelieving laughter, the statement was met with cheers and applause once it was clear that Musk was being serious. Though, it did prompt a question: “How do you convince people that your ideas aren’t crazy?”

“In starting SpaceX, they definitely thought I was crazy,” Musk replied. “One of my best friends compiled a long video of rockets crashing and made me watch the whole thing. Other friends involved in a rocket startup said it was a terrible idea, and I thought we had a really tiny chance of succeeding anyway, like 10%… and it was very close [to failure] but I think, ultimately, seeing is believing… that’s what convinces people.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ab2VVp1GfmA

Musk has voiced his desire to build an electric VTOL jet before. “I do like the idea of an electric aircraft company,” he told Marketplace in 2015. “I do think one could do a pretty cool supersonic, vertical-take off and landing electric jet. That would be really fun.”

Elon Musk Says Hyperloop “Is Really Going to happen”

SpaceX just staged a 3-day event at the Texas A&M University, where the pioneering space company brought together teams of engineering students from around the world to compete for a chance to have their pod designs built and tested on SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s proposed Hyperloop transportation system. Musk himself even made a surprise appearance on stage during the event, where he was met with whoops, cheers and clapping from the crowd who may not have been expecting the chance to meet their inspirational icon.

“I’m starting to think that this is really going to happen,” said Musk as he took the stage, with many of the teams in attendance holding their hands up in groups in the hopes of drawing the SpaceX founder’s attention during his Q&A session. Musk going on to say, “the work that you guys are doing is going to blow people’s minds.”

The rest of the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition Design weekend went on to pit over 1000 student teams from 120 colleges and 3 high-schools worldwide against each other in the design competition. This stage of the competition intended to create a shortlist of at least 22 teams, which may be invited to the Californian headquarters of SpaceX this summer to build and test their designs. Judges from Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla companies as well as university professors were in attendance to judge the teams’ 20-minute pitches and grill them with 10 minutes of questions on their designs. The contest challenged the students, not just as engineers, but also their business and marketing skills with many presenting business cards, prototype models and high-quality marketing videos, making the contest a good chance for enterprising engineers to network with their peers.

By the end of the weekend, the team from Massachusets Institute of Technology were deemed the winners, with the Delft University of Technology from the Netherlands finishing second and University of Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and the University of California filling the rest of the top 5.

It is always great to see Elon Musk continuing to engage with rising engineering stars and his positive effects on the field. It really pays off too, with both Tesla and SpaceX already performing feats beyond many of their rivals and with the Hyperloop on the horizon, Musk’s legacy will only continue to grow.

Falcon 9 Sea Landing Meets an Explosive End

It was the first Falcon 9 launch by SpaceX of 2016, as well as the first since their successful rocket landing. It may have been a different rocket than the one that made the previous landing, but nonetheless, SpaceX planned to land this one too. The rocket wasn’t the only difference either, the landing target was a drone ship instead of solid ground. Sadly it wasn’t to be two great successes in a row, and while it was a close call, the rocket tipped over after landing resulting in a fiery end for the spacecraft.

The main objective of the launch was completed successfully, with NASA’s Jason-3 ocean monitoring satellite delivered into orbit where it will monitor sea levels and currents. The rocket even managed to return to the platform successfully after sending the second stage off into orbit. Problems only arose once the first stage had set down on the drone ship. Due the instability of the platform and a failure of one of the rocket’s four lockout collets, the landing was short-lived, as it slowly tipped over before exploding spectacularly. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX posted a video on Instagram of the dramatic moment, as well as hinting that the cause of the failure could have been due to a buildup on ice on one of the rocket’s landing legs due to condensation from the fog at launch.

Despite being another failure in the SpaceX campaign to land a rocket on a platform at sea, it is clear that they are learning from their mistakes. Despite ending more dramatically that their other attempts, the landing itself showed that clear progress had been made towards a successful landing. Being able to land a rocket on a ship is important to SpaceX’s campaign for rocket reusability, as it allows for a wider variety of launch locations to be used, without requiring a ground landing site nearby.

Sea Landing Planned for Next SpaceX Rocket Launch

After making their historic rocket landing last year, SpaceX is planning to accomplish another historic feat with a spacecraft, landing it on a platform at sea. It’s something SpaceX have tried twice before in 2015 and failed both times, but undeterred by this, SpaceX must wish to put their record straight with this next mission.

