Musk Reads: Hyperloop Sets a New Record

Starship packs more Raptors than ever; launch tests are imminent; and hyperloop sets a new speed record.

Starship packs more Raptors than ever; launch tests are imminent; and hyperloop sets a new speed record. It’s Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #89.

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Musk Quote of the Week

“Technically, alcohol is a solution.”


SpaceX’s Starship could soon pack even more Raptor engines. The rocket designed for a manned mission to Mars, expected to send up a satellite on its 2021 inaugural mission, could pack six more engines than previously suggested. The original design in September 2017 used 31 engines for the booster and six on the ship itself. Musk now claims that the Super Heavy booster will pack 35 engines, with space to reach a total of 37. Musk noted that the full stack is currently one away from 42, a famous Douglas Adams quote. Good thing SpaceX is aiming to produce one Raptor engine every 12 hours. Read more.

The Starship could fly sooner than expected. The Starhopper, a miniaturized test version of the ship at the Boca Chica launch facility in Texas, is expected to complete a hover test sometime this week. Musk has previously declared this test will involve a flight up and to the side of around 20 meters, beating the tethered hop of a few centimeters in April. On Saturday, Musk said that the two full-size Starship prototypes under construction in Florida and Texas will start testing just two to three months after that. Read more.

When will the Crew Dragon send astronauts to space? That’s the question everyone, including NASA, is wondering about. Company Vice President Hans Koenigsmann has suggested that a 2019 launch is unlikely despite previous plans. The project has faced a number of delays. Musk originally proclaimed in August 2018 that the firm could send humans to space by April 2019. The Government Accountability Office has warned that NASA needs a plan B, as its contract with Russia’s Roscosmos expires in November 2019, and it needs a way to continue sending astronauts to the International Space Station. Read more.

What’s next for SpaceX: The CRS-18 resupply mission is scheduled for launch on July 24. The Dragon capsule will launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station using a Falcon 9 rocket to send supplies to the International Space Station. Part of the cargo includes Nickelodeon slime. The static test fire completed on July 19.


Hyperloop set a new public speed record Sunday after TUM Hyperloop reached 288 mph. SpaceX’s fourth hyperloop pod design competition saw four teams competing for the fastest speed on a 0.8-mile test track at the Hawthorne, California, campus. TUM competed against Delft Hyperloop, EPFL Loop, and Swissloop, the latter of which took second place with 161 mph.

Musk teased after the event that the next competition will take place on a 6.2-mile curved track. Industry members have previously told Inverse that a longer track could enable higher speeds. It could be the boost that teams need to reach the theoretical maximum speeds of over 700 mph. Read more.

Musk Reads Mailroom

Reader Roger Hunter asks:

  • If a space elevator can’t be done yet, could one work for the moon?

A space elevator, which would run a rail into the sky toward a space station and eliminate the need to set off a giant rocket, is currently science fiction. That’s because it requires strong materials that could withstand gravity.

A lunar elevator, which has much lower gravity, could work in theory. The Economist noted in 2012 that the materials exist, and it’s feasible. A firm called LiftPort announced plans to explore a two-kilometer port made of Zylon. Unfortunately, as CEO Michael Laine explained to in April, the firm stumbled after its Kickstarter campaign. The team was too small, Laine explained, and their prototype robot didn’t work. In terms of future lunar elevator developments, watch this space.

Photo of the Week

Raptor next to Merlin.


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The Ultra-Fine Print

This has been Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #89, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Mike Brown, an innovation journalist for Inverse.

A version of this article appeared in the “Musk Reads” newsletter. Sign up for free here.