The mission is set to take place on the 17th of January, launching from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, which is very different from SpaceX’s usual launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida. As well as attempting the sea landing, the mission’s main objective is to launch NASA’s ocean monitoring satellite, Jason-3.

For this launch, SpaceX will also be using an older, less powerful version of the Falcon 9 than the one that made the ground landing. The vehicle being used is the last of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rockets, with less thrust and missing some of the reusability features of the Falcon 9 Full Thrust. SpaceX says that a sea landing will be easier than a ground landing for this version of the rocket. Primarily, due to the launch route of rockets, a ground landing required far more distance to be travelled if it is intending to land close to its launch pad. Landing on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean will allow the weaker rocket to travel a shorter distance and require less fuel to land successfully.

With all eyes on SpaceX after their last rocket landing, the pressure will be on to succeed where their last two rockets fell over and exploded. Being able to land rockets on portable platforms, such as ships would be a major advance towards the ease of space launches as it allows far more freedom of launch locations without needing to set up a landing pad on the ground. Here’s hoping that Elon Musk and his team can make it third time the charm.

Elon Musk Nominated for Luddite Award Over “Alarmist” Views on AI

Tesla Motors and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has had a fine year, capped off with the first successful Earth landing from space of one of his Falcon 9 rockets. The billionaire entrepreneur is being recognised for a less distinguished honour, however, with a nomination for this year’s Luddite Award.

A luddite, named to 19th Century loom saboteur Ned Ludd, is someone who seeks to suppress technological innovation. So, how can Musk, who has pioneered the electric car and launched the world’s most successful private astronautics endeavour, be accused of holding back innovation? For years now, Musk has been vocal about the dangers of emerging artificial intelligence, describing it as “our biggest existential threat” and “more dangerous than nukes”. Bill Gates and Professor Stephen Hawking have also been included in the nomination for holding similar views on AI.

The Luddite Award is an annual prize hosted by US thinktank, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

“In his book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, Oxford professor Nick Bostrom reflected the general fear that ‘superintelligence’ in machines could outperform ‘the best human minds in every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills’. He argues that artificial intelligence will advance to a point where its goals are no longer compatible with that of humans and, as a result, superintelligent machines will seek to enslave or exterminate us,” the IFIT’s nomination list reads [PDF]. “Most of us are rightly amazed at AI applications like IBM’s Watson, our Nest thermostat that learns, and other learning devices. But to say that these devices and systems will be smart enough to take over the world is to misunderstand what AI is and where it stands today.”

The nomination comes at an odd time, not long after a new AI initiative, OpenAI, launched with the financial support of Musk.

Image courtesy of Business Insider.

SpaceX Successfully Land Falcon 9 Rocket

Last night’s Falcon 9 launch was important to SpaceX for a number of reasons. For one, it was the 20th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket, but, more importantly, it was its first flight since the incident back in June, where a Falcon 9 rocket exploded shortly after lifting off on an ISS supply mission. SpaceX wouldn’t be satisfied with just getting their rocket back in the air either, with the further aim of landing the rocket’s first stage intact on a landing pad in Cape Canaveral. This time, SpaceX pulled it off, with both the launch and landing going off without a hitch.

This launch isn’t the first time SpaceX have tried to land a rocket vertically, having made previous attempts to land Falcon 9 rockets on barges, but never quite making the mark. It is, however, a historic event in space technology, with no other rocket ever able to land vertically after an orbital trip. The success also shows SpaceX engineers constant steps to improve their rockets, with this flight (and landing), being the maiden flight of the newest version of the Falcon 9, the v1.1 Full Thrust.

SpaceX believes that the success of this mission is a landmark in making space travel more affordable, as now rockets can be recovered and refurbished, instead of requiring a new unit for each launch. Entrepreneur Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX took to Twitter to proclaim the success of the launch and landing “Welcome home, baby!” The entire launch and landing were streamed live across the world from the SpaceX website, with people around the world, not just near Cape Canaveral to experience the groundbreaking event.

What this really proves to me is that despite the loss of the Space Shuttle back in 2011, the space industry still has plenty of innovation and improvement to show. Even though some would consider the return to rockets a step backwards from the Shuttle, SpaceX has shown that they can make rockets reusable, the main selling point of the Shuttle. With SpaceX now set up for a manned mission by as soon as 2017, it will be exciting to see how much they can continue to revolutionize the space industry and what long-time aerospace companies, such as Boeing can do to keep up.

Second Commercial Crew Mission for Boeing Ordered by NASA

In a move hopefully stemming from NASA’s revitalized budget for the coming year, NASA has issued Boeing a second flight order as part of the Commercial Crew Program. Boeing is one of two private companies involved in the program, the other being SpaceX. The flight order guarantees a second launch for Boeing following the first order that was issued in May of this year, and a mission order for SpaceX made in November.

The Commercial Crew Program contracts dictate that NASA will order at least 4 flights from the two companies, made 2 or 3 years in advance of the mission’s expected date. With 3 of the 4 flights that NASA is contractually obliged to order now filled, it remains to be seen whether the 4th mission will go to SpaceX, splitting them equally, or whether another will be issued to Boeing. If the results are promising, however, the missions may continue.

The craft that Boeing will use to ferry astronauts into space is their CST-100 Starliner vehicle. While the craft was dropped from NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services second-phase competition, it still remains on track to fulfil its obligations to the Commercial Crew Program. In direct competition is SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which revolves around the recently reinstated Falcon 9 rocket, which, if proven to have fixed the flaws that resulted in a failed supply mission, could pave the way for SpaceX picking up more manned flights.

It is currently unannounced when this new mission will take place, with the previous two mission orders optimistically planned for 2017. The budget now allows for them to keep development on track. With NASA being guaranteed funds for the program going into 2016, new, all-American spacecraft could be making their trips to the ISS within two years.

Elon Musk Fearful World War III Could Prevent His Mars Mission

Entrepreneur and budding supervillain Elon Musk, founder of electric car company Tesla and astronautics outfit SpaceX, fears that his audacious plan to force a habitable atmosphere on to Mars by nuking it into submission could be put at risk by the possibility of a Third World War. Speaking to GQ magazine, Musk said that his ambitions for colonising Mars  – a task he sees as a moral responsibility for the good of future mankind – might be hampered by more terrestrial concerns.

“I mean, I don’t think we can discount the possibility of a third World War,” Musk said. “You know, in 1912 they were proclaiming a new age of peace and prosperity, saying that it was a golden age, war was over. And then you had World War I followed by World War II followed by the Cold War. So I think we need to acknowledge that there’s certainly a possibility of a third World War, and if that does occur it could be far worse than anything that’s happened before.”

Musk’s view of colonising Mars is almost childlike; he sees it the same way as a computer, saying, “You back up your hard drive…. Maybe we should back up life, too?”

Tech Giants Back Altruistic $1 Billion OpenAI Project

Some of the most prominent figures and companies in technology, including SpaceX and Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk, PayPal’s Peter Thiel, plus Infosys and Amazon Web Services, have invested in new non-profit artificial intelligence venture OpenAI, which aims to create altruistic AI systems designed to help and benefit humanity.

“Our goal,” the organisation’s introductory blog reads, “is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.”

The altruistic organisation, free from the restraints of business and profiteering, will examine the potential impact of artificial intelligence on society and design systems for the welfare of humanity. Investor and co-chair Elon Musk has been a vocal critic of artificial intelligence in the past, calling AI “more dangerous than nukes” and “our biggest existential threat”.

“As a non-profit, our aim is to build value for everyone rather than shareholders,” the blog continues. “Researchers will be strongly encouraged to publish their work, whether as papers, blog posts, or code, and our patents (if any) will be shared with the world. We’ll freely collaborate with others across many institutions and expect to work with companies to research and deploy new technologies.”

In addition to Musk, the project is funded by Sam Altman, Greg Brockman (who is also OpenAI’s CTO), Reid Hoffman, Jessica Livingston, Peter Thiel, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Infosys, and YC Research. Though the backers have contributed a total of $1 billion to the cause, OpenAI projects that it will only spend a “tiny fraction” of the pot over the next few years.

Image courtesy of Countdown.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket to Return to Service this Month

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

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

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

Manned Mission to the ISS by SpaceX Ordered by NASA

Since the halt of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, the only way to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS has been Russia’s Soyuz rockets. NASA are determined to change this with their ongoing Commercial Crew Program to fund development of new manned rockets alongside contractors SpaceX and Boeing. SpaceX’s first official manned mission has been ordered by NASA, to take place sometime in 2017.

While not the first mission under the Commercial Crew Program to the ordered (that honor goes go Boeing), it has yet to be decided by NASA which of the missions will actually take place first, which could mean the race is on between SpaceX and Boeing to get the first launch. Despite Boeing’s mission orders having been given as early as May this year, the company is still only preparing to build their CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Meanwhile, SpaceX is making use of their existing Dragon cargo capsule to develop the Crew Dragon that will launch from their tried-and-tested Falcon 9 rockets, giving SpaceX an advantage due to their experience in technology to travel to the ISS.

SpaceX’s launch date could be delayed from 2017 for a number of reasons. Firstly, their current Falcon 9 rockets used to deliver cargo to the ISS have been grounded until at least December, after one exploded following a routine launch in June. Even more so than for supplies, NASA will want to be sure that the Falcon 9 will not risk astronaut lives if used to ferry them into space. Additionally it has been reported that the Commercial Crew Program has been constantly underfunded by the US government, which could cause any launches to be delayed until enough funds to make reliable launches are procured.

To the outside, it’s like a whole new space race, but instead of being between two states, it is a commercial struggle. With Boeing out of the running for NASA’s new Commercial Resupply Services contracts, SpaceX will want to impress after their recent setbacks, so they can retain their position with NASA.

Image credit to NASA and SpaceX

Boeing Denied ISS Supply Contract by NASA

Today NASA revealed that they will be delaying its awarding of the next round of the multi-billion dollar ISS supply contract until late January. At the same time, NASA also informed Boeing that their bid to win the contracts had been rejected.

This is the third time that the announcement of the contracts have been delayed since June this year. The current ISS supply contracts, named CRS or Commercial Resupply Services are held by SpaceX and Orbital, who won the contracts back in 2008. These CRS contracts are due to continue until 2017, at which point the new program operated by the winners of the new CRS2 contracts will run from 2018 until at least 2024.

Oddly, Boeing’s rejected offering was an adaptation of the CST-100 Starliner craft, which is already planned to carry astronauts too and from the ISS from as soon as 2017. Current contract holders SpaceX and Orbital are still in the running for the contracts after their current CRS contract was recently extended, despite having two failed supply runs in the past year. Despite this, their design is time proven to be able to make repeated, reliable runs to and from the ISS. Another competitive offering comes from Sierra-Nevada with their Dream Chaser spaceplane. This design is more based on the space shuttle than a traditional rocket, touting re-usability as a key feature. The Dream Chaser, like Boeing’s CST-100 is a result of the Commercial Crew program, however Sierra-Nevada’s craft lost out in that contest.

Sierra-Nevada’s shuttle-like Dream Chaser design

So with the winners of the crew carrying missions out of the running, will it be the old guard of SpaceX and Orbital retaining the delivery contracts, or Sierra-Nevada’s more reusable design? I guess we’ll just have to wait until January to find out!

First Hyperloop Track to Start Construction Within Weeks

The first test track for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop transportation system will begin construction in California next month, the project’s Chief Operating Officer Bibop Gabriele Gresta revealed at the Transport to the Future in London event this week.

Speaking to Dezeen, Gresta hailed Hyperloop as “the closest thing to teletransportation,” and said that “It will change completely humanity.”

The brainchild of Tesla and SpaceX CEO Musk, Hyperloop is a transportation system based around magnetically propelling sealed carriages through vacuum tubes. Construction on the $150 million (£98 million), five-mile test track will begin in November in the Quay Valley region of California, estimated to take 32 months to complete, and aims to transport 10 million passengers during the prototype phase. The first testing period will involve firing empty trains through the Hyperloop tubes at speeds of 760 miles-per-hour. “We will crush every record on the ground,” Gresta boasted.

“You can substitute the entire flight industry from Los Angeles to San Francisco with one tube, four times,” Gresta added. “Now if this will not disrupt the air industry I don’t know what will.”

While the prototype will be built in the US, forming part of a proposed Los Angeles to San Francisco route, Gresta believes that the first commercial Hyperloop will likely be contructed abroad. He said, “There are other countries that are in a more advanced discussion phase and they have the political will, the lack of infrastructure, a high density of population and less regulatory problems to make it happen.”

Image courtesy of Dezeen.

Elon Musk Calls Apple the “Tesla Graveyard” and Disses the Apple Watch

Elon Musk, billionaire, prospective supervillain, and CEO of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX, scoffs at Apple’s attempts to enter the automotive industry, mocking the company for sweeping up Tesla’s cast-offs, and he doesn’t think much of the Apple Watch, either. In an interview with German newspaper Handelsblatt, Musk took two hefty swings at the tech giant, making it as clear as possible that he neither considers the company to be competition nor rates its products.

“They have hired people we’ve fired,” Musk said. “We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard.’ If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.”

While Musk admits that the Apple Car is “the next logical thing” for the company, but questions whether it has the knowhow to pull it off. To illustrate his point, Musk points to Apple’s latest endeavour:  “Did you ever take a look at the Apple Watch?” he asked, laughing at his own question. “No, seriously: It’s good that Apple is moving and investing in this direction. But cars are very complex compared to phones or smartwatches.”

The Apple’s entry into the electric car market is predicted for 2019, but, as far as Musk is concerned, it won’t be much of a threat to Tesla.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information.

Elon Musk’s “Nuke Mars” Plan Aims to Create Artificial Suns

Last month, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, threatened to go full supervillain by revealing his Lex Luthor-esque plan to detonate a series of thermonuclear devices on the surface of Mars in an effort to, seemingly counterintuitively, make the planet habitable for human life. Musk has now elucidated on his idea, explaining that the nuclear detonations would effectively create artificial “suns” above the surface of each pole of the Red Planet, which he has previously described as “a fixer upper of a planet,” and one that he is determined to colonise.

“They’re really above the planet, they’re not on the planet,” Musk disclosed during an event for Solar City at Times Square in New York, adding, “A lot of people don’t appreciate that our Sun is a large fusion explosion.” A series of detonations would occur at regular intervals to maintain the heat and light of these man-made suns, the heat from which should melt any frozen CO2, creating a planetary atmosphere that would absorb and trap heat to support a habitable climate.

Musk was asked how difficult his audacious plan would implement. He responded, “Yeah, absolutely, no problem,” to much laughter from the event’s crowd.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information.

SpaceX Raises Over $7 Billion to Fund New Missions

Elon Musk’s astronautics startup SpaceX has announced that it has raised over $7 billion dollars in total after signing a series of new contracts to employ its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles for 60 new missions. It made the announcement at the World Satellite Business Conference in Paris, France on Monday.

“We are pleased to add these additional launches to our manifest,” Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operations Officer of SpaceX, said in a press release. “The diversity of our missions and customers represents a strong endorsement of our capabilities and reflects SpaceX’s efforts to provide a breadth of launch services to our growing customer base.”

SpaceX has long denied that it has reached a $10 billion valuation, but the funds from its new contracts and the fact that it raised another $1 billion from Google and Fidelity during a funding round back in January this year, it can’t be far off.

The new missions, which include the launch of a communications satellite for HISPASAT and a Saudi Arabian Arabsat 6A communications satellite, are due to launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station sometime between late-2017 and 2018.

In related news, NASA has revealed that it may use SpaceX to extract rock and mineral samples from Mars as part of its ‘Red Dragon’ project, which could launch as early as 2022.

Thank you TechCrunch for providing us with this information.

Elon Musk Wants to Nuke Mars

Billionaire philanthropist and CEO of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX Elon Musk is planning to graduate to the status of full supervillian with his audacious plan to nuke the planet Mars. Speaking to Stephen Colbert on the Late Show, Musk revealed that there are two ways to prepare Mars – “a fixer upper of a planet,” according to Musk – for human colonisation, the “slow way” and the “fast way”. The “fast way”, it seems, involves launching a thermonuclear attack on the Red Planet.

“The fast way is to drop thermonuclear weapons over the poles,” Musk said.

“You’re a supervillain!” Colbert retorted. “Superman doesn’t say, ‘let’s drop nuclear bombs.’ That’s Lex Luthor, man.”

Musk also spoke about the SpaceX Falcon rocket’s poor landing record, saying, “If we could reduce the landing velocity, we could get it to land, and stay upright, and not explode.” He even joked about the Tesla charging snake, quipping, “For the prototype at least, we recommend not dropping anything nearby when it’s in operation.”

Colbert, who considers Musk “an old friend” described his guest as “the real Tony Stark”, and closed the interview with, “Elon Musk is bringing you the future, right now.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vjt29f_6mk

Image courtesy of TopHD Gallery.

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop is Really Happening!

Elon Musk’s sci-fi mass transportation system is one step closer to becoming a reality. Hyperloop, which propels carriages at high-speed through pneumatic tubes, now has two leading companies involved in producing the advanced tubing infrastructure required to create the transport network. Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum and engineering designers Aecom have both signed up, in exchange for shares in Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, to help build the first Hyperloop track.

“It’s a validation of the fact that our model works,” Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, said. “It’s the next step.”

Hyperloop was first proposed as a viable method of transportation by SpaceX and Tesla supremo Elon Musk in a 57-page white paper back in 2013. Musk pitched it as the next logical step for cross-country travel, taking people coast-to-coast in the US within a matter of hours. The first full-size prototype circuit will start construction in 2016.

“I don’t think the construction hurdles are significant compared to other technologies that are already out there.” Carl Brockmeyer, Head of Business Development at Oerlikon, said. “From a technical point of view, it’s not a challenge. We are used to much higher and harsher applications.” “I thought, ‘Traveling in a vacuum tube? This is something we should be involved in,’” he added.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies also announced that it has added 400 team members, moonlighting from their day jobs at NASA, Boeing, and SpaceX, to work on the project.

Thank you Wired for providing us with this information.

SpaceX Falcon Explodes on ISS Resupply Mission

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

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

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

Elon Musk to Eschew Genetic Engineering Over “The Hitler Problem”

Maverick entrepreneur Elon Musk, CEO and founder of both electronic car company Tesla Motors and private astronautics outfit SpaceX, has distanced himself from ever toying with the human genome for fear of its association with Nazi eugenics programs.

In an interview with Tim Urban of Wait But Why, Musk was asked his opinion on “genetic reprogramming,” and whether recoding the human DNA was a field he was interested in exploring. Musk replied that his problem with it is less of a “technical battle” but more a “moral battle”. He elucidates: “You know, I call it the Hitler Problem. Hitler was all about creating the Übermensch and genetic purity, and it’s like— how do you avoid the Hitler Problem? I don’t know.”

In relation to solving problems like eradicating disease and genetic defects, Musk said, “I mean I do think there’s … in order to fundamentally solve a lot of these issues, we are going to have to reprogram our DNA. That’s the only way to do it,” calling DNA “little more than software, and admitting that “reprogramming the human genetic code” was one of five key things he listed as vital to the future of humanity while he was trying to determine his career path back in college.

Musk has already spoken of his fear over the rise of artificial intelligence which, when added to his aversion to tampering with the human genome, demonstrates a refreshing reluctance to ‘play God’ from the innovative magnate.

Thank you NextShark for providing us with this information.

SpaceX to Launch Worldwide Internet Network of 4,000 Satellites

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, has submitted a formal request to the Federal Communications Commission for permission to launch a 4,000-strong fleet of satellites to provide internet coverage to the entire world. Musk first muted the plan back in January during a SpaceX event, which involves one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets deploying thousands of satellites to orbit the Earth – but only requested permission for launch late last month.

The request that SpaceX has made to the FCC is to merely to test the technology in space, to discover if it can generate a signal strong enough to transmit wireless internet signals to the entire globe, ahead of full-scale implementation. SpaceX is projecting for testing to begin by 2016, with the satellite network online within five years, if successful.

During the SpaceX event in January, Musk proclaimed the project to “be a real enabler for people in poorer regions of the world” and add welcome competition to the US market, “where people are stuck with Time Warner or Comcast.”

Musk seems to have a head start on fellow entrepreneurs Richard Branson and Bill Gates, who have both expressed an interest in large-scale satellite internet, and Google and Facebook, with the two companies recently binning their own airborne and spaceborne wireless ideas.

Thank you International Business Times for providing us with this information